Moving with Awareness

Rarely do we bring our attention to the actual experience of what we are doing.  Most of the time we are thinking about something else when we are moving, most of the time what we are thinking is something we’ve thought before, probably many times, and more often than not, the act if thinking about it is increasing the stress we feel.

Once we have set an intention and begun to act there is really nothing else to think about other than noticing what we do and adjusting – but that requires little actual thinking.  At the same time, if we don’t put our awareness somewhere, it will probably fall back into these old patterns of thinking.

The best use of awareness is to experience what we are actually doing.  Right now, do something simple, like pick up a cup and take a sip, or scratch your head, or walk over and turn on a light.  Notice your experience of moving – release any thoughts that intrude, don’t follow them.  Let your attention be with your experience of moving – your feet changing pressure on the floor, your hips and legs, how your abdomen moves or is carried along, the pressure on what you are sitting on, your arms and chest and back, how your head subtly moves as you do whatever you are doing.

My guess is that was different than your normal experience.  What is it like to notice what you are doing?  Many find it intriguing, if not enjoyable.  The blizzard of thoughts may not have subsided yet, but they will the more you practice this.

This is basically what all the current hoo-hah about Mindfulness is about – bringing your attention to your actual sensory experience of doing whatever you are doing.  The reason there is so much hoo-hah is that it really does, oddly, calm you down, decrease stress and pain, and you do whatever you are doing better.

Doing whatever you do with awareness makes you happier.  Pretty weird idea, but it’s relatively easy so you may as well try it out.

There are many forms that teach bringing awareness to what we do – meditation, yoga, pilates, tai chi, and Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons are a few.  But the best place to practice moving with awareness is Whatever You are Doing.

Whatever you do, when you’ve done all that can be done with thinking about it (which most often isn’t much more than deciding where and how to start), bring your attention to your experience of doing it, to the feeling of moving.  While picking up the cup and taking a sip, scratching your head, walking over to turn on a light, working out, driving to work, turning on the computer, answering text’s and emails, talking to a friend or someone where you work – whatever you do, experience the movement of it, in detail.

You will not only find that you move better and do whatever you do more skillfully, but that you enjoy the doing of it, and the respite from the mostly fruitless, and constant, thinking.  It’s really simple, just experience what you do as you do it.

Jeff Bickford – Private Sessions

The work I do is called Functional Integration and is part of the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education®. I use gentle touch, movement, and verbal cues to communicate directly with the sensory-motor areas of your nervous system, helping you learn more effective self-organization. It is your brain and nervous system – not your muscles – that determine the health of your posture, the ease and comfort of your movement and the extent of your flexibility.

This method integrates movement with thinking, sensing, and feeling. It can improve posture, breathing, and self-healing, increase energy, and heighten organic learning and self-reliance. It is used around the world by athletes, performers, martial artists, and people who simply want to do everyday activities without pain to enhance movement ability, control, range, and flexibility. It helps people with pain, injury, and movement limitations; it can help alleviate feelings of stress and tension and lead to a greater sense of well-being.

Please Email Jeff with questions or for scheduling

The Feldenkrais Method® at Unfettered Movement
Off Ice Training – Balanced whole body training for cohesive stability & clarity on ice®

Awareness Through Movement Lessons®

Please download or at least read: How to do Awareness Through Movement Lessons.

These lessons are not exercises they are movement practices.  How you do them, how you bring awareness to your experience, will determine what you get from them. If you have any health problems please consult with your health care practitioner before doing any of these lessons.  Though they are very gentle, some lessons may not be beneficial for you.

QUICK LESSONS
Free lessons you can do most anywhere in 10′ or less
click the speaker icon to listen, or right click / ctrl click for more options 

Releasing Tension in Your Neck, Upper Back, and Shoulders  This lesson is to help release the tension in your upper back, neck, and shoulders.  If you do the movements slowly, without pushing or straining, you will feel better after doing them, and you’ll be learning to move with better integration so over time, you’ll have less tension.

Sitting Comfortably  Many of us find ourselves becoming uncomfortable when we sit for long.  This is often caused by not sitting in such a way that you have the support of your pelvis and spine.  If you do the movements slowly, without pushing or straining, you will find yourself sitting more easily, with greater comfort.

 

FREE SAMPLE FULL-LENGTH LESSONS
You can try these free downloads to find out if this format works for you.

click the speaker icon to listen, or right click / ctrl click for more options

Returning Movement to the Base of the Neck (A6) This lesson brings awareness to the area where upper back and spine meet the base of the neck.  It can help in finding balance while standing and walking and help connect the movement of your arms to the movement of the spine.

Jaw, Neck, and Pelvis – Turning Head (C2b)  This lesson integrates the movements of your jaw, neck, spine, and pelvis to free the movement of your jaw as it moves from side to side.

Circling the Top of the Head (A19)  This lesson brings awareness to the relationship of head, spine, and pelvis, integrates movement of the neck with spine and pelvis, and for many people helps locate their head over their spine and pelvis resulting in freedom from neck and upper back pain.

 

FULL-LENGTH LESSONS to PURCHASE

These are mp3 audio recordings of Awareness Through Movement Lessons that vary in length from 40′ to 55′ long. When you purchase the lesson(s), you will then be guided through a process to download them onto your computer – you can then play them back on your computer or load them onto your smart phone or other device.
Please note, the link you get when you purchase a lesson must be used within two days.
Please note, the link may get filtered to your junk mail – check it!



