The Feldenkrais method helps us understand how to develop and reorganize movement patterns.
Each and every person, when born and as a baby, has to be taken care of. At the same time, they also need to learn how to act – how to reach, look around, sit, turn, crawl, stand, walk, fall, run, jump, talk, orient, read, write, sing. The list of acquired functions that is the way we relate to our environment is very, very long and these skills, which most of us take for granted, can be improved; or they can degenerate.
I believe it is important to realize that as a part of the growth process, we find our own ways to act upon or apply what we have learned to the best of our ability. Individually we spend differing amounts of time exploring and improving each of those skills. Our performance is also affected by the environment – such as the influence of your parents (or you as a parent) on your ability to walk vs. the ability to crawl – that probably has affected yours or your child’s hip joints, the alignment of the spine, and the ability to jump or squat or fall.
That is just one example of how the environment can affect our functioning, by helping us with or preventing us from focusing our attention on a given action and becoming more skillful at it. In a similar way, we might lose or compromise some of the acquired abilities as a result of trauma, habit or negligence. During our group classes (commonly known as ATM) , we create an environment where you learn to understand movement through your proprioception. It is a very different approach to an action where the focus is on quality of performance instead of on the quantity. You will also learn how to perform a given action in many different ways – by which your sense of freedom will grow while your levels of anxiety and stress go down.
By changing the way we carry an action, we have the ability to expand our boundaries; this is what the Feldenkrais method is all about. I like to think of it as the wise philosophy of movement. Every aspect of my being finds satisfaction and improves with it. My ability to think about how I move and understand the mechanics of my body, my ability to sense the movement with my whole body, my ability to have a more relaxed and satisfying relationship with my environment and with myself helps me no end.
Dr. Feldenkrais defined a healthy movement as the capacity to recover.
Let`s take as an example of the action of falling down. Many of us get anxious merely by the thought of falling. What if just for a moment, we consider the act of going down as the reverse of the act of standing up. What are the differences?
Most prominent is the degree of control you have. In the case of falling you have lost control and it is time to adapt. In the case of getting up, you feel that you are in control of the situation. You could explain the way you come to a standing position like so: first, I get on all fours, then I place one foot on the floor and push with my hands… my elbows straighten up and then I move the other leg, bringing that foot in place, flat on the floor. No doubt you are able to describe to some extent what you are doing. Try this now! Notice that to bring the second foot to standing you have to shift more of your weight onto your hands. You might even feel that your wrists are getting a bit uncomfortable. This is a very different kind of experience – to know through yourself what you are doing – to sense and be aware of how you are moving. A key point to remember: sensitizing yourself is very important if you are to act spontaneously.
Now keeping in mind that this is just one “frame” of the action we call “getting up”- imagine that we have applied that frame to the reverse action of falling down. Your hands and wrists will have to absorb a lot of the gravitational force. Perhaps one of your knees will hit the ground as well, most probably the one you tend to take away second in the action of getting up. Additionally, as I`ve mentioned earlier, this is only a “frame” from the action. So if you are unaware what the other “frames” before or after this one are, you won’t be able to control these and direct the force of gravity in such a way that isn’t harmful to your body.
Another element to it is that the action detailed above is only one part of a story. If you don`t know the other parts or other ways of getting up, you actually wouldn`t know any other way of getting down safely. What if you were falling sideways or backward? If you don’t know those ways of getting up in your repertoire (sideways and to the front from lying on your back), most probably your nervous system will use the information available from your only way of doing it and try to apply it to a very different situation. This is actually not very safe. That’s why together with increasing your sensitivity to your movements, the other important aspect is to enrich the variability of your actions (or frames)
The Feldenkrais method is based on ideas and principles that are fundamental for disciplines like mechanics, neuroscience, and mindfulness. Just to mention a few: the ability to sense difference depends on the degree of excitation, efficiency depends on the ability of the structure to support function, and attention shapes the experience. The uniqueness of the Feldenkrais method is in combining and applying those principles in a way that does not require de-fragmentation in the understanding of who you are. As Dr. Feldenkrais said “I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole. A brain without a body could not think.”
Through your Feldenkrais practice, you will learn about those principles and discover how to apply them to your actions so that movement becomes joyful, pain-free and easy.
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