Tag Archives: Feldenkrais Method

A Little Transformation

Flower Zoom

I’d say that going from  miserable, painful and frustrating to less miserable, painful and frustrating is transformation – even if it’s a little one.

In our June training, we did an Awareness Through Movement® lesson that had me doing a lot of internal growling.

Almost every aspect of the lesson, except for the side resting was difficult and uncomfortable and at times downright painful. Nothing I did seemed to give me any relief or allow me to do the lesson with more ease and comfort. At times, I allowed it to get so painful I had to stop and imagine the movements in my mind. Nothing like being hitting a concrete wall to be confronted with my limitations. I had to stop and rest many, many more times than usual and my ego was being a judgmental jerk.

“You’re flexible enough to do this! Do it!”

“Why can’t you do this without pain?”

“You’re doing it wrong! Stop doing it wrong!”

“Why can’t you do it right?!”

I felt as though I was twisting myself into knots, creating more and tension throughout my spine instead of less. And the only sensations I was noticing were uncomfortable: stiff, sharp pain, grinding, pulling and pushing. This lesson included spinal rotation in side-lying and all of the above was taking me further and further, not only from improvement but from awareness itself. The main experience that had my attention was achievement and pain.

Achievement.

Pain.

The lesson finally ended 4 hours later! (Not really. It was actually under an hour, but it felt like it would never end.) For the rest of the training day I walked, sat, and stood in various degrees of discomfort with my low back whining and neck feeling sticky and uninterested in turning easily.

If that had been my first lesson, I would have possibly never taken another one. However, due to some learning I did in another less-than-comfortable lesson, I knew that the next time I faced this lesson, it would be a different experience. I hoped it would be a more pleasant experience, but I knew that it might take some time for me to integrate what I was learning from this lesson.

My only real hope was to approach it next time from a less physically hostile place!

Fast forward to today:

 After a month or so of opportunities to integrate the richly challenging lesson, today seemed like a good day to revisit.

It was.

From the beginning, I felt more able to pay attention to my body’s sensations rather than getting caught up in what my judgy mind was thinking I should be able to do.

I felt the stirrings of pain in my low back as a place to stop (and breathe) instead of a stubbornness to push through. Today my neck felt “congested” instead of contrary. I was able to feel  more clearly how much work I was doing in my neck that I didn’t need to.

This time through, the “see-saw breathing” helped me to soften along my spine so that turning was easier and better instead of being another movement to fight through.

I kept the repetitions low in hopes that I could avoid crossing over to the dark side of judgement, achievement, pain and anger, i.e. increased tension and increased discomfort.

Without the pressure of achieving something despite real or perceived limitations,  my experience of this lesson was much happier.

I felt the changes that have taken place since the first go-round. I was also present to what I could do a little differently in the moment to increase my skill level with less effort/work.

This time I could create movements that were smooth. Not every movement, but the entire experience was a distinct improvement in every way:

my mind was open, focused and just waiting for information

my emotions were quiet

my sensations were less intense and more pleasant

my body was more responsive and available.

(And, I don’t feel achy and sore as I go on with my day.)

What began as miserable, painful and frustrating is now pleasant, more enjoyable and more relaxed.

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Daily Practice: Stronger, More Flexible, More Resilient

Stretching Kitty

The Feldenkrais Method is not fitness. It is not an exercise program.

As my daily practice comes along, I’m discovering definitions specific for me.

The only expectation I had when I began this on November 1 was that it may lessen hip pain.

What I have observed so far:

-my body – my joints overall feel “lubricated”; as though what I choose to do can be done more smoothly and with less effort

-I am becoming more quickly aware of tension that is unnecessary – that I’m creating out of habit

-I am making more conscious choices in how I move (more about this in a minute)

-how I use the strength I have has changed

-I am more flexible

My daily Feldenkrais Method practice while not fitness, is, in some aspect, pre-fitness. It is giving me tools to apply to what I do for fitness to make my fitness choices more effective and efficient.

It is also giving me the tools for being more at ease in my body moment by moment throughout each day.

It has given me the patience and attentiveness to learn to play golf!

