A funny thing happened on my way to becoming a Feldenkrais® practitioner; I stopped stretching. When I went to ballet class, instead of going through my habitual stretches, I would slowly roll around on the floor before class. My fellow dancers would give me strange looks and nudge each other. One actually laughed out loud. However, no one thought to ask me what I was doing, which was fine with me. I was simply enjoying the experience of finding myself in a visceral and organic way.
When I stood up, I always felt refreshed, alert, and ready to start class. I even felt more flexible, which is weird, considering that I didn’t partake of all the goofy stretches I had done for over thirty-five years. However, if you think about it, it was even more strange that I would keep on doing them if they didn’t help my flexibility. Habit, I suppose.
Between the dance combinations, I stopped cranking my knees, feet, and ankles in the anatomically impossible positions peculiar to ballet. Instead, I would stand in a neutral position, relax my knees (a huge no-no in ballet), and shift my weight side to side, and forward and back. Again, I would get strange looks, and on several occasions was on the receiving end of disapproving scowls from teachers and dancers alike.
I didn’t care. I just felt good to move in different patterns than those I was accustomed to in a classical ballet class. Besides, when I moved like that, those grueling ballet positions felt easier, and more natural. Even more interesting, my ankles felt stronger, my knees were straighter, my turn-out was better, my legs felt lighter, my extensions were higher, my back felt free and my hips didn’t feel tight. What was that all about?
I thought it was just my imagination, or perhaps wishful thinking that made me notice these changes, until my friends began to notice. They asked me how I was managing to improve my technique and increase my flexibility. The unspoken question that hung in the air was “At your age.” After all, none of us were getting any younger, and in my mid-fifties, ballet was getting easier, not harder. That’s just not supposed to happen. Or is it?
Finally, one of my ballet buddies told me that if my legs got any longer, they were going to have to raise the ceiling to make room for them. It was about that same time that I realized no one was staring at me when I got down on the floor, and certainly no one was laughing anymore. Isn’t that interesting?
I bless the day that I discovered Feldenkrais®. It helped me find my balance, in more ways than one. But, that’s a story for another time. For now, just let me say that Feldenkrais® strengthened my spine, lengthened my legs, loosened my hips, and open my heart. It also gave me a leg to stand on, and gave me back my dignity. Just imagine what it could do for you!