Feldenkrais®: Science and Magic

I am passionate about science, especially neuroscience. If I hadn’t been accepted into a master’s degree program for physical therapy, I would have earned a master’s in neuroscience instead. However, I couldn’t see myself working in a lab all day. I’m more of a people person. Besides, if I had gone in that direction, I may never have discovered Feldenkrais.

I absolutely love the method, and I love being a practitioner. My greatest reward is witnessing the magic of this method as it helps my clients improve the quality of their lives. However, my greatest challenge as a Feldenkrais practitioner is trying to explain what Feldenkrais is, how it works, and why it is so effective.

Feldenkrais is not magic; it’s science, and is based on the scientific principle of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity means that we are able to change and learn new things during the course of our entire lifetime. I don’t mean the kind of learning that we get from a book, or the kind of learning that we get from school. It’s the kind of learning that takes place deep in our nervous system, and it is more of a visceral, organic type of learning that changes our neural pathways, strengthens our neural connections, and actually grows more nerve tissue in our brain. How cool is that?

Feldenkrais uses the concept of neuroplasticity to access our nervous system in a very gentle but powerful way, through movement. Feldenkrais lessons gently interrupt current patterns and habits through movement explorations, thus allowing for new patterns to emerge. The learning and integration of new patterns are not limited to just movement, but include moving, sensing, thinking and feeling as well.

With Feldenkrais, you can eliminate aches and pains, improve your flexibility, posture, and balance. You can discover new ways of moving effortlessly and more efficiently. You will be able to improve your proficiency in all of your functional and recreational activities, regardless of your age and current level of function.

It does sound like magic, doesn’t it? It is, and it isn’t. It is the science of neuroplasticity, and the magic of our nervous system to discover our inner wisdom and realize our full potential. I don’t know about you, but it feels like magic to me. The magic of the Feldenkrais Method and the science of neuroplasticity.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I am wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday full of peace, love, friends and family!

There’s a Warrior in All of Us

I began my journey into the world of martial arts twelve years ago at the tender young age of 47. I guess this means I am admitting how old I am, even though I know that a lady never tells her age. However, no one has ever accused me of being a lady. Actually, someone once did a long time ago, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, it takes a tremendous amount of courage for a woman to walk into a testosterone-infested, male-dominated dojo and give strange men permission to attack them. It also requires an enormous amount of trust. I had neither, and there are still times when I have issues with both. However, what I lack in courage and trust, I have always been able to compensate with humor and false bravado.

When I began training, there wasn’t a high ranking female student at the dojo that could show me the ropes, be my role model, and teach me how to deal with a room full of Neanderthals. Even though all of the guys were very respectful and supportive, it didn’t keep me from being terrified and feeling like I was in a room full of Fred Flintstone and his bowling buddies.

They would take turns teaching me the secrets of the art of the Ninja, and there were even days when they actually argued over who would “get” to work with me. I thought they were just trying to impress me while they taught me the basic skills of a white belt. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that even on my worst day, I looked prettier and smelled better than any of the men they were used to rolling around with on the mat. Besides, I washed my gi after every class.

Since I didn’t have an upper ranking female student to emulate, I had to fend for myself and make up the rules as I went along. I told the guys that they were permitted to grab me, punch me, kick me, sweep me, throw me, and pin me to the ground. But under no circumstances were they allowed to mess up my make-up or chip my nail polish. After all, a girl’s got to set some boundaries, and that would just make me mad. Besides, it would be uncivilized.

Eventually, they got used to having me around the dojo, and I seemed to take on a role that was a combination of mascot, little sister, wise woman and awesome sex goddess. However, I still wasn’t in it for the long haul. I figured I would take a few classes, learn a few techniques and move on with my life.

But, something funny happened along the way. I fell in love with the art and I fell in love with the training. And I really, really fell in love with the sense of strength, grace, and confidence that I developed from training. With every milestone I achieved, there was another one waiting to be accomplished. Every time I felt I had reached my limit and wanted to quit, something kept drawing me back.

Every so often I have a test of faith, even at this point in my training. I’ll hear a voice in my head saying “Quit. Just quit.” But the truth is I can’t quit, and I won’t. Because martial arts isn’t just something I do; it’s something I am. So, I tell that little voice to shut up and mind its own business. It’s not that I have anything to prove, except for a point. And that point is, there is a Warrior in all of us.