About those conscious choices…

The hallmark of an Awareness Through Movement® class is the attention we pay to our movements. It is attention not only to the fact that we’re moving, but how we’re moving ourselves. Not in order to judge or determine right or wrong. For the information.

This information is self-knowledge.

Knowledge is power – right?!

I recently took a yoga class. I have a great deal of respect for this practice and while I do not have a daily practice, over the past 20 years it has always been a part of my wellness direction in some way.

This was the first yoga class I had taken since I began my Feldenkrais Method training. I had a completely different experience. My focus was easier to maintain. I was less concerned about whether I was doing it “right” and more aware of how it felt. When it didn’t feel good, I made small changes until I felt more comfortable.

Not all “work” or effort was worthy of the energy. In the warrior asanas, a certain amount of effort was pleasing. In a seated asana that rotated my spine, effort in my left shoulder was greater than it was productive. It was also uncomfortable (not the same as difficult). As a result of my choices, my shoulders were more relaxed after the practice than I have previously experienced.

Strength, next…

If You Could, Would You?

QM Question Mark 2

If you could

breathe more easily

think more clearly

improve movement performance

reduce or relieve pain

relieve stress

improve your ability to self-regulate

live more easily in your body

by

doing structured movement patterns that

your body doesn’t understand

feels awkward

may even feel counter intuitive

may feel gentle, dynamic, slow, athletic

you will be encouraged to do badly before you do it well

would you?

Post-Crookedness Feldenkrais I’m Training

Picasso 3

I’ve been crooked!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve been crooked for 2 days.

Transitions.

I’m learning.

Change consciously made is good. Interesting.  Attention-getting. Hopefully choice-laden. Comfortable? Not always.

As I learn more about how my body does some of the things it does, not only are physical changes occurring in my body; my self-image is being tweaked and adjusted.

I’m no longer where I left me. Brain and body.

I find this disquieting as I practice one aspect of my new journey. Lying on my back with my eyes open, I see the ceiling and I’m pretty confident of my body in space. Once I close my eyes, though, it becomes more of a trip down the rabbit hole. Suddenly I am absolutely positive that my head is lying significantly left of my spine. The fact that I do not sense my spine in lateral flexion or bending sideways does not deter my nervous system. My vestibular system is giving me information that is different than what I can see and feel with my eyes open.

After a live Awareness Through Movement class yesterday I sensed my body more reliably, but when I laid down this morning to work with a recorded class, I, once again perceived my head off-center from my pelvis.

Finally, in a lesson that invited me to move in cross lateral patterns (right hip and left shoulder) this confusion has been cleared up. Now when I close my eyes, my head is where I put it before I closed my eyes.

My body moves differently. During my first Nia class back, I realized that I didn’t want to be moving that quickly without being able to be present to the degree to which I had become accustomed in my training. This caused conflict and my class was awkward.

Not only was my cueing disparate, the rhythm and timing of my cueing was also a contrast. I found myself actually creating a bit of a disconnect between my mind and my body. My body was asking me for something I couldn’t give it in that moment. Not altogether comfortable.  My brain and mind were busy interpreting and attempting to integrate the new information to assuage my overall lack of ease in delivering my usual class. It didn’t go well.

It felt almost the same type of discomfort as I felt on the first day of training when I took a wrong exit and wound up closer to Indiana than to Evanston (the training is in the Edgewater area of Chicago, just south of Evanston). I knew I was still in Illinois, but I also knew I was  wrong.

Disorienting.

Not what I was.

Not what I’m going to be.

In between.

Learning.

The Intimacy of Change: Post First Feldenkrais Training Session

Flower Dress Orange from Flower Story

Considering how complex we are…

After these 2 weeks spent immersed in Feldenkrais Method training, my body has been sore and stiff and has moved in a variety of truly odd ways. This was the first of eight trainings within which I will participate over four years.

This morning warming up for my first class back, I had access to ways of moving through some delicious Gabrielle Roth music, that I have not had.

Soft, subtle access.

