For my first blog post I thought it would be nice if one of my Feldenkrais students gave a description of the Method. Thanks to Susan Nathiel who has been coming to my Tuesday ATM class for sharing her personal experience of this work.
I let myself down onto the large mat on the floor of the studio, and lie on my back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Large windows bring in some light, and outside on the street cars pass by, making a distant sound. The studio is not large, just a polished wooden floor with mats already laid out for us. It’s used for several classes, but for this hour, it belongs to Feldenkrais.
I’m one of only a few students, so there’s plenty of room and no self-consciousness; because much of the work is done lying down, we can’t see each other. Our teacher, Carol, is a quiet presence: an experienced practitioner, she has the appearance of a radiant child, innocent, happy, eager to bring us more gifts.
And so we begin:” Feel your back on the floor. Don’t try to change anything, just feel where it touches the floor and where there are gaps….
Feel your feet on the floor… be aware that your knees are bent and pointing at the ceiling, and that your upper leg joints are resting in their sockets… notice your back… do both sides of your back touch the floor in the same way? …” And so on. I sink more and more deeply into connection with my back, my shoulders, my feet, noticing comfortable places and discomfort…
As this class progresses we will do mostly easy movements with intense awareness, and by the end, my back, with its little arch of non-contact, will feel flat against the floor; my shoulders and chest will feel wider; the space between the top and bottom of my torso will feel longer, looser, and I will feel more in sync with myself.
At the beginning, my body seems like an orchestra during its warm up: raucous, noisy and discordant; by the end, it will play some sort of melody, the instruments in harmony with one another. Well, more or less!
Moshe Feldenkrais, creator of these subtle easy body movements, was an Israeli physicist, an engineer, and a student of martial arts. A soccer injury prompted him to develop his now famous method of body movement and alignment, which he began teaching in the 1960s.
His philosophy is very much in tune with my lazy way of doing things: the movement should never hurt, and if it does, back up, stay soft, just do as much as is comfortable. Don’t stretch further into it.
Your brain and body know what to do if you just give them the idea of how you want to move, what you want to do. No force, Carol often reminds us, no “efforting”. "Let your bones do the work, that’s what they’re there for. They carry the heavy loads. Your muscles are there to facilitate. “I spend most of every class imagining my skeleton and how all the parts are connected and move together.
My triumph of the day: becoming able to turn on my right side in one easy motion. It is simply impossible without conscious contraction and effort.
Carol has us raise our arms up toward the ceiling, palms together, forming a long triangle between our shoulders and our hands. Then we slowly turn our heads to the right, and bring our triangle arms to the right. But my hips and legs simply stay put. They’re not part of the deal. It’s as though the top half of my body and the bottom half have not been introduced; everything stops in the middle. Carol says, “Let your foot help you.” My feet are on the floor, knees bent; I have no idea how they could possibly help.
She says, “Be aware of your upper leg resting in its joint socket, and your lower leg connected to your ankle and your foot. Lean your legs to the right, very gently, and just give a little push with the left foot.” Lo and behold, the rest of my body flows into the movement and I am on my right side. How did that happen? I do it again. Everything is connected now. I push with my left foot and my whole skeleton says “Oh, you want to go to the right, ok, here you go,” and I just turn easily, all in one piece.” I’m amazed.
Carol is glowing. I am happy. I ask if it will stick, she says yes.
During the week I forget all about Feldenkrais, but next week, back
On the mat, we try the movement again. I have my doubts, but over I go onto my right side. My body remembers how to do it. I’m amazed again,
Carol is glowing again. I love Feldenkrais!!
Susan Nathiel is a psychotherapist who practices in Hamden, CT.