ORGANIZING YOUR BACK, NECK, LEGS & PELVIS FOR
GREATER FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT 

Flexion of the Trunk (A1)
Flexion is one of the primary movements of the trunk and is key to good posture, walking, running, and balance. This lesson helps to reorganize how you flex your trunk and integrates you from head to pelvis. It is also very good for releasing tight back muscles. As always, if you have any particular back problems, consult with a health care practitioner before doing this lesson!
Price: $10.00
Simple Flexion (A1b)
This simple lesson of integrating the movements of flexing the trunk and spine can have profound effects on your sense of balance and your experience of being supported by the ground.
Price: $10.00
Tilting Bent Legs with Triangle Arms (A2)
Twisting, flexing, and extending your spine can result in unwinding tension in your torso giving you greater suppleness.
Price: $10.00
Tilting Crossed Bent Legs with Triangle Arms (A3)
This is a surprising lesson that uses alternate movement of lower abdomen and chest to release your diaphragm, ribs, and spine and later differentiation of the movement of your eyes, head, and pelvis to further release chest and spine. You will feel a difference in your ribs and spine if you do this lesson gently!
Price: $10.00
Carriage of the Head (A4)
This lesson brings a new sense of how your head can rest comfortably on your spine and bring greater ease to the movements of your neck and upper back. (This lesson is done laying upon your stomach.)
Price: $10.00
Head to Knee with Pushup Arms (A5)
This lesson is done on your stomach and works with folding, rotating, and twisting your trunk. The result is surprising and you may find your chest opening and your head riding more easily on your spine.
Price: $10.00
Returning Movement to the Base of the Neck (A6)
This lesson brings awareness to the area where upper back and spine meet the base of the neck. It can help in finding balance while standing and walking and help connect the movement of your arms to the movement of the spine.
Price: $10.00
Connecting Through the Diagonals (A7)
This lesson will leave you feeling connected through your trunk into your arms and legs bringing greater ease and freedom to walking, reaching, running, and doing everyday tasks. Many report it helps them with problems resulting from an unstable sacrum. The lesson is a recording from a class on 6/17/12 (the very first words on the recording ask you to walk and notice your experience of walking).
Price: $10.00
Preparing to Crawl (A8)
Being able to crawl skillfully is essential for being able to stand, walk, and run. Really, it is essential for doing any complex movement well! This lesson helps you to organize your pelvis, shoulders and spine so that you can move fluidly and easily.
Price: $10.00
On the Cheek (A9)
This lesson is done kneeling with your cheek on the floor. It is very good for connecting your neck to your spine and for bringing awareness to the area between your shoulder blades. Do not do the lesson unless you can be comfortable in this unusual position.
Price: $10.00
Simple Side Bending (A10)
Sidebending is a fundamental movement of your spine, it underlies and supports most of your basic movements and postures, from functionally integrating the use of your arms to walking and running. Many of us gradually restrict the side bending of our spines which over time results in damage to hands, wrists, shoulders, knees, hips, feet and ankles....!! This is a recording of a class on 2/12/16.
Price: $10.00
Extend, Rotate, Look at Hand Reaching Overhead (A11)
his lesson is a recording of a class on 7-13-12 (there is some background noise of cars, etc). It integrates a primary connection we use in many ways – a lower body push supporting an upper body reach. The lesson helps free the movement of your back, ribs, and neck and integrate them to help you have greater freedom of movement. The lesson starts with you standing.
Price: $10.00
Head to Knee with Pushup Arm (A12)
This is a recording of a class on 8/2/12. Many of us tend to have shoulders that round forward with our heads forward of our spines - it comes from many of the things we do, such as spend time in front of computers. This lesson will help to free the movement of your shoulder blades and upper back, help to have greater extension in your spine, and bring your head over your spine. It is done mostly in a prone position.
Price: $10.00
On Stomach, Lifting Head, Leg, and Arms (A13)
This lesson is done on your stomach and is relatively difficult. It can help you to release muscle tension and integrate movement in your back, spine and neck, and free the movement of your ribs and breathing. Do not do this lesson without consulting your healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing difficulties with your neck, shoulders, or lower back.
Price: $10.00
On Stomach, Tilting Bent Legs with Pushup Arms (A14)
This lesson can profoundly change how you carry your head over your spine and help to correct 'computer posture' - back rounded, chest retreated, head forward of spine. As always, proceed gently with awareness. The lesson is 32' long.
Price: $10.00
Extension on Stomach, Translating Head (A15)
Most of us find ourselves slumping most of the time but don't really know how to change because few people ever learned to sit up comfortably. This lesson helps you learn to more easily extend your spine and sit and stand vertically with greater ease. It is also a great way to comfortably extend further into sphinx or cobra for those who practice yoga. It is 32' long and works well with lesson A16.
Price: $10.00
Hips, Heels and Shoulders (A16)
This lesson improves the organization of your shoulders and arms and integrates them with the movement of your back, ribs, head, and chest. It simultaneously works to lengthen the backs of your legs and integrate the use of your arms and shoulders with pelvis and legs. The lesson is 40' long.
Price: $10.00
Freeing Your Spine; Looking Up While Sitting (A17)
This lesson is done sitting in a chair and helps to integrate the movement of your head with your whole spine and pelvis. It is a wonderful way to free up your upper back, neck, and shoulders.
Price: $10.00
Freeing Your Spine; Side Bending While Sitting (A18)
This lesson is done while sitting in a chair and helps to integrate your spine, head, and pelvis by exploring side bending. It has a wonderful effect on posture and will change your experience of walking in unexpected ways.
Price: $10.00

 

BRINGING MOVEMENT TO YOUR STERNUM & RIBS
TO FREE YOUR BACK AND RELIEVE JOINT PAIN

Returning Movement to your Sternum (B1)
Restricted movement in your chest prevents movement of your ribs which often results in neck and lower back pain and dysfunctional use of the joints of the arms and legs. Returning movement to your sternum can open up locked up emotional experiences, so proceed with care.
Price: $10.00
On Side, Sternum Becoming Flexible (B2)
Freeing your sternum can help to reduce the stress on all your joints as it helps to distribute the stresses of movement throughout your skeletal system. It can also open locked-up emotional experiences, so proceed with care.
Price: $10.00
On Back, Twisting and Moving Your Sternum (B3)
This is a lesson recorded on 6/8/12. This is in many ways an easier lesson then the previous two and can help free the movement of your head, neck and pelvis, effecting how you stand, walk, and do most of the activities of life.
Price: $10.00
On Back, Twisting and Moving Your Sternum 2 (B4)
Restricted movement in your chest prevents movement of your ribs and spine which restricts breathing and soon results in neck and lower back pain and dysfunctional use of the joints of the arms and legs. This lesson is a variation of B3 and is a recording of a class on 10.17.14.
Price: $10.00

 

FREEING YOUR JAW, MOUTH & NECK

Tongue, Palate and Eyes (C1)
This lesson is a very safe and effective way to move into the process of freeing the movement of your jaw and neck.
Price: $10.00

Jaw, Neck, and Pelvis – Nodding Head (C2a)
This lesson integrates the movements of your jaw, neck, spine, and pelvis to free the movement of your jaw as it opens and closes.
Price: $10.00

Jaw, Neck, and Pelvis – Turning Head (C2b)
This lesson integrates the movements of your jaw, neck, spine, and pelvis to free the movement of your jaw as it moves from side to side.
Price: $10.00

The Relationship of Jaw, Tongue, Neck, and Pelvis (C3)
This lesson can help you bring attention to the movements of your jaw and tongue and how they relate to freedom of movement of your neck and pelvis.
Price: $10.00

Differentiating the Movements of the Face (C4)
Some of us hold a great deal of tension in our face – eyes, jaw, cheeks and mouth. This effects the movements of one’s neck and hips, which can result in a tight, sore neck and back as well as long term degradation of the joints of legs, hips, spine, neck, and shoulders. Freeing our face frees movement throughout our body.
Price: $10.00

Sucking (C7)
Coordinating the actions of sucking works to release lips, tongue, and jaw which in turn effects our necks and muscle tension in the deep belly and pelvic floor. It is well worth exploring.
Price: $10.00

Tongue, Teeth, Jaw and Sucking (C8)
This lesson continues from the last with further exploration of the relationship of tongue, teeth, jaw, neck, spine and pelvis through the actions of sucking. Please try it, if need be, in a room by yourself.
Price: $10.00


COORDINATING YOUR FEET, 
LEGS, PELVIS, & SPINE

Frog Legs (D1)
This is a great lesson to help integrate the movement of legs, spine, and hips.
Price: $10.00

Getting to Know the Hip Joints (D2)
This is a deceptively simple lesson that can be a great help in releasing tight ham strings to provide greater ease when standing or walking.
Price: $10.00

Spinal Chain; asymmetrical and rocking (D3)
We often forget that we are held up in gravity by the pressure of our feet against the ground; this lesson helps to re-establish our ability to press our feet against the ground and connects that pressure all the way through our skeleton.
Price: $10.00

Spinal Chain; Arms Reaching (D4)
This lesson helps find greater balance in standing and walking as well as integrating arm use. It provides the grounding that spinal chain brings as well as connecting movements of the upper back and neck to the reaching of one’s arms.
Price: $10.00

Painting with the Feet while on your Stomach (D5)
This lesson helps integrate movements of your legs and hips with movements of your spine and ribs.
Price: $10.00

Circling the Feet while on your Stomach (D6)
This lesson is similar to ‘Painting with the Feet’, with a bit different approach.
Price: $10.00

Toes and Feet (D7)
Doing this lesson can lead to the surprising discovery that bringing greater awareness to the movements of your toes and feet can lead to greater vitality and calmer energy.
Price: $10.00

Standing on Crossed Legs (D8)
A great lesson to help with balance and coordination. It also functions as a tonic for your entire organization for walking.
Price: $10.00

Hips and Trunk (D9)
A good lesson to integrate the movements of legs, spine, and hips. Before doing this lesson it is best to start with a less advanced lesson, like Frog Legs.
Price: $10.00

Hips and Trunk, Holding Knee (D10)
A continuation of D9, Hips and Trunk, this lesson brings a great deal of side bending and arching movement to your spine, helping to free the movements of sternum, ribs, pelvis and legs.
Price: $10.00

Straightening the Leg by Retreating the Hip (D11)
This lesson is done on your side and will help integrate the relationship of legs and spine. It can result in a great feeling of openness across the upper back.
Price: $10.00