Access to relaxation that I’m not sure I’ve ever had. That access made my dance feel incredibly beautiful. It felt new. Liquid and curious. This lovely experience didn’t translate into the class, however. The class itself truly sucked. I wasn’t ready to teach a Nia class – especially not to a group who doesn’t know me. It’s ok*. For me, I knew this was coming. Processing and integration always creates an interesting bouillabaisse with some familiar fish and some new fish that haven’t quite found their place in the stew.

With this new sense of my body and ability to sleep deeply and comfortably has come a not-so-welcome visitor. Morton’s neuroma. (An inflammation of a nerve bundle, usually under the second toe. Imagine stepping onto the pointed end of a knife.)

Out of nowhere. As usual. Absolutely no warning.

One minute I’m dancing and all is wonderful and the next time I put down the ball of my foot (usually in a cross behind move), lightning shoots through the ball of my foot and crumbling to the floor is my body’s sudden desire.

For two weeks my body has been quite happy in the daily Awareness Through Movement classes and the time spent in hands on practice (on each other, of course).

Change has occurred.

My walking is easier and more fluid, with the chandelier that is my rib cage swinging gently in just the right rhythm.

As I mentioned earlier, I have access to relaxation on a deeper level.

As evidenced by my swinging chandelier, movement in my thoracic spine is also more available.

This body of work also accessed my core more effectively than Pilates ever did (and I used to teach Pilates).

In general, pre-training, I had a strong core and my movements well-organized. I gained this mainly through force. Power. Muscling.  Not ‘do I need this amount of energy to accomplish this?’ or ‘how much force do I need to exert?’ Even movements with which I created grace could be tiring; created with effort. Created with “push”.

So now I’m in that uncomfortable, transition – not who I’m going to be, not who I was. Restless in my body and acutely aware of how much softness I can keep in my body. Not weakness.

Softness. Strong, flexible, agile, stable, mobile softness.

(Flower dress photo from Flower Story)

How I Passed the Korn Test. Cultivating “Laziness” for Self-Healing

Body Archives What Mind Believes

Slowing down and paying attention.

Feldenkrais Method lessons to practice and challenge my ability to be in my body and refine my body-listening skills. Nia classes as an extension of these lessons. Further refining my ability to be present and hear and receive the information that my body is sending me.

Leave ego at the door. Yes, dance is pretty. Healing is beautiful!

Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat.

The first good argument for micromanagement ever!

I Passed the Korn Test!

Carmen by Ralph Steadman

This morning, after our 10:15 Nia class, I passed the “Korn” test!

This is a big deal for me. It is also a tangible example of how much healing I’ve been able to manifest recently.

5 or so years ago one of my favorites songs to dance to was Coming Undone by Korn. About the same  time I felt compelled to spend 6 weeks on the couch and in physical therapy – not dancing to Korn or anything else – and not teaching at all.

As this post was brewing (often a multiple day thing), I was finally able to admit to myself, out loud, something I have not been willing to whisper in the dark:

that I might have to stop dancing.

The irony of this is that I already had to a significant degree. My personal movement practices had become safe. I couldn’t remember the last time I had stayed after the 10:15 class to really dance. Little by little the pain in my hip was stealing me away from myself and fear was allowing it to happen. Yea, when I don’t dance I don’t hurt so much. I wasn’t healing either. More like a form of avoidance rather than addressing the issue.

This morning I almost didn’t stay. “Maybe I’ll wait another few days. After all, it’s not even been a week.” I turned off the stereo system and my iPod. Then I turned it all back on and danced. Really danced. I let go of the micromanaging I’ve been doing in terms of awareness and conscious movement. It was time to get out of my head and trust my body again. I wasn’t disappointed.

Without reservation and without pain, I slipped through Korn’s staccato piece with the equally staccato choreography I had developed for it. Then I did it again. Not wanting to push my “luck” or offend the gift horse, I packed up and went home after the second tango.

Almost 10 hours later and still no repercussions.

This past Friday was my first test. Teaching 2 classes (9 am and 6 pm) with an hour to an hour and a half drive each way. I wasn’t exhausted when I got home. Later, during the night, I didn’t wake to an inability to turn over without catching my breath from SI joint pain and a “locked” hip.

