The Feldenkrais Body-Mind Experience
Are you suffering from chronic pain? Perhaps rehabilitating from a lingering injury?
Feldenkrais, a from of somatic movement therapy, can help. In-fact, it not only addresses physical aches and pain but it can alleviate anxiety and chronic stress as well. When you can mitigate mental-health issues as well as ease the discomfort of deep-seated and biting bodily sensations, killing two birds with one stone sounds like a good choice to make.
This seldom-talked about form of exercise was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) who was an Israeli engineer, Judo expert and physicist. The initial concept evolved out of Feldenkrais' own need to self-rehabilitate and his method is now practised the world over...that's quite a feat! Its intention is to improve well-being and posture through a teacher-led talk and body manipulation.
Feldenkrais was first mentioned to me when I was an active middle distance runner struggling to compete with metatarsal stress fractures, persisting pain from hamstring injuries and plantar fasciitis. I was utterly devastated when I couldn't run as well as I used to and instead of rehabilitating myself, I plugged into the world of Bikram yoga. If you're familiar with the tagline from Bikram yoga; go more back, way back, then those of you with an active and competitive spirit may realise that this isn't a particularly helpful thing to say when recovering from an injury.
I've only recently ticked Feldenkrais off my absolutely must try list. I was taking dance lessons last year when my instructor said 'Veronica, it's all about balance; if you want to go forward, you have to go back, if you want to go back, you have to go forward, if you want to move left, move right and vice-versa.' This may sound like an alien concept but when you consider Newton's third law of motion; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, then it's not so hard to appreciate. Feldenkrais rests on this principle; that of restoring balance and ease of movement. Athletes and dancers use Feldenkrais to rehabilitate and many discover a decreased need to have osteopathy or massage treatments.
For those of you with the gumption to give it a go sooner than what I did, you may have to travel a little further than usual since Feldenkrais classes are not as common as a yoga depending, of course, on where you live. This is in part due to the fact that it takes years to become a fully qualified instructor but it's worth giving it a go. Feldenkrais offers an opportunity to focus on your own body; not that of others. It's actually very meditative. There's no need to stretch to the point of pain, no need to hold positions for longer than you can and no need to wear skimpy clothing...unless of course, you want to.
I attended a workshop run by Ruth Frommer and Lisa Campbell who run classes in Melbourne. Their workshop was titled ups and downs which involved moving up and down with the least effort. This is particularly important as we get older. I became aware of my favoured side, areas of perceived weakness or discomfort and how quickly I was able to adapt to change through the various movements. What I wasn't initially able to do at the start of the class, I did by the end.
This is also a great metaphor for life in general. If attached to an electrocardiogram, you'll receive a readout of the electrical signals from your heart. The only time when you won't see lines going up and down is when you're no longer alive. This is aptly termed a flatline. It's absolutely normal to experience highs as well as lows in life. It becomes a concern when we're not able to adapt to change and when we stay stuck at either extremes for long periods of time. Feldenkrais endeavours to bring awareness to our body-mind equation. One cannot dissect the mind from the body or the body from the mind without ill-effect. An effective mindful movement practise, Feldenkrais can be an opportunity to restore your healing experience and one I highly recommend.