Sexy Legs (D12)
This lesson frees the movement of your legs by increasing the range of motion of your sternum, upper back, shoulder blades and rib cage. Quite often we think of our legs as stopping at our hip sockets, which may be true ‘anatomically’ but isn’t true functionally. The more we sense the relationship of our legs and trunk the better integrated our movements will be.
Price: $10.00
Flexible Knees (D13)
Knee pain is often caused by restricted movement of one’s spine, ribs, abdomen, and sternum. This lesson frees movement in those areas so that your knees can move with greater ease. Take note that much of the lesson takes place on your hands and knees, if you have an issues with your wrists it might be best to choose another lesson.
Price: $10.00
On Stomach, Sole of Foot to Ceiling (D14)
This is a deceptively simple lesson and can have far reaching results, integrating your whole body simply by bringing attention to precise movements of your foot.
Price: $10.00
Spine Chain Rotating the Upper Back (D15)
This lesson will give you a much greater awareness of your upper back in the area between your shoulder blades and higher as well as bring greater freedom of movement to your ribs, sternum and spine.
Price: $10.00

 

FREEING YOUR BREATHING

SeeSaw Breathing (E1)
If you find that your breathe is shallow, or frequently find yourself holding your breathe, this lesson can be very helpful. It works with the parts of ourselves that move while we breathe. It does not teach a ‘right’ way of breathing, but creates the potential of breathing freely in all situations.
Price: $10.00
Radial Breathing (E2)
During periods of stress our breathing can be thrown off and lead to disconnected movement. This lesson helps connect movement with the action of breathing, reintegrating a way of breathing that is fundamental in all healthy movement.
Price: $10.00
Breathing Volumes (E3)
This lesson brings you in touch with the movements of breathing so that your nervous system becomes better able to adapt your breathing to whatever situation you find yourself in.
Price: $10.00
Breathing - Abdomen and Chest (E4)
This lesson is a good follow up to See Saw Breathing (E1). It works with the parts of ourselves that move while we breathe and explores breathing in different ways. It does not teach a ‘right’ way of breathing, but creates the potential of breathing freely in all situations. It is a recording of a class on 10/10/14.
Price: $10.00

 

IMPROVING YOUR USE OF ARMS & SHOULDERS

Arm and Shoulder Comfort (F1)
Distress in arms and shoulders usually comes from isolating arm and hand movements in one’s arms and hands – which though sounding logical works best in machinery. This lesson helps you learn to involve your whole body in movements of your hands and arms which leads to greater arm and shoulder comfort.
Price: $10.00
Sitting, Turning Around Hand (F2)
Another lesson that approaches the distress in arms and shoulders that can come from isolating arm and hand movements. This lesson is done sitting, preferably on a bench or a flat bottomed chair. It helps you learn to allow chest, ribs, spine, and sternum to move with the movements of your arms and hands.
Price: $10.00
Hand to Mouth, Mouth to Hand (F3)
This lesson uses the basic function of bringing your hand to your mouth to focus on how the neck, spine, and belly are involved in movements of the hand and arm. It can relieve tension in the upper neck and between the shoulder blades as well.
Price: $10.00
Working with the Dominant Hand (F4)
I first used this lesson to help people who had trouble sleeping – in fact, it’s a great lesson to do in bed, as the movements are fairly minimal. It can help calm your whole nervous system down while helping you learn better use of your hands, arms, and shoulders.
Price: $10.00
Reaching Through One Arm to Roll from Back to Side (F5)
This lesson is a recording of a class on 7/20/12. The recording starts a little late, so begin the lesson laying comfortably on your back noticing your sense of your legs, pelvis, and spine. The recording begins as you bring awareness to your sense of your arms. This lesson helps integrate the use of your arms with your shoulders, spine, pelvis, and legs and can have a great effect on how you integrate arm use with spine, pelvis and legs during your day. It will also help you learn to roll from back to side with greater ease. It is an advanced lesson, so if you choose to do it, be careful not to push!
Price: $10.00
On side, Primary Movements of the Shoulder(F6)
Many of us experience tension, reduced movement, and sometimes pain in our shoulders, collar bones, shoulder blades and upper arms. This lesson guides you through increasingly novel and complex movements that help to reorganize movement and unwind tension in shoulders and arms.
Price: $10.00
Sitting and Reaching with Mobile and Stable Scapula (F7)
Many people experience pain and tension around their shoulder blades, mid back and neck. Muscle strain and tension in this area is often caused by not stabilizing shoulder blades with functional use of the arms. This lesson helps you learn to stabilize your scapulae when using your arms to prevent strain. It is a good follow up to F6.
Price: $10.00
On Side, Circling the Arm (F8)
Integrating the movements of your arm and shoulder with your trunk and pelvis reduces the stress on your shoulders. This lesson will improve your use of your arms and shoulders and leave you feeling relaxed and supple in your whole body.
Price: $10.00

 

WALKING AND RUNNING

Integrating Movements of Head and Pelvis (G1)
This lesson is done sitting on a chair or stool and is from a class recorded on 8/24/12. Integration of the movements of your head and pelvis are essential for walking and running well. After doing the lesson begin to bring the movements you have explored into your movement as you walk and run - you'll be surprised at how much better you feel!
Price: $10.00

Legs, Hips, and Trunk (G2)
This lesson will help you integrate the movement of your legs with your pelvis and trunk, which will decrease the stress you place on your hips, knees, ankles and feet when walking and running. The lesson starts with some standing reference moves. The lesson is from a class recorded on 8/31/12.
Price: $10.00

Twisting to Integrate Head, Trunk, and Pelvis (G3)
This lesson helps to integrate the movement of your head, trunk and pelvis. Twisting is essential to walking and running with greater fluidity and ease and helps to decrease injuries. The lesson is a recording of a class on 9/14/12.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, Neck, and Pelvis, Turning Your Head (G4)
This lesson helps you learn to rotate your neck and head freely by differentiating the relationship of your eyes, neck, and pelvis. This is very important for walking and running because without this freedom in our neck we are unable to rotate our trunk and pelvis when we walk or run, which is essential for well integrated movement. It is a recording of a class on 9/28/12.
Price: $10.00

Additional lessons that will be very useful for walking and running:
Returning Movement to the Base of the Neck (A6)
Connecting Through the Diagonals (A7)

 

WORKING WITH YOUR VOICE

Equalizing the Nostrils (H1)
This lesson will not only change how you experience the tone, quality, timbre, and resonance of your voice but will help to open your sinuses and change how you experience your head organized over your spine. It can help people with jaw or neck tension, sinus problems, or be a way to change how you experience speaking. For this lesson you will need a chair and a place nearby to lay on the floor, and perhaps some kleenex as your nasal passages will be clearing. You will be toning out loud so be where you feel comfortable making sounds. (35')
Price: $10.00

Breathing and Modulating (H2)
In this lesson you learn different ways of breathing so your breathe flows easily and different ways to modulate sound so you can speak without straining. After doing it you will notice greater ease of breathing and speaking*.
Price: $10.00

*Breathing and Modulating (H2) is a variation of a lesson from a series called Vocal Integration with the Feldenkrais Method by Richard Corbeil, GCFP.  I highly recommend it – it can be purchased on line from Feldenkrais Resources.

 

FREEING YOUR EYES FOR BETTER VISION AND MOVEMENT

Open Focus, Open Attention (I1)
This is essentially a guided meditation that can bring you to a greater awareness of how you can see the world with different eyes. For some it can change a habit of isolation from the world and the anxiety that comes with that.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, neck and pelvis nodding head (I2)
This lesson is a recording of a class on 6-1-12. It integrates movement of the head with the pelvis and uses differentiated movements of the eyes to create greater freedom of movement of head, neck, and eyes.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, Head and Pelvis - Turning Head (I3)
This lesson helps you relax the muscles around your eyes and free the movement of your neck, back, and pelvis. It is a recording of a class on 1/11/13.
Price: $10.00

Rolling Hands and Palming Eyes (I4)
This is a very simple lesson but has a great effect on the integration of your upper back and shoulders with your spine and pelvis; and it leaves your eyes very relaxed. It is from a class on 1/18/13.
Price: $10.00

Eye, Head, and Pelvis Differentiation and Integration (I5)
This lesson helps you learn to differentiate the movements of your head and eyes which frees your eye movements, relax's your eyes, and releases upper back and neck tension. Many people report seeing with greater clarity and experiencing greater freedom of movement. From a class recorded on 1/25/13.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, Hands, and Breathing (I6)
This simple lesson can deeply relax your eyes and free the movement of your upper chest, back, and shoulders. It is from a class on 2/1/13.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, Palate, and Tongue (I7)
This lesson can bring deep relaxation to your eyes, sinuses, inside your mouth and your neck and upper back. It will show you clearly how habitual tension in these areas effects your movement and overall tension and provides a way to learn to release tension in these areas. It is a recording of a class on 2/8/13.
Price: $10.00

Sitting, Turning Eyes, Head and Shoulders (I8)
This lesson is done side sitting on the floor leaning on one hand with one knee bent to the front and the other to the back - if you think this would be uncomfortable or you have any problems with your low back it is fine to sit on the edge of a chair. The lesson can help free the movement of your neck, upper back, and ribs and is wonderfully relaxing for your eyes. It is a recording of a class on 2/15/13.
Price: $10.00

Rolling Hands and Palming Eyes (I4), Eyes, Palate, and Tongue (I7) and Eyes, Hands, and Breathing (I6) are variations of lessons from a series called “Seeing Clearly; A Feldenkrais Exploration of Vision” with David Webber, GCFP.  They can be purchased on line from Feldenkrais Resources.

 


Walking is with the Whole Body

By Andrew Wright

From the first time Robert walked into my office, his walking was quite distinctive. His mother had made the initial appointment as a birthday present for Robert—for his leg pain. Robert, who was 42, was using a four-pronged cane to aid him in his walk. Even with the use of a cane, each time he lifted his left leg to take a step, it seemed both difficult and precarious. It turned out that Robert had been born with Cerebral Palsy, and though he had led an active life, after a couple of falls over the last five years, he had started to use a cane when walking, and now couldn’t walk without it.

After three Functional Integration® lessons done in a variety of positions, mostly with Robert lying on his side or back, he said that his hip and leg were feeling quite a bit better. I could notice an increased ease in the movement of his left leg, and a general softening and a differentiation though out his back and chest. There was however only minor improvement in his walking. It seemed to me that the reason he could not lift his left leg very easily was not due to any problem with the leg, but because his pelvis was not shifting in a way that would free up the left leg to lift and swing forwards in order to take a step.

In the fourth lesson we looked at the role of his pelvis and spine in shifting his weight. Robert sat on my low table, and rested his arms on the high table. I sat behind him and helped him shift his weight from one buttock to the other. By placing my hands at various positions along his spine, I helped him sense how to integrate the movement of his spine with the movement of his pelvis. His pelvis started to move more freely. His left buttock, which initially barely budged from the table, suddenly lifted and moved as easily as the right. His head started to be more erect. Robert started to smile and to hum and to laugh. Something profound was happening for him, and I continued to structure the lesson to facilitate his progress. We also experimented with shifting the pelvis forwards and backwards and relating that movement to rounding and arching the back.

Forty-five minutes flew by, and then it was time to stop. Robert stood up. As usual, I handed him his cane. His walking was noticeably more fluid. His left foot lifted without difficulty. The ease and improvement Robert had achieved moving his pelvis while sitting had translated to an improvement in walking. He stopped and then he pushed his cane to the floor with a dramatic flourish, and started to walk unaided. I had some concerns—I didn’t want him to fall, but decided to go with it. With me following close behind, he set off. As I was relieved to see, he was doing fine, more than fine actually, and after a few halting steps, he was walking smoothly. It was a stunning shift. It seemed to be that he had put things together from this and previous lessons, which enabled him to coordinate his whole body so that he could once again balance and move freely when walking.

We had not talked about how he “should” walk, nor practiced any specific walking strategies. He knew when he was ready. I did advise him to continue to take the cane with him in case he needed it. We worked together a few more times, concentrating on movements that he could practice at home to continue his progress.

Many students receiving Feldenkrais® lessons make profound progress without such dramatic changes. But Roberts’s breakthrough does illustrate how changes to something as seemingly fixed as walking, are possible by improving the coordination of the body as a whole.

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT

Escaping Good Posture

By Annie R. Thoe

“I want to have good posture,” is a request I get from many of my clients. One client, Glen, was a magician who wanted to improve his posture. He said his posture looked menacing to people and he wanted to appear more friendly to his audience. I asked him why he thought he appeared menacing. He said that because of his nearsightedness, he frowned a lot and his hunched shoulders added to this sinister impression.

I asked him to walk around my office. Glen kicked his heels out in front of him when he walked and pushed himself forward, rolling onto the balls of his feet in a defiant manner. I couldn’t help but get the impression of a little boy when I looked at him. He appeared to be carrying some heavy weight on his back. I commented, “Gee Glen, it almost looks like you are carrying a backpack or something.”

He stopped in his tracks and said, “You know, my parents made me walk around the block with heavy rocks in my backpack to get in shape for Boy Scouts. I just hated it.” He went on to say how humiliating this was for him. The pack was too big for him and was quite painful to his shoulders. I could only imagine the physical and emotional pain he must have struggled with during that time in his life of being forced to do something he hated.

However, this was 10 to 15 years later, and he was still walking as if carrying this heavy backpack. I wondered what would give Glen the experience of walking without this imaginary weight? I tried a number of conventional lessons based on the Feldenkrais Method®. One day, Glen came in carrying a straightjacket that he used in his magic show routines for demonstrating escaping in less than two minutes. He asked me if we could do a lesson to help him improve his timing.

I had never given a “straightjacket” lesson before, but I thought, what a perfect tool to work with to “remove his backpack.” I asked Glen to get into the straightjacket, sit on a chair, and we began exploring how he escaped from the jacket. I had Glen notice what movements he made with his pelvis, his rib cage, and his head. I would gently hold one area to see how he could involve different parts of himself to become free in the jacket.

The jacket was a wonderful tool to show where he was free to move and where he was stuck. After 40 minutes of exploration, Glen said, “Do you think I could get out of this now?” He looked a little concerned and said, “I’m starting to get the creeps being in here so long.”

“Of course,” I said, and he was out of the jacket in a minute. Glen’s shoulders were very free and supple. I was so impressed with the lesson he had given himself with just a few little directions and constraints from me.

I had Glen walk, and he was so much looser, lighter and more confident. I told him how delighted I was with his straightjacket and how effective this jacket would be with other clients. “Do you think I could get one of these?” I asked him. “Oh, Annie,” he said, “I don’t think that would be a good idea, you might scare off clients.” “But look how great your posture is now,” I remarked. “This is a fabulous tool!”

I agreed with Glen that the public would not understand me using a straightjacket with clients, but I couldn’t resist trying on his jacket and exploring a few of the movements we did together.

The improvement of Glen’s posture was not about him learning to have a new fixed position of “better posture,” but more importantly, his learning to escape from fixation. He was no longer physically tied to the backpack his parents had strapped on him. Not only could he learn to quickly escape from this fixed position of posture, but he could escape in many different ways.

Good posture is not the perfect fixed position, but the ability to move in any direction. One might notice Houdini himself had great posture.

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT

A Dynamic Systems Approach:

A Revolutionary Perspective on Childhood Development Theory
By
Ann Harman, GCFP

For at least half a century, the prevailing idea of childhood development has been that the basic sequence of infant and child development, which includes learning to roll, reach, sit, creep, crawl, stand, and walk is genetically predetermined. The “normal” sequence, with only minor variations, is relatively consistent from one child to another. However, the dynamic systems approach developed by Esther Thelen brings an alternative viewpoint that challenges this established theory.

Part of the established theory is that developmental sequences are controlled by the maturation process of the brain. In this concept, there is a central controller in the brain (which has never been identified) that leads the infant through a process beginning with primitive reflexes. With maturation, the primitive reflexes are suppressed, and more mature movements develop.

One of these primitive reflexes is the stepping reflex. A young infant, when supported upright, makes stepping movements that appear to be a precursor to walking. This reflex disappears after about two months, supposedly due to the maturation of the brain.

Dr. Thelen, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Indiana University, noticed that babies older than two months make kicking movements, while lying on their backs, that resemble the stepping reflex. She became curious and did an experiment of supporting the infant in a tub of water, so that gravity was less of a factor. The stepping reflex returned! Then she took infants who still had a stepping reflex, put weights on their legs, and saw that the stepping reflex was inhibited! She theorized that the stepping reflex was not inhibited by the maturation of the brain, but by the weight of the infant’s legs. (Babies double their weight within six months of birth, and a two-month old normally has a great deal of fat on the legs.) This was only one in a series of experiments done by Thelen and her colleagues that brought doubts to established theories of development.

