Learn new patterns of movement, thinking and being
It’s Friday and I’ve decided to try Feldenkrais®, which is offered at Park Igls as part of their exercise programme. ‘To effect change we must be willing to change ourselves!’ Modern Mayr Medicine’s credo resonates with me and it’s a principle shared by Feldenkrais®. I don’t believe in simply turning up to therapy sessions to achieve good health. And I’m ready to heal myself – with professional guidance, of course.
Step on your mats!
The Feldenkrais® teacher welcomes us. Today, three of us students are going to spend the next 45 minutes learning the Feldenkrais® method in an Awareness Through Movement® lesson, which is how group classes are known. We will learn to perform a movement and be taught alternatives that improve function. The teacher doesn’t just show us how it’s done – she educates us on a deep level. ‘There is no correct way of moving, just a better way,’ she tells us as she gently guides us towards being able to attend to our own movements. While two of us lie down on our backs, the third member of the group sits on a chair as that’s more comfortable for her. It’s all about holistic physical mindfulness.
Spotlight on the spine
Today’s class is all about the backbone. We lie on the floor and follow our teacher’s instructions to use gentle movements to ‘control’ the pelvis. I’m sorry to say that mine is as rigid as a concrete pillar. My head is motionless too – the spine extends from pelvis to cranium, so my head should be moving automatically, without thought or effort. I feel a bit like a car with both brake and throttle on. ‘Let go,’ the teacher says. ‘Reduce the speed of the movement so you can feel where it’s coming from. Breathe calmly, deeply and completely. Don’t make any effort to stop the breath. There is nothing to accomplish or achieve.’ We perform the movement in several variations ranging from extremely slow to leisurely. A pause. And then we attend to our movements again. Now it’s the shoulders’ turn. I can feel my intellect slowly letting go.
FELDENKRAIS® IS INCLUDED IN OUR WEEKLY EXERCISE PROGRAMME!
What is the Feldenkrais method?
Feldenkrais® is first and foremost a body-focused learning method. Dr Moshé Feldenkrais (1906-1986) studied the links between movement, perception, thought and feeling. Recognising their close interaction, he developed a method based on the natural learning ability of the human nervous system. The capacity of the nervous system to build new connections in the brain is fundamental to any real change. The focus is on improving movement and personal learning processes. These resemble the playful way in which babies absorb knowledge: without competition, judgement or striving. But with curiosity and the joy of discovery.
What happens during a Feldenkrais lesson?
During their lessons, Feldenkrais® students move slowly, seeking ease and greater self-awareness and sensitivity. They become better acquainted with their own way of moving, enabling them to feel when they are applying too much effort, which in turn teaches them to reduce the exertion. The Feldenkrais® teachers guide them through a range of possible variations of movement sequences that they can compare to previously learned patterns of movement. This method makes it easy to choose the most useful option at the end of the lesson.
Awareness through movment
During group work, instructions are issued with regard to movement sequences in different positions, e.g.: as you walk, stand, sit, crawl, roll etc.
One-to-one Feldenkrais® lessons are based on the same neurophysiological context as group classes but are custom-tailored to the student’s individual needs. Gentle, non-invasive touch and guided movement create a non-verbal means of communication between teacher and student. Passive movement provides more direct and faster access to new patterns that can remain hidden during active movement. The sensory experience of new movement patterns can then be integrated into the student’s own repertoire.
Who can benefit from Feldenkrais?
Anyone aiming to enhance mobility who is open to learning in a way that is playful and enjoyable. And above all, anyone whose pain and lack of mobility motivate them to find new ways to improve their quality of life. Feldenkrais® is suitable for everyone, including children.
What can Feldenkrais achieve?
Feldenkrais® is used in preventive health care, injury prevention, pain management, work with people with disabilities, to help people with neurological diseases, as well as dancers, actors, musicians, martial arts practitioners and sportspeople such as golfers. Feldenkrais® lessons help to improve movement at work, home and leisure. The method sustains a joy of learning as well as maintaining physical and mental mobility. Pain sufferers experience greater wellbeing, artists find richer expression, athletes achieve better performances with no extra effort, and dancers discover a source of heightened elegance.
Who are the teachers?
Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration® classes may only be taught by Feldenkrais® certified practitioners who have completed an internationally recognised four-year course.
Functional Integration lessons are one-to-one sessions during which the teacher guides an individual student, teaching them how to reorganise their actions in new, more effective ways.
Dr Moshé Feldenkrais
‘Many know what they don’t want; some do know what they want; but even fewer know how to achieve it. Awareness offers the solution by shining a light on what is required and how to get there, thereby releasing creative powers.’
Resensitise yourself to you
‘Draw your knees up to your chest and lift your head at the same time,’ our teacher gently instructs us. ‘Why is this such an effort?’, my ego asks. But it seems my restless mind is beginning to listen… ‘Make each movement even tinier and slower,’ her wise, quiet voice advises. ‘You can feel something in the slightest movement. Even if the movement is just a thought.’ I start to understand the psyche’s massive role in all this. If I relax from the inside out, I reduce the effort. Is my brain programmed for stress and performance? Is it constantly cautioning me to be better, faster? That I am not enough? Some people permanently push themselves, seeking peak performances – either consciously or, like me, unconsciously. To me, a five-hour hike in the mountains is so much easier than spending 45 quiet minutes being slow and mindful, letting go, breathing. I am actually learning about myself.
The path of awareness leads to freedom from pain
Feldenkrais® reveals what we suffer from. Not just physically, but mentally too. Deep-rooted patterns of behaviour and thought, including bad postures and movements, are programmed inside our brains. They cause pain and suffering but aren’t easy to eliminate. Our teacher has had her own experience of this: ‘Life is given a new meaning and quality when our brain ceases to limit, restrict and literally hurt us with negative beliefs. But you must want to follow this path of mindfulness and awareness, to learn new patterns of movement. We don’t convert people, we just give guidance, make suggestions and invite you to learn.’
Thanks to Feldenkrais®, we can learn to discern and change our habits. Do you hold your shoulders too high or clench your teeth without realising it? Movement offers a simple and accessible way that allows everyone to develop more agreeable alternatives. In our class, we became aware of one movement in an easy, playful way before exploring it further with unfamiliar variations. This gives the nervous system an opportunity to perceive subtle differences and recognise alternatives. It finds wise and helpful solutions to free our movements. I wonder how far I can take this and decide to start with small steps: next Friday’s Feldenkrais® class is all about eyes and feet. Who knows – I might even end up discarding my spectacles!
Detox & Mental Coaching & Feldenkrais®@Mayr