After experiencing the joys (not to mention the pain and effort) of physical therapy for every joint in my body except my wrists over the years, I’ve turned to exploring a place of no pain instead. Pushing through the pain only resulted in a loss of self-trust and the ball-and-chain of dread as I moved closer to losing my dream.

I don’t want to hurt anymore.

Not everything has to hurt.

Not everything has to be hard to be worthy.

Today I define success as ‘doing less’. I’ve never felt quite as successful as I do right now.

It wasn’t magic. It was a week of cultivating “laziness”, gentleness with myself and getting out of my own way.

For the next post.

(Photo: Painting “Carmen” by Ralph Steadman)

What I Learned About My Body from a Man I Will Never Meet

FM Aim

As most of you are aware, I am reading and moving in preparation for my first semester (of eight) of the Feldenkrais Method training in October.

I’m reading The Master Moves and in going through and doing the first lesson, on Monday, I figured out some exercises that relieve the pain in my hip. I followed Moshe Feldenkrais’ words, “you cannot do it” (correctly) – find a way to do it properly – make the movements smaller and smaller until there is no pain. Do it without preparation movements – if it hurts – make it smaller and smaller until it doesn’t (and at first it was me lying on the floor, feet standing and the only movement was a minuscule push from my feet for there to be no pain).
Over the course of the past 2 year I’ve noticed the movements I do to prepare to move so that there is no pain and I’ve been aware of the fact that some of those compensations are affecting correct function elsewhere. (That crazy dance to perform one simple move!) Yesterday I moved without the preparations. So slowly at first I wasn’t moving at all but then by the end of the day it was more natural. It took a while to get to full speed but I’m practically delirious that the pain isn’t there and at how much more natural my hip movement is.
In lesson one,  Feldenkrais describes sitting cross legged (to ease someone with a sore back) and he says not to force open the knees, just to lift the knees gently rhythmically. I used this and it was helpful. I found that if I wanted to sit cross legged (or in any way that externally rotates my hip in sitting), I needed to keep my knee up and “pulse up” in a smooth and gentle way (w/least amount of effort), for a minute or so, after which I can sit cross-legged without pain.
I got up Tuesday morning and walked around without having to wait for my hip to relax to move. I thought that this must be what it feels like to have this hip respond “normally” to rest!
I also noticed  that I tend to ignore my left hip – the “good” hip – the one that doesn’t hurt. Every now and then I will notice how quietly it moves through my life and how easily it does what is asked of it.  I’m paying more attention to how my left hip does what it does.
In the same vain as I stopped sleeping with a pillow under my head, I’m no longer sitting on strategically arranged pillows. No more favoritism – I’m treating both hips the same!
Moshe Feldenkrais talks, in one of the videos shot of a training moment, about the importance of being lazy.  We’re conditioned to attempt to give 100% to everything every moment of every day. It’s impossible and results in many of the complaints as we go through life: inability to relax and sleep well, chronic fatigue, depression, ulcers, poor movement habits.  If this doesn’t really connect for you, try this:
Every day, walk around with a dumbbell heavy enough for you to notice it’s weight without it exhausting you in 20 minutes. You’re going to carry it around with your elbow held at a 90-degree angle (so that your biceps muscles are constantly contracted to same level). At the end of your day, I’d like for you to pick up dumbbells that you know will fatigue you in 12 to 15 repetitions and perform bicep curl exercises.
Warning: there is a chance that doing this experiment will result in an injury or at the very least some discomfort.  There’s nothing safe or intelligent about this experiment. That said, you’re welcome to try it out but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
To continue, don’t miss The Importance of Cultivating Laziness, coming next.
(Photo quote: “The aim of the (Feldenkrais Method) is a person that is organized to move with minimum effort and maximum efficiency, not through muscular strength, but through increased consciousness of how movement works.”

More Pleasure. Less Effort.

Softening to Flow ChocolateLearning to go through life with less effort.

Spending time in FeldenCAMP and Awareness Through Movement Feldenkrais classes with Julie Francis has helped me to become aware of how much tension I hold just lying around. The classes are also showing me the places and parts of me that have not been given adequate attention and where awareness is lacking.