Dr. Thelen also observed that the developmental sequences of children are more variable than was previously believed. Yet, almost all children arrive at certain milestones such as crawling, standing, and walking, although by way of different routes. She theorized that certain movements are “attractors”, but the paths to these attractors are variable. Children are drawn to these attractors, but each finds his or her own pathway through trial and error. In other words, the process depends more upon experimentation, curiosity, and learning than was previously thought.

Eventually, Dr. Thelen summarized the system by which children learn by the acronym EVASO:

E: Explore

V: Variations: Experiment with variations in moving.

A: Attend to how new systems self-organize.

S: Select patterns that are better

O: Optimize for functional effectiveness and movement quality.

When Dr. Thelen was exposed to the Feldenkrais Method® of movement education, she was astounded to find that this system not only used these principles of infant learning, but also applied them in a practical manner to adult education and rehabilitation, and was already well-established and developed! She undertook the four-year training to become a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner(cm). If it had not been for her untimely death from cancer, she would have retired from research to apply these principles in the context of a Feldenkrais® Practice.

When we think of early childhood learning, this is the period of life in which learning is faster than at any other time. A newborn has a very limited movement capacity, does not know language, and cannot even recognize what s/he sees or hears. Within a few years, the child learns to identify sights and sounds, walk, run, climb, and speak the native language. This is a truly amazing amount of learning that happens within a few years, and this rate of learning slows in later life. (In fact, past concepts of maturation have included the idea that maturity means having learned all that we need to know!)

Does this evoke your interest about how to learn better and faster? To learn by using curiosity, and to explore and choose elegant solutions? If so, consider studying the Feldenkrais Method.

Ann Harman is an osteopathic physician as well as a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner.

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT

Neuroplasticity and The Feldenkrais Method®

By Eileen Bach-y-Rita, GCFP

Your brain loves to learn. In fact it thrives on acquiring new skills such as playing a musical instrument, learning a new dance or a new language. Your brain also thrives when engaged in an inner awareness activity, like meditation or a Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® lesson.

In order to learn anything, you need to focus and pay attention to the task at hand. You need to move slowly and deliberately and think about what you are doing when learning a new motor skill. Without this focus and attention, you wouldn’t acquire the new skill, or deepen knowledge in the field of your choice. The focus on and practice of these new activities causes the brain to morph, to grow new connections between billions of cells, and to create new motor and sensory-motor maps for each new activity. Even when you pretend that you are moving, visualizing your movements in your mind, brain changes can be measured and seen in PET scans. Your brain’s ability to change itself is called “neuroplasticity.” It allows brain cells and nerves to change their appearance and function, to grow, shrink, connect, disconnect and re-connect to each other in entirely new ways, to exchange duties and functions, to use unexpected parts of the brain for novel tasks, and to be malleable and accessible to new needs as they arise during an experience-driven life.

Science has shown that the brain is not only capable of this rich and surprising re-organization but that it also produces new neurons throughout our life. It was thought, until 1998, that we were born with billions of brain cells that would die off as we got older, and that no new cells would ever be born. In fact we are born and we die with millions of unused, unformed stem-cells in our brain. The potential for birthing these cells into live neurons exists throughout our life-time, pushing the boundaries of what we previously thought possible, especially in the fields of health and the recovery from injuries and illnesses.

Two scientists from very different fields thought the brain was capable of much more than it was given credit for, and set out to prove it in their own ways. The first was Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc, (1904-1984), a mechanical engineer, physicist and Judo martial artist, who taught himself how to walk again in the 1940’s, after a serious knee injury and against all odds.

Through his own self generated exploratory learning process, he created an elegant and economical system of focused attention and unique movements that led thousands of individuals to overcome the results of accidents, illness and disabilities. He would not have succeeded if the brain wasn’t plastic. His novel movements were sequential, a property which has been shown to stimulate plasticity in the brain; they required attention, which has also been shown to change the brain, and they reproduced the complex non-linear strategies that are involved in our motor development from birth through age ten, which lead the brain to self-organize and spontaneously produce higher levels of organization and skill. Moshe inferred the plasticity of the brain from his voracious readings in the fields of health and sciences, his common sense and his observations of infants and small children learning to move. The concept remained unproved until he met another scientist, Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, in the late 1970’s.

Paul Bach-y-Rita, Ph.D, M.D. (1934-2006), a neuro-physiologist, was convinced of the plastic properties of the brain long before it was possible to prove that they existed, and long before neuroplasticity was a respected field of brain research.  Paul “…was in many ways the father of the idea of neuroplasticity.”

I met Paul in 1960, five years before he proved that the brain can substitute one missing sense for another. He shared his hunch about sensory-substitution the day we met and I was hooked. We were married between 1960 and 1976. During that time I witnessed his experiments first-hand. After his father recovered from a devastating stroke, Paul decided to study plasticity in brain-injured individuals. I started to help him in his work, first by designing a recovery program for brain injured individuals who had been diagnosed as “permanently paralyzed” by their doctors, and soon after, by leading the program myself.  We remained friends and colleagues throughout his life.

I met Moshe in 1977, 30 years before research in neuroplasticity would show that the act of thinking, as well as the act of imagining movement and feelings, changes the brain and produces new measurable skills and results.  Moshe’s movements and hands-on approach to learning reproduced the conditions we all experienced as infants. We taught ourselves how to move, experiencing and developing movement as a sense, along with all our other senses which were developing concurrently: hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting.

Paul Bach-y-Rita’s experiment in sensory substitution followed earlier experiments during which he proved that all sensory cells have the capacity to respond to every incoming sensory stimulus. His work disproved the theory that auditory cells are only used for sound reception, visual cells can only respond to light and shapes and colors, and the skin and its sensory receptors are only used for touch. Another of his experiments proved that you don’t even need brain cells connecting in synaptic patterns to allow an electrical spike from cell A to arrive to cell B. Even after lesions in the brain destroyed thousands of cell nuclei or groups and destroyed their communication loops, one cell’s electrical output would and could travel very slowly through the fluid in the brain and cause a response far from the original cell, at a much longer delay than usual.  He called this brain property volume transmission. The implications of these results in neural plasticity were neither recognized nor applied in the various fields of science and rehabilitation in the late 1970’s early 80’s except in the case of the Feldenkrais Method, and in the two pilot projects in stroke and head injury recovery that I designed and led for Paul between 1975 and 1978. In fact, until the 1990s, “neuroplastic research was considered of little interest by other scientists.”

Finally, In 2004 Paul set up a pilot project using Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons as the primary modality for global functional recovery after long-term head injury. The program was held at a resort and also included the daily use of a computer pong game which he had developed for stroke victims and lots of time off to rest and play.

I led the pilot in Florida in 2004.  Six people participated. They had all been discharged from physical therapy centers at least a year before coming to us, and given no hope for future recovery. The group met for two weeks. I led the participants through the developmental sequences of the Feldenkrais Method, for an hour, twice a day and taught them how to imagine the movements that were too difficult or impossible to do at first. Every person there relearned at least two if not several motor skills and reduced or eliminated pain that had been present since their head injuries. The participants also expressed gratitude for the new awareness they had gained of how their bodies moved and felt.

For Moshe Feldenkrais, recognition for his brilliant pioneering work has been late in coming. Most of the research that validates his work was published after his death in 1984. His is an idea whose time has finally come….

Condensed excerpt from Eileen’s upcoming book: “Neuroplasticity and the Feldenkrais Method®.

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT

Felden What?

By Lawrence Wm. Goldfarb, Ph.D.

It was about to happen, that moment, that dreaded moment. I was at my friend Marcello’s birthday party; I had been enjoying the Brazilian music when one of the other guests engaged me in a friendly conversation. We discussed the usual things, such as the weather and how we each knew the guest of honor. Peter had just finished telling me about his research in engineering when it happened:

“What do you for a living?”

“I’m a Feldenkrais® teacher.”

“Felden-what?”

Feldenkrais. It is a method of movement re-education, named after the man who developed it, Moshe Feldenkrais.”

“Felden-Christ?”

