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Choices for Change: Feldenkrais for Thinking

More than just a movement lesson

To an onlooker observing a Feldenkrais class, it may appear that it is simply a movement lesson. However, the intention of the lesson is to use movement to change the brain. This is a fundamental difference between this work and many other movement based modalities.

What does this mean?

Let me share a recent personal story with you.
I was sitting cross legged on the floor sorting my laundry out. I picked up the pile of clothes from the centre of me and placed certain items on the left and the others on the right. I noticed that when I turned to the right I had a twinge in my left hip joint and lower back but I didn’t have the same sensations as I turned to the left.
Using my Feldenkrais curiosity, I began to ask myself “What is it that I am doing on one side that is causing this discomfort which I am not doing on the other side?” The solution came to me after a series of exploratory movements, all to do about the way I was using myself whilst I was turning.

Let’s break down the process

1. Awareness:
If you know how you move, you can change. I was able to tune into the different ways that I was moving, one that caused me discomfort and the other that felt easy. Through being aware of the differences, I was able to make the choice to change how I moved so that I could avoid the discomfort in turning to my right.

2. Differentiation:
There are 206 bones in our body – we are an amazing feat of physics and engineering. When these bones move and connect as they are meant to, in harmony with the environment, we experience optimal functioning. However, life is such that we develop habits of moving which may not serve us so well. When we move, using smaller and slower movements, we begin to differentiate our movements and become aware of how we are moving.

Going back to my story, when I turned to the left, the turning seemed to be spread evenly from my hip joints up to my neck joints. When I turned to the right, I noticed that there was not much movement of turning from my upper chest. Therefore, the turning movement was done primarily in the lower part of my body, that is my hips and lower back, which then complained that they were doing too much work by sending pain signals to my brain. By inviting my neck and upper torso to be more engaged in the turning movement, the twinge in my left hip and lower back miraculously disappeared.

3. Choice:
The story above shows that the process of differentiation in movement leads to options. Through options, we have choice. Through choice we have the ability to change. We can choose to move in the old way or in the new way.

One student, after a workshop on ribs, remarked “If my ribs can move and I didn’t know about it, how many other possibilities are there in my life I just don’t know about.”

“I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning. A brain without a body could not think.”
Dr Moshe Feldenkrais

This article was first published in the Feldenkrais Guild Newsletter May 2019. You can subscribe to the newsletter through this link.

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