The focus for this morning’s class was head and eye movements and I felt like a Picasso painting with one eye feeling huge and the other feeling more like a tiny slit.  As I worked through this lesson, I noticed how much effort I was exerted to move my eyes up and down behind closed lids!  Not to mention the amount of focus required for me to stay connected to this lesson. To move my eyes.

I found that my eyes did not tract smoothly and it took awhile before I felt as though they were moving together! This thought makes me giggle every time I think it. I can imagine my eyes all googly, wandering up and down independently, without any regard at all for how they’re supposed to be moving. I can only think that they are, indeed, moving the way they’re supposed to, considering the neglect they have endured!

Awareness on a new and deeper level.

“Simply” lying on the floor with my eyes closed and moving up, down and neutral brought sensations of little electrical sparks of nausea running down my spine, a stiff neck, a headache and managed to interrupt my normal breathing pattern. I also experienced a particular crispness to my vision and the differences in my contact lens prescriptions were far less noticeable. My body also felt better moving through space. I left with a peripheral awareness that this lesson had affected my nervous system, but I’m not sure how to accurately describe it yet. Interestingly, my hip stayed loose, relaxed and deliciously mobile all day despite the amount of time I spent sitting and reading between the Awareness Through Movement class this morning and my Nia class tonight. That looseness never happens – never.

I don’t fully understand how moving my eyes can affect the condition of my hip but I suspect that the fact that it elicited sensations through my spine is a clue…

The breathing lessons in FeldenCAMP last week and class this morning have both changed the way I move – and the way I feel in my body. On Sunday I played with the sensations of simultaneous root and uproot to creating smooth, light and grounded movement. I felt as though I was dancing in a flow that was effortlessly strong, patient and buoyant.

Dancing in the flow.

I want more of this!

The Sensation of Healing

Yesterday I experienced my first one-on-one Feldenkrais® session with gifted practitioner, Julie Francis. The pain in my hip had become overwhelming. I’d seen the doctors and done physical therapy. I sensed the need for care more in keeping with how I am crafting my life. Rather than continuing to compartmentalize the issue I addressed the pain as an integrated voice of a guide.

Julie witnessed what I could no longer feel happening in my body. I had lost some specific connections to sensation. I had become an emotional as well as physical rubber band wound too many times around a straw. In the enormous tension I was creating unconsciously (and consciously I later discovered) I had lost my bones and electrified my energy output. Very simply, I was (and continue to be in varying degrees as I heal) out of balance.

After the precise, amazingly gentle and remarkably humane treatment that acknowledged not only my physical injury but the emotional injury as well, I walked through the room in a different body. I was in my body in a completely new way. There was still pain, but it was no longer attached so tightly; no longer wrapped around my bones and joints like a boa constrictor squeezing the breath out of me.

I taught 3 Nia classes yesterday; one before my session and 2 following. Unlike every other 3-class Monday, I never felt exhausted. I didn’t feel as though I was expending more energy than I could afford. Chatting with other Nia teachers after class, pain returned. I responded out of habit by pressing my right foot into the ground. The pain increased and I recognized the tension. I took a suggestion Julie had made earlier. Instead of continuing to pour my attention and energy into the pain, I pressed my left foot into the ground. The pain immediately quieted  and the tension unwound.

Today I’m spending the day moving in a softer body. A friend and movement therapist remarked this morning how my energy felt more balanced…  softer. I like this. Softer and more fluid. Not just through movement I design to look soft and fluid often feeling less than comfortable. Finally true ease.

Softer. Not a word frequently used in fitness. Not a word often used in a positive or complimentary context.

Soft. Generally considered synonymous with weak.

This healing has been on its way for some time. Even with only a glimmer of understanding on my part, the seeds of balance Have been germinating. My body has been telling me; in its wisdom, that the heart of this matter has been, in fact, my heart.

Finally, moving grief. No talking was necessary. It was the right invitation and my body began to release what I’ve been holding for a long, long time.

Softening

This is only the beginning; a first step. First step onto a fresh path. Yet another fresh path.

Balance.