Finding Feldenkrais(R)

I heard about The Feldenkrais Method(R) over the years, but it took a long time for me to finally try a class. However, after my first class, I wanted to become a practitioner. I didn’t just want to become a practitioner, I had to become a practitioner. I had no idea what was involved, but how hard could it be? I was stunned to learn that it involved an intense 4 year long training program. But, that didn’t discourage me. After all, I had recently gone through a brutal twenty four months of graduate school to become a PT, so I figured I was up to the challenge.

Then I discovered that the trainings were few and far between. As much as I wanted to become a practitioner, I did not want to have to travel to another city for two weeks every three months for four years to complete a training. It seemed like quite a commitment, and I was still reeling from the mental, emotional, physical and financial ramifications of earning my Master’s Degree in physical therapy. Maybe I wasn’t up to the challenge. But, then I discovered that a training was going to be held in Denver. Bingo! I was the first student to apply to the program.

The year before the training, the organizers hosted several pre-training workshops so perspective students could get an idea what a training was like. The workshops also included meetings and group lunches so we could all “get to know each other.” Gee, I didn’t want to get to know anyone. I just wanted to get to know Feldenkrais. During those meetings, we were told that we would all experience the training together, every step of the way. We would be like a family. I wasn’t sure I liked the sound of that. I already have a family, and although I love them to death, one family is about all I can handle.

Then came the discussion about how we would share our experiences and feelings during the four years of training. Yikes! That really stopped me in my tracks. I don’t like to admit that I have feelings, let alone talk about them, especially in a large group of people that I don’t even know. What did this have to do with rolling around on the floor? All of a sudden, going through a training didn’t sound like such a good idea.

Even more disturbing were the conversations about how the training had a tendency to “stir things up.” You know, bring things to the surface that have been repressed or deeply buried in our nervous system. That’s when I really started to worry. As far as I was concerned, anything and everything that I repressed was for a reason. If it was buried in my nervous system, it should stay there. I didn’t want to stir anything up. I just wanted to learn Feldenkrais.

I spite of my misgivings, I did start the training. After all, I didn’t have to finish the training. I could quit anytime I wanted to. As a matter of fact, I might even quit after the first week. However, I did complete the training, and I never looked back. The training and the joy of learning did not stop at the end of four years; it continues today as I continue to receive the proliferation of gifts that come from knowing Feldenkrais, and knowing myself. Just imagine what it can do for you!

A Feldenkrais(R) Valentine

I have always loved Valentine’s Day, mostly because of the pretty decorations, but no Valentine’s Day could possibly compare to my first Feldenkrais Valentine’s Day.

I was in the second week of Feldenkrais Training, and deeply engaged in an Awareness Through Movement lesson. During a rest, I opened my eyes and looked up at the ceiling. I was lying directly under a chandelier, which could be a little disconcerting in itself if you think about it. But, draped over the chandelier were long, loopy strands of red foil hearts.

I tilted my head as my brain started to register, “Oooooo, pretty….” I felt myself smile as I tilted my head the other way. “Oooooo, even prett-i-er!” I began to roll my head against the floor and saw the multitude of hearts strands and red crepe paper with big red bows and huge hearts dripping from them. “Wow,” I thought, “Now that’s what I call eye candy!”

I was mesmerized by the decorations which were made even more brilliant from the twinkling lights. As far as I was concerned there was nothing (or no one) else in that room but me, the hearts, and the lights. What a trip! Finally I noticed my instructor standing next to me, staring down at my face. I rewarded him with a big, goofy grin.

He must have thought I was a blithering idiot. But, I didn’t care. All I cared about was the spectacular scene above me as the hearts and bows slowly dipped, turned and danced with the air as their stage and the sparkling lights as their music.

It was a creative and beautiful ballet of hearts. I could hear the music in my mind as my eyes followed the secret choreography of the dancing hearts. I have never been more aware of shape, color, light, shadow and movement. And I was amazed at how a few paper hearts could so touch my own. From that day forward, Valentine’s Day was never the same for me. It was so much better. And so was everything else.

Feldenkrais….it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

The Feldenkrais Method(R) and spreading the word….

As a Feldenkrais Practitioner, I feel that one of my responsibilities to the Feldenkrais community and to the general public is to help spread the word of this remarkable Method. After all, why should those of us who have experienced it have all the fun? I want to share it, with as many people that I can reach and that are willing to listen to me.

As a result, I never pass up an opportunity to give presentations regarding Feldenkrais. I include a brief description of the Method followed by an Awareness Through Movement lesson. After all, you really have to experience a lesson to get a feel of what Feldenkrais is about. However, in my enthusiasm to spread the word, I have found myself in some very strange and sometimes challenging situations.

I gave a presentation to a professional group during their breakfast meeting. It sounded like a good idea until I found myself teaching a lesson to forty people who were busy ordering, receiving and eating their breakfast. My attention was divided between the lesson, the participants, their breakfasts and the servers flying past me carrying huge plates of food. My nervous system was about ready to short circuit. But, I stayed focused, and I spread the word.

I gave another presentation to a group of student personal trainers. It was a beautiful summer day, and they chose to experience the lesson outside, next to a small lake. It seemed like another good idea at first. But I underestimated the competition from the heat, the mosquitoes, and the bellowing voices of other student trainers directing their clients through workouts. However, it provided an excellent opportunity for me to further organize my teaching skills and to sense my contact with the mosquitoes. And, I spread the word.

I was invited to give a presentation to to a psychologist, his colleagues and his horses. I don’t have much experience with horses. I like them, but they make me nervous. I always felt that they were best admired from a distance. In spite of my lack of experience and my growing apprehension, I agreed, thinking I wouldn’t actually interact with the horses. I was wrong, and it was great! As a result, I was invited to teach a workshop to his group specializing in Equine Therapy, applying the principles of Feldenkrais to their psychology practice and their horses. I taught the lesson in a beautiful meadow surrounded by mountains, wildflowers and horses. What a lovely environment to spread the word. 

I was amazed to learn that horses are the most gentle, sensitive creatures that I have ever had been around. I also discovered that a horse is a powerful teacher, but that’s a story for another day. The point is, sometimes you just have to put yourself out there, even if it’s uncomfortable or challenging. You never know what wonderful new experiences may present themselves. You may even make a few new friends along the way. But, you won’t know until you try.

Neuroplasticity and getting out of that rut….

Trying to get out when you feel stuck in a rut, a habit, or a pattern that isn’t serving you well can feel pretty overwhelming. But, there is a way to gently crawl out of that rut without the risk of falling into an even deeper hole. The process is called neuroplasticity, and here are a few tips to keep in mind to help support the process.

First, make small, slow changes to allow for new motor and sensory pathways to be activated. Give yourself time to integrate the changes, and don’t get discouraged if you feel like you’re not making progress. Remember, these changes are taking place deep in your nervous system in a visceral, organic way, not in a cognitive, thinking way. You can’t facilitate the process by trying harder. That actually gets in the way of your own progress.

Another thing to keep in mind (so to speak), is to watch your language. Negative self talk can easily trip up the new neural pathways from connecting. Support your nervous system by speaking words of encouragement. No, I’m not kidding. Your nervous system is always listening, and nothing can make new connections go haywire faster than talking trash about yourself.

Most of all, trust the intelligence of your nervous system. Your neurons are here to help, and they’re smarter than you think they are. After all, they got you this far in life, haven’t they? Just imagine how far they can take you if you let them. Speaking of imagination, that’s another way to fire up your nervous system. But, that’s a topic for another day.