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How My Journey into Feldenkrais Began

September 9, 2013

 

“Feldenkrais®! What is that? And, why would you give up a safe, solid, financially viable profession like teaching to do something that no one has ever heard of?” Good questions like this have come up in conversation many times over the past 18 years! Call me passionate, adventurous or crazy, but when the seed of an idea gets planted in my head and begins to take hold, eventually I have to pay attention or I won’t be able to live with myself.
 
The seed was planted one day in 1987 when I was a busy fiber artist, working in my basement and listening to radio talk shows for afternoon entertainment. As I threw the shuttle back and forth on my loom that snowy afternoon, the guest talked about the benefits of the Feldenkrais Method. I was only mildly interested in what she had to say but two things stuck in my mind—the name Feldenkrais and the concept of gentle exercise. The first because it was such a strange name and the second because in my world gentle and exercise were mutually exclusive.
 
Flash forward two years to a conversation I had with my friend Fran, who had just returned from a weekend movement workshop. "Sandra, you’ve got to try this. You do these small exercises and without any effort at all, you can do something that moments before seemed an impossibility. It’s called the Feldenkrais Method.” There it was again. Fran was so excited about this new discovery that she insisted I try a short sequence that she had been taught at the workshop.
 
Try it yourself.
  1. Stand with your arms at your sides, your gaze at the level of the horizon and your feet a comfortable distance apart. As you continue with the lesson keep your feet in this position—don’t let them pivot when you do the following movements.
  2. Lift your arms up to shoulder height and put your palms together. Your arms now form a triangle in front of you. Make sure that the palms of your hands stay “glued” together.
  3. Look at your hands and follow them with your head and eyes as you turn your body to one side. Don’t let your hands slide against each other as you turn—keep them “glued” together. Only go as far as it feels easy and stop. Take note of the spot on the wall where your fingers are pointing and return to center. This spot on the wall is your reference point which we’ll come back to at the end of the lesson.
  4. Turn to the other side, find your reference point and return to center.
  5. Lower your arms and rest a moment. As you proceed, take short rests whenever your arms start to feel tired.
  6. For the remainder of the sequence you’ll be turning only to one side so decide which way you’re going to turn. Bring your arms up to the same position as before. Look at your hands as you turn your body to that side and back to center 3 or 4 times, pausing between each repetition.
  7. This time keep your head facing forward as you move your arms to the side and back to center a number of times. 
  8. Now, keep your arms to the front and turn only your head a few times to the side and back. Remember to move slowly and easily without straining.
  9. Lower your arms and rest.
  10. Bring your arms up to the same position. This time, keep your head to the front and take your arms to the side and stay there a moment. Now, as you turn your head to the side bring your arms back to the front. The head and arms are now going in opposite directions. Because you’re moving the head and arms in opposition to each other, the range will be much smaller. Don’t strain. Simply reduce your effort as you repeat this a few times.
  11. Bring your arms down and rest.
  12. Now, lift your arms up again the same way. Close your eyes and turn again to the same side and stay there. Open your eyes and notice where you are now in relation to your reference point!
  13. Need I say more? Turn to the other side and notice how is on this side. Repeat the lesson to the other side.
 
 
As you might guess, the seed was taking root. However, another few years went by before I felt compelled to investigate further. My life got a lot busier when I gave up my career as a fiber artist and returned to the school system to teach special education. When the stresses and strains of teaching began to take its toll, I embraced yoga as a way to keep sane. One day when I was thumbing through a copy of Yoga Journal magazine I found an ad for a series of videos using the Feldenkrais Method. I decided to send for the videos so I could see what this was all about.
 
At 40 something I was doing an hour of yoga every day and was fitter than I had ever been in my life so I wasn’t really expecting to feel much in the way of improvement. Perhaps my experience with Fran way back when had been an anomaly, a ruse, a trick that couldn’t be reproduced. After all I had simply learned to turn a little more efficiently than normal. Would the Feldenkrais Method have an effect on my ability to lengthen into forward bending, increase my stamina in standing poses or help my balance in tree pose? Well, there was only one way to find out what would happen so I tried the lessons. I haven't looked back since, and feel healthy, younger, and more flexible. And it is with a great sense of accomplishment in my Feldenkrais practiceas that I'm able to help many others achieve greater ease and mobility in their movements.

Have you tried Feldenkrais yet? Try out the free lessons here, and please share your results below.
 



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Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, and Functional Integration® are registered service marks of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America. Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner ™ and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher ™ are certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild®.