“Close, but not quite. It’s Feldenkrais: 
F – E – L – D – E – N – K – R – A – I – S. 
It rhymes with rice.”

Feldenkrais?”

“Exactly. The Feldenkrais Method is a way to teach movement. I work with people who have physical limitations, such as chronic pain or neurological problems, or with people who want to improve their performance, like actors, musicians, or athletes. I also teach classes in the physical education program at the University.”

“What do you teach?”

“Usually my students come to me because they are experiencing some kind of limitation, something that is interfering with daily life or obstructing progress or performance. My job is to figure out how they are moving, how that relates to the problem that they are experiencing, and how they could move differently enough so that problem wouldn’t continue.”

“Sounds interesting. Is it some kind of exercise? Or do you show people how to correct their posture?”

“Well, it’s not that easy to answer, mostly because what I teach, and how I teach, is pretty different than exercise or posture. Both of these are based on similar assumptions: If you are weak, then you should exercise to strengthen your muscles. If, on the other hand you think bad posture causes your problem, then you should correct it and stand up straight. Both assume that the body is something that must be molded, should be reshaped, put in its proper place. Neither gives you the chance to see that what you are doing might contibute to the problem you face. Neither approach looks at how you move and how that could relate to the problem you are experiencing.”

“Are you saying that people shouldn’t exercise?”

“No. I’m not saying that. I am saying that exercise alone isn’t enough. The idea behind exercise is that you are not strong enough, that your muscles need to be in better condition. So an exercise program is designed to increase the ability of muscles to work. I think this is often a mistaken view, because the problems that I deal with – chronic pain, neurological difficulties, obstacles to performance – do not have to do with how strong the person is, they all have to do with the way someone moves overall. I guess you could say, I am interested in people moving smarter, not stronger.”

“Are you saying that movement can cause problems?”

“Yes, I am. The way that you move can cause problems. What’s more interesting is that you can be unaware that the movement is at the root of the problem.”

“What do you mean by being unaware of movement being the cause of the problem?”

“Most of us are unaware of how we move. We pay attention to where we are going or what we are doing, not to how we move. For example, think about how you stand up from sitting. How do you do it? What happens? What moves when?”

Peter stands up and sits back down a few times, saying, “I see what you mean. It is more complex than I expected. Usually, I think of standing up and then, next thing I know, I am standing. I guess I have never thought much about it before.”

“That’s what I mean. Most of us don’t think about our bodies until we experience pain or some kind of problem. But that means that we could have been moving in an inefficient or dangerous way for a long time by the time we notice something is wrong. This is one place were the saying ‘If it works, don’t fix it’ doesn’t apply.”

“But why is that? Why don’t we notice?”

“Because our movements become habitual, automatic. We repeat the same movements over and over, without thinking or noticing. When something happens repeatedly, it drops from our consciousness. This isn’t necessarily bad, it is a part of the process of learning.”

“Does that mean we learn to move in inefficient ways?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Well, because we move only as well as we’ve learned to move and our learning to move is very haphazard. There are many things that influence how we move: childhood development, accommodations to previous injuries, the requirements of specialized activities we engage in (such as sports, musical instruments, or work motions). Finally, since we don’t really understand how our bodies move, we often move in ways that don’t fit with the way we are put together.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“Certainly. People think that the body hinges at the waist and they move as if that were so. Unfortunately, the lower back does not allow for that kind of motion; the design of hip joints is what allows the torso to do that. The muscles of the back are not designed for that movement.”

“I see. Moving as if your back were made to hinge at the waist can lead to back strain and pain.”

“That’s it, you understand. But, anyway, I have taken enough of your time with this. Sorry, I can get carried away talking about my work.”

“Not at all, this is very interesting. It sure beats the normal party chatter. My mom has had chronic back pain for years, so I’m curious about your work. I was going to ask you what you could do for her.”

“It’s not easy to say because I would have to see how she moves.”

“Can you say generally what you would do when you start working with someone?”

“Yes, I can describe what would happen if she were to come to see me. I would begin by looking at her move, asking her to turn right and left, bend forward, back and to each side. I would put my hands on her to feel which muscles were working, which muscles weren’t engaging, and which ones weren’t letting go. I would look for some kind of habit or pattern that interferes with other movements.”

“You lost me there. What do you mean when you say ‘a pattern that interferes with other movements?”

“What I mean by that is that it often seems as if people have gotten stuck doing a movement or holding themselves, unconsciously, in certain way. For instance, if you injure your leg, you change how you walk and you begin to limp. The limp may be appropriate immediately after an injury, but it can last much longer than the injury. If it continues longer than it’s needed, it can lead directly to pain, stiffness, and other problems. But that’s just one example; you can limp with your shoulder, your neck, or your back. Indeed, you don’t have to injure yourself to develop this kind of movement. You can acquire a similar habit playing a musical instrument, repeating work movements day in and day out, playing certain kinds of sports, and so on. The key is that you develop a movement pattern that you get stuck with, a pattern that underlies every movement, interferes with any activity that runs counter to it.”

“Go on.”

“For instance, I was recently working with a bus driver who had recurring back pain. When I looked at her movement, it became quite clear that the muscles of the lower trunk were chronically contracted and that her back was locked stiff. Even when she tried to stretch, she could not get her lower back to let go. It was as if she had lost control of those muscles. She thought her back was supposed to be straight, so after her first bout of back pain, many years earlier, she had taught herself to keep her back flat. When she moved her trunk, she overused the muscles of her upper back, so they had begun to hurt constantly. Though the doctor could find no disease, the bus driver still thought something was wrong with her spine. I could help see that it was her movement that was causing the problem.”

“Once she saw that, could she change what she was doing?”

“Not immediately. You see, over the years, she had lost touch with what those muscles were doing. It was as if she was on automatic pilot and she had forgotten how to regain manual control.”

“So what do you do about that? I think it would be incredibly frustrating to understand the cause of the problem and not be able to do anything about it.”

“That’s where the method comes into play. There are two ways in which I work with people: in hands-on individual lessons and in group lessons. Both ways of working are based on the idea of teaching people to be aware of how they are moving, how they can move, and to increase their options and comfort. During the group lessons, I talk people through a sequence of gentle movements; during the individual lessons, I use my hands to move the student.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Not at all. The Feldenkrais Method is gentle. The idea is that you will change most easily if the new movements are more comfortable than the old ones. I like to say that our motto is ‘No pain, MORE gain.’”

“Is this like massage or chiropractic?”

“Not exactly. The similarity is that we touch people, but beyond that it is very different. In massage, the practitioner is working directly with the muscles, in chiropractic, with the bones. The Feldenkrais Method is about working with your ability to regulate and coordinate your movement; that means that the Feldenkrais Method is about working with the nervous system.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, remember the bus driver I mentioned. Her muscles were tight because her nervous system told them to contract. They didn’t decide to tighten on their own, muscles don’t think for themselves. The brain tells them what to do. So my job is to help the person learn to control her or his muscles again. I do that using very gentle guided movements, staying in the range of ease at all times.”

“Pretty amazing. You really think people can change without hurting?”

“Absolutely. That’s one of the reason I love what I do.”

“But wait, my mom has some kind of problem with her discs. Would Feldenkrais cure her?”

“ The Feldenkrais Method isn’t about curing or fixing people. It isn’t a medical treatment, it’s an educational approach. It’s about helping people get control back into their lives by understanding why they feel the way they do and by learning how to move differently so that they don’t have to keep feeling that way. Even when someone has an organic problem or disease, I can help them. For instance, when I work with people who have arthritis, my job isn’t to get rid of the disease, my job is to help them move so that they don’t stress the effected joints and so that they can find more comfortable, safer, ways to do what they want to do. Same thing applies to disc problems – even when there is a structural problem, the question is how can the person move in a better way, so that they increase their comfort and avoid future problems.”

“Oh, oh. They are lighting the candles. Can we talk more after the festivities. . .”

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT

Learning How to Learn – An Overview of the Feldenkrais Method

Rather than “fixing” the body, Moshe Feldenkrais taught how to expand its capacities and ranges of choice.  “I am going to be your last teacher. Not because I’ll be the greatest teacher you may ever encounter, but because from me you will learn how to learn. When you learn how to learn, you will realize that there are no teachers, that there are only people learning and people learning how to facilitate learning.” With those words Moshe Feldenkrais began his first North American training in June 1975. None of us were really prepared for this remarkable man or his method.

