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By Pamela Kihm, GCFP
“My friends have noticed I’m walking better.” Miriam mentioned this to me one week after her introduction to the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education. That first session she had learned that, instead of tightening through her “weak” ankles, she could let her ankles relax so her heels could peel off the ground; and that, instead of gripping her toes, she could let her heel-peel relax and lengthen her toes. That 91-year-old said, “This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life.”
The idea that you “can’t teach old dogs new tricks” definitely does not apply to the Feldenkrais Method—unless the student doesn’t want to widen his or her movement repertoire. “But dear, I always do it this way” is what another ninety year old said every time I offered to increase her movement options. She was smart and strong, but insisted on pulling herself up stairs with her arms instead of propelling herself up from the step below with a heel-peel.
I’ve helped many people in their nineties, but one of the most memorable was a lady who came to me with balance and walking issues. She was tightening through her abdominal muscles causing her spine to round into a C-shape, and was stepping way out ahead of herself. During some table work where she learned that her torso could relax and lengthen, I thought to myself, “She is learning fast, but has years of habits to overcome.”
After she sat up, I kind of talked with my body while explaining that, instead of pulling herself forward by stepping way out ahead, she could use the natural heel-peel of each foot to propel herself forward. I also wiggled through my ribs as I mentioned that balance and walking are easier when the torso is relaxed and mobile. She stood up and wiggled through her ribs saying, “You mean like this?” She then walked the length of the room (later down the sidewalk) efficiently and comfortably with perfect balance!
The Feldenkrais lesson on the following page is an excerpt from Walking: Nature’s Perfect Exercise.
Pamela Kihm, GCFT has had a continuous Feldenkrais practice since 1991, and is the author of Walking: Nature’s Perfect Exercise. All of Pamela Kihm’s books are available through: www.feldenkrais.com/bookstore