 

October’s Bright Blue Weather

“O suns and skies and clouds of June, And flowers of June together; Ye cannot rival for one hour, October’s bright blue weather….

When loud the bumblebee makes haste, Belated, thriftless vagrant; And goldenrod is dying fast, And lanes with grapes are fragrant…

When gentians roll their fingers tight, To save them for the morning; And chestnuts fall from satin burrs, Without a sound of warning….

When on the ground red apples lie, In piles like jewels shining; And redder still on old stone walls, Are leaves of woodbine twining….

When all the lovely wayside things, Their white-winged seeds are sowing; And in the fields still green and fair, Late aftermaths are growing….

When springs run low, and on the brooks, In idle golden freighting; Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush, Of woods, for winter waiting….

When comrades seek sweet country haunts, By twos and twos together; And count like misers, hour by hour, October’s bright blue weather….

O sun and skies and flowers of June, Count all your boasts together; Love loveth best of all the year, October’s bright blue weather.”            -Helen Hunt Jackson

 

I remember memorizing this poem when I was in elementary school, and it comes back to me every October. It is my favorite month of the year, and every time the weather gets cooler and the leaves change colors, I think of this beautiful poem. Even though we are already in the second week of November, here in Colorado we are still being blessed with the last remaining days of October’s bright blue weather.

I only recently learned about the life of the author, and how difficult it was; full of loss, heartache and illness. Yet she managed to overcome her challenges and become a prolific and inspirational writer. I have been to Seven Falls in Colorado Springs, and I have climbed the 224 steps up the mountain to Inspiration Point, the place where her husband arranged as her final resting place. The climb was absolutely brutal, and I swore I would never do it again.

However, after reading her story I have decided to go back and climb those stairs again to pay tribute to the remarkable woman who wrote the poem which so eloquently and beautifully expresses what I feel every October. But I think I’ll wait until the fall, and do it under the cover of the brilliant gold of the aspen trees and the skies of October’s bright blue weather. It just seems like the right thing to do, don’t you agree?

Feldenkrais®: The Tables Have Turned

After my interesting experience giving a medical practitioner a Functional Integration lesson, it was my turn to be on the receiving end. When I got to his office he took me into a treatment room and asked me what was wrong with my neck. “Nothing,” I replied. “Huh,” he said, “I see a lot of asymmetries in your cervical spine. You also have really bad posture with a forward head and rounded shoulders, and you slouch, which really surprises me. I would have thought that as a dancer and a Feldenkrais® practitioner you would know better.” He gave me a penetrating look while he said this. Good grief!

To say that his statements were jarring to my nervous system was the understatement of the century. A familiar but long abandoned pattern of negative self-talk began to form in my mind. I felt my throat tighten and tears threaten to well up in my eyes. After all, maybe I really didn’t know any better and perhaps I was a charlatan to even call myself a dancer, let alone a Feldenkrais® practitioner and a PT.

He asked me about any injuries I had, but I was so rattled I couldn’t think of any. Finally, I remembered one. I told him I had an insidious onset of incapacitating low back pain twenty years ago. “That’s not an injury, ” he replied. Gee, it felt like an injury during the two years I spent as a chronic pain patient. But then again, maybe I really didn’t know that, if I didn’t even realize that my neck and my posture was so mucked up. More negative self-talk started to rear it’s ugly head as tears once again loomed behind my eyes.

However, right before I had a major meltdown, Moshe Feldenkrais came to the rescue and saved the day. I suddenly realized that the  practitioner was just administering what he believed was appropriate and effective medical intervention. It was his belief system in this method, and I’m sure it does work well for thousands of people. My belief system is quite different, even though I was trained in this model as a PT, but it never did seem to work for me, either as a therapist or as a patient.

Once I had that revelation, the entire experience took on a different energy. He continued his litany of things that were wrong with me and I cheerfully agreed with him. After all, I know I’m not perfect; none of us are. But that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with me. It ended up being a pleasant treatment as well as another learning experience for me.

In Feldenkrais® we focus more on what we can do rather than what we can’t do. Just a few days ago I received a lovely text from one of my favorite clients who has become a dear friend. She thanked me for helping her see beyond her limitations, especially since everyone else over the years had focused on what was wrong with her rather than her endless possibilities.

There was no need to thank me. I am just the messenger. The real credit goes to the man and the genius behind this magic method we call Feldenkrais®, who said that what he is after is to restore to each person their human dignity. How lovely is that?