A powerful presence, Feldenkrais (1904-84) influenced and challenged almost all who came into contact with him. Physicist, engineer, mathematician, Judo master and student of acupuncture, Feldenkrais embodied the best of West and East. Sources of the Feldenkrais Method included Judo and Yoga, as well as physics, engineering, mathematics. He was also a man of many cultures and languages and in his work one can sense influences from Russian, German, French, English, Yiddish, and Hebrew.

Feldenkrais is known for developing Functional Integration and Awareness Through Movement, both of which are somatically based approaches to education and self inquiry. Functional Integration is tailored to the needs of the individual; through it one can establish, restore, or greatly improve functional action in the world.  It involves gentle, hands-on educational guidance which is done with the student clothed. It is noninvasive and is not painful.

Awareness Through Movement (ATM), the group work, consists of verbally instructed sequences and combinations of movements. They are done either actually or in the imagination, and enable participants to improve both the range and quality of movement. Despite its many varied themes, ATM is pervaded by two general injunctions: First, move only in your comfort zone. The idea is to work smarter rather than harder. The lessons take us beyond our limits by finding new combinations of ways to move. Second, carry out the instruction only as long as you can pay attention to what you’re doing. If the mind begins to wander, if the movement becomes mechanical, stop. Using these principles, Feldenkrais lessons often produce dramatic results. But to Feldenkrais, all results are trivial compared to the importance of directing one’s own learning.

Feldenkrais traced the origin of his work to a time in his life when he was directing antisubmarine research for the British Admiralty during World War II. He was required to be on a ship every day. Ships at sea pitch to and fro, and the constant jostling was wreaking havoc with a knee which had been injured years earlier in a soccer accident. He went to one of the best surgeons in England, who after examining him concluded that an operation would probably prove successful. Feldenkrais asked what he meant by “probably successful.”  The surgeon gave Feldenkrais 50-50 odds of either a successful outcome, where he would walk normally, or an unsuccessful one, where he would have to walk with a cane for the rest of his life. Feldenkrais’ response was that such odds were no better than mere chance. Upon informing the surgeon that he would fix his own knees, Feldenkrais was told that within six months he would return begging for an operation.

Undaunted, Feldenkrais began a detailed study of anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, and biology as they related to human movement. Through his wife, who was a pediatrician, he gained a thorough understanding of child development. He discovered that the information in the books he read contained the answers to other people’s questions but not his. Moreover, they tended to have a simplistic and mechanistic perspective on the body.

Nonetheless, from what he gleaned Feldenkrais began to make subtle manipulations of his knee. He kept careful records of his attempts: he would note the effect during the manipulations, as well as 30 seconds, a minute, five minutes, an hour, a day after each one. He gradually found the right combination of manipulations to restore his knee’s functioning. Or so he thought.

Walking on a sidewalk in London, Feldenkrais hailed a cab. Stepping off the curb onto what he assumed would be the street, he in fact stepped into a storm drain and reinjured his knee. Feldenkrais realized that, in his words, “I was like every other idiot who fixed a part and didn’t look at the whole system.”

He then began an inquiry into the activities of daily life that led him to his greatest realization: whether one walks poorly or gracefully, unless one understands how one does what one does, both are equally mechanical. Those who walked more gracefully or efficiently than others couldn’t tell Feldenkrais how they had learned to walk well, nor could they tell Feldenkrais how to do so. They didn’t know how they were doing what they were doing. As a habit, Feldenkrais believed, good posture is no better than bad posture. That is, if we are ignorant of the means whereby we acquired our habits then whether they are “good” or “bad” the underlying habit is ignorance.  He tried again to restore functioning to his knee, but now he knew he had to proceed very differently.

Each incremental step towards understanding seemed to undermine Feldenkrais’ intuitive assumptions about himself and the world, to the point where he said at times he felt he was going mad. He saw that the original soccer injury was due as much to his aggressive attitude on the playing field as to the accident. Yet how could he rigorously question his sense of the rightness of his habits? What his senses had told him was right now seemed wrong. How does one improve behavior if sensations can’t be trusted to provide objective data?

Grasping for explanations and in need of a way to prove or disprove his attempts at change, Feldenkrais developed a unique and comprehensive view of sensory motor functioning and its relation to thought, emotions and action. Because of his deep understanding of physics and the scientific method the counterintuitive results of his research did not discourage him. His work, while informed by science, came to parallel the Eastern path of joining mind and body, intention and action. In his research body-mind integration shifted from being a medical or scientific concern to becoming a path toward knowledge and beauty. As he proceeded Feldenkrais felt aligned to meditational disciplines in his recognition of the need to entrain attention and to develop the capacity to attend to what we do.

At first Feldenkrais was content to work on himself. Then came requests to work with the wives and husbands of colleagues. After successfully working with many individual students, he began to develop his group lessons, which coordinate intention and action as well as providing the means to “know what you are doing, so that you can do what you want.”

How does one decide where to begin a lesson? Again it’s instructive to look at an example from Feldenkrais’ life, taken from a time when he was a young Russian Jewish immigrant in Palestine in the 1920s. Attempting to protect his community, Feldenkrais, along with other young men, learned Jujitsu in a makeshift dojo. Subsequently there was a street skirmish, and many of those who thought they knew how to defend themselves were severely injured. Those who ran were spared.

Realizing the arbitrariness of his previous studies, Feldenkrais, utilizing the other young men decided to conduct an experiment. He staged armed and unarmed attacks on people and filmed their first reaction. Was it to cover up, to cower, to turn away? He then grafted onto that first reaction a defensive and/or offensive maneuver. Utilizing the person’s innate reaction and then extending it through a complementary Jujitsu technique, he trained the person anew.

To test the effectiveness of this new method, Feldenkrais put aside the martial training for six months after which he then simulated the attacks again. Those attacked were virtually all able to protect themselves. By building upon what people actually do, rather than what they should do, he eliminated the artifice and hesitation that had proved so costly in the previous way of training. The insight proved crucial to the development of his method.  He had learned that to be useful new learnings cannot grow out of what people “ought” to do but must grow out of both what people do and would do.

In the Feldenkrais Method, each person already presents the ideal body, the ideal way to move. For may of us this is a difficult concept to grasp. We take pain, “poor” posture, or limited movement as symptoms of something wrong. Yet each and every person makes the best choices possible given his or her perception of choices. Change is most possible in this realm of “perception of choices.” The practitioner’s task is to create conditions for more choices. It is not to correct errors, right wrongs, or straighten people out.  The practitioner’s task is elicit from the student new means of action and judgment.

In some systems of body work, the ends, such as perfect posture and proper alignment, justify the means, which can include force, pain, and shame. In the Feldenkrais Method the means — learning — and the end — learning how to learn — intertwine. The presence or absence of exemplary learning contexts in our past is reflected in the shape of our bodies. Our biological heritage includes well over two million years of successful adaptation and evolution. By basing his approach on the somatic wisdom of the species, Feldenkrais was able to make use of the human nervous system’s ability to organize itself around efficient, enjoyable, and interesting movement.  Given the means both to make better choices and to act upon them one improves organically, from the inside.

In their development, most children chart a more or less orderly path characteristic to our species. Rolling over, creeping, crawling, standing, walking and running, to name a few of the milestones, all take place without instruction.  In fact, parents often thwart optimal development by “helping” the child. The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget has detailed how the child’s developing and maturing sensory-motoric coordinations construct its notions of time, space and knowledge.  Those “constructions” along with adult and peer instruction implicit in language, locale, diet, and acculturation condition the growing infant. The nearly infinite possibilities of the child’s nervous system are pruned and shaped to fit its culture.

During the developmental process, the original organismic wholeness of the child necessarily turns into an assemblage of parts. The hand, a part, serves the whole, the body, by feeding it with a fork or chopsticks. Language breaks the body into separate parts: the hand, the wrist, the arm, etc., which create a fragmented “body of thought” apart from our unified organismic body. To make language a part of our biology, we need to be able to read, gain access to, and use the organismic body’s “alphabet,” “grammar,” and “vocabulary.”

Habits also limit and divide us by pitting body against mind, thought against feelings. We endlessly repeat the same behaviors, while somehow expecting different outcomes. Yet anything learned can be unlearned. By observing and recognizing our learned patterns of behavior we can, given the means, intervene in our own future learning.

Feldenkrais invented ways of invoking a sense of somatic wholeness while simultaneously developing the capacity for learning without goals, comparison to others, or external standards. Lessons are viewed as contexts for learning. Most lessons take place lying or sitting. They are 30-60 minutes long. The thing to be learned is never demonstrated. Rather, students are given movement instructions and allowed to make sense of them kinesthetically, thereby connecting one part of themselves to another. Making seemingly impossible actions easy, Feldenkrais lessons question our assumed limitations. Though our quantitative range of movement may be mechanically limited, there are no limits to the quality of movement. The lessons revivify early childhood impulses to move, explore, and learn. Understanding the logic of the body becomes deeply satisfying.

Try this out. Make a fist and move it back and forth. Now pretend you have a wrist injury. To move the fist would cause pain. Now fix the fist in place with the other hand and move the forearm and elbow back and forth. You can readily see that this movement creates the same angles at the wrist but is now being initiated by the arm. If this is done carefully, even a person with an injured wrist will experience no pain.  Why?  Because, to the nervous system. moving the arm does not produce pain, as the pain is “in” the moving of the fist. Instead of initiating movement at a joint further from the torso, one is moving from a joint closer to the torso. The so-called “reversal of proximal (close) and distal (far)” is one principle Feldenkrais used to construct lessons. Feldenkrais employed many other principles, including “the principle of no principles,” which is invoked when one needs to act but doesn’t know how.

Even weaknesses can be used to facilitate learning.  As Feldenkrais said, “Most people spend their whole lives using their strengths to cover up and hide their weaknesses.  They expend tremendous energy in keeping themselves a house divided.  But if you surrender to your weakness, therein lies your pathway to genius.  A person who knows and utilizes his true weakness, who uses his strength to include it, is a whole person.  He may seem rough around the edges, but there are so few people like that that they lead their generation.”  On some many levels we are conflicted and cross motivated.  Somatically, one’s “good” side, one’s uninjured or more effective side, is separated form one’s “bad” or injured side only conceptually. By developing the capacity to see wholly and work accordingly, strengths and weakness are integrated.  The embodied sense of wholeness Feldenkrais got from Judo.

Feldenkrais met Professor Jigaro Kano, founder of Judo in Paris around 1930.  Kano was so impressed with Feldenkrais that he sent two of his top instructors to Paris to personally train him.  After two years of daily study Feldenkrais opened up a dojo that is still in operation.  Kano especially appreciated Feldenkrais’ down-to-earth Western descriptions of Judo principles.

A proud outgrowth of Japanese culture, Judo characterized the ideal of mind-body unification on the one hand and the engaged detachment of meditation on the other.  From Judo the Feldenkrais Method derives a number of important contributions.  By educating, differentiating and integrating the movements of the lower torso and upper legs, known as the “center,” one apportions strength to the strongest muscles, freeing the limbs for expression and sensitive contact.  With action organized from the center, the skeleton becomes a means for transferring force from the lower torso outward to the extremities.  One also learns how to turn the strength of another against him, how to transform the fear of falling into rolling, how to “reeducate” an opponent rather than destroy him.

Orientation and dimensionality go hand in hand in the martial arts, and they are useful in understanding Feldenkrais’ notion of posture.  Orientation is crucial to life, whether it involves locating predator or prey, finding one’s way through a city, or understanding a math problem.  Orientation can be determined relative to one’s body, to the environment, or both. Relative to my body, “up” is always towards my head and “down” is towards my feet, regardless of my body’s relation to the environment. Relative to the environment, however, I am upside down if my feet point towards the ceiling.  When first learning to do a Judo or Aikido roll, one feels upside down relative to the room.  Later one learns to turn the room around oneself, as it were, thus maintaining a sense of self relative to the body as a system of reference.  Ultimately one learns to let the situation guide the need to choose and utilize a frame of reference.

The Feldenkrais Method teaches headstands in a interesting way.  The static posture of the headstand is transformed into a process of falling safely. Getting into and out of the headstand become the focus.  By going slowly and clarifying our sense of orientation, falling forward and backward are made comfortable, easy, and safe.  In the middle of the fall one may pause while trying to decide whether to fall forward or backward. That pause could take from a few seconds to 15 minutes. To the outside observer, it looks like a headstand, but to the person doing it, it’s simply the middle of an arrested fall. Thus, learning to do a headstand is enveloped in a more general dynamic: finding a way of learning how to learn.

Dimensionality involves directional planes of movement. In Judo, one’s posture must permit, without prior readjustments, movements in any of the six cardinal directions — up/down, forward/backward, left/right. Most attackers or defenders move in one plane at a time — forward or back, left or right, up or down. They become predictable targets.

Accomplished martial artists, on the other hand, can move in three dimensions at once, such as forward, down, and to the left, making their precise next position very difficult to anticipate. Pretending to move in one plane, they can “fake out” an attacker. The expert can bait an opponent by appearing to move in a single plane and then shifting into a multidimensional mode. Sensitive to the attacker’s intention, the defender can present a target for the attacker, who is more than willing to take it.  The defender then blends with the speed and direction of the attack and redirects it into a throw or counterattack.

Actually, counting time, the martial artist moves in four dimensions, or rather becomes four-dimensional.  The personal self, which is bound to time and space, disappears.  This intentional multidimensionality, closely linked with what Feldenkrais called “awareness,” is one byproduct of changing our ways of moving.  Experienced Feldenkrais practitioners can view a person’s somatic orientation and predict the probable consequences of his of her future actions.

Feldenkrais saw orientation as an essential component in differentiating awakeness, consciousness, and awareness.  One who awakens in a strange city but is not yet orientated can only be said to be awake.  Once oriented — “Oh, yes, this is Vienna. It’s summer” — one can be said to be conscious, to be linked to a world.  When those links prove inadequate, awareness is used to forge new links with the world. Awareness is not a higher consciousness, but rather a means of reorienting oneself to the world. By way of an example, when reading, one focuses on the meaning of a passage; one is not conscious of the letters. To see the letters individually requires a sensory motor shift. The letters are there but our attention is otherwise occupied by our striving to derive meaning.  Awareness is the potential to make shifts of attention, to bring to the fore relevant features from the background, to find new combinations and patterns and therefore new meaning.  Awareness can broaden and deepen our lives.

Ways of thinking and seeing derived from science, engineering, and mathematics are implicit in the Feldenkrais Method, and these perspectives help individuals understand how they may have limited themselves.  The adult body has 206 bones with varying degrees of freedom of movement between them; taken together, the bones of the skeleton provide the largest possible set of movement patterns.  Evolutionary patterns of use created by the need for survival, maintenance, and reproduction comprise a smaller set.  A still smaller cultural set is delimited by the constraints of a particular language, geography, religion, etc.  The personal set, which is the smallest, is the set of possibilities we have settled upon as individuals.

The personal self thus emerges out of impersonal biological and cultural processes. Attending to these processes takes tremendous vigilance.  When the attention is not held back by personal history, when it sees the personal for what it is, history ends and a vast openness appears. In the summer of 1977 some people’s imaginations were captured by Carlos Castaneda’s books about Don Juan.  At the end of a long day of training someone asked Feldenkrais about Castaneda’s notion of stopping the internal dialogue.  After pausing for a moment, he replied, “Thinking is a holding back from action, a rehearsal of action. If you act completely with no holding back, then there is no thought and no dialogue. It can be the most violent or the most delicate of actions, but if it is total then it ends thought.” (The following was edited in the published version but is restored for clarification.)  Many people mistakenly hold that Feldenkrais’ work is opposed to thinking. In actuality mature behavior, for Feldenkrais, requires that thought and action mutually and reciprocally inform each other. Awareness is the consequence of using thought to improve action and action to improve thought. It is awareness that improves our connection to others and enhances the quality of our lives.

©1997 Dennis Leri

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT