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By Chris Elms, GCFP
Movement is Life: this is a big picture.
A curse and blessing of being a Feldenkrais® practitioner is finding over and over the vast web of connections and implications of this work to almost all of human life. I started thinking about how these three elements core to being alive—feeding, sex, and fighting and the Feldenkrais world view could be a jolly dance of exploration. Our work is nothing, if not about exploration. And of course, this is just the beginning.
Food / Feeding
Food is obviously essential to our life on this planet, right? Because if we don’t eat, we’ll die, and so a system that is about increasing happiness and well being and vitality in life has to keep us alive, and to stay alive we need to eat. And let’s have some fun: what is the most important movement to a human being who has been weaned.
Answer: bringing at least one hand to our mouth. This is a movement that has a FUNCTION. If you come to a practitioner for a private lesson, they are called Functional Integration® lessons, and if you were to lie on your back on that pleasantly firm Feldenkrais table, and the practitioner were to begin to bring one of your hands in the direction of above your head, she or he would first bring your hand toward your mouth, and then in front of your face, and then, bit by bit, probably, above your head. This function, hand to mouth is a big deal to our brains. The brain loves and knows this movement: apple to mouth, fork of yum food to mouth, celery stick to mouth, glass of water to our mouth. So if a practitioner were to just “make better” this movement of hand toward your mouth, in sitting, and lying on your back, and lying on your side, that “better” would spill out into all sorts of ease and clarity in movement in back, neck, ribs, shoulder, pelvis, breathing, hands, fingers, and probably even more.
So the big picture of feeding ourselves, and the genius of the Feldenkrais Method in capturing the brain’s deep interest in useful and real function, could combine to help a client play the violin better, or comb the back on their head with a brush, or walk with more freedom and ease, or dance with more joy and delight. All for 4 million years of bringing nourishment to our mouths!
And then there is another “Big picture” of feeding as in where does the food come from? And can the Feldenkrais Method help that?
Let’s say you want to raise some healthy food, save some money, get fresh air, sunshine, exercise, slow down your life a bit, reconnect with the Earth. Where am I leading us? To a garden, of course, and all that leaning, kneeling, pulling, shoveling, swinging a pick around, up and down, all this is a great chance to limber up and keep young and flexible. And what of the various “aches and pains” that keep some of us from gardening?
The Feldenkrais Method to the rescue. Group classes, private lessons, following various blogs that include lessons can keep you gardening with pleasure. And then that feeding necessity of going to the store and paying good old fashioned money, can the Feldenkrais Method help us stand on our own two feet and earn our living?
It’s a long story, but let’s just say, that part of the “side effects” of lessons seems to be a sense that we can start out on a path with an intention, and by awareness and flexibility, keep pursuing that intention much more easily and enjoyably than if we hadn’t been doing lessons.
Okay, feeding and the Feldenkrais Method. One helps the other.
Sex in the Human Species
Do we need sex?
As a species, yes, though a pastor friend of mine once joked that the only of God’s proclamations truly followed was, “Go forth and multiply.” Be that as it may, you are reading this because a whole string of your ancestors had s-e-x.
Beyond the big picture, we all have our brief flash of time on this planet and in that time sex seems to be good for the spirits, good for our need to bond intimately with another, good for balancing the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, good for the breathing, the sleeping, the practicing of paying attention to someone else besides the usual “me, me, me.” It’s vital exercise for the pelvis and spine, an opportunity to move a central part of our moving organism. What is this pelvis that links our two legs that walk and run and stands us and our spine, that holds up head to see and hands to grab, hug, put apples in the mouth, shoot arrows at moving future meat, what is this pelvis about?
And my Feldenkrais trainer once said, perhaps even on the first day of training, that “the punch line to every Feldenkrais joke is the pelvis.” Whether working with children, high powered musicians or athletes, the goal is the same: get the pelvis and lower back to hold up the head, via a spine that knows its part of a “big picture,” so that that spine is easy and holding our ribs is easy, with our shoulders floating freely on our ribs, so that shoulders and head and arms are free, and you have a happier, more easily moving person.
Let’s think historically, as in why you and I are still here. Somewhere back there we probably had ancestors that fought off the cold, or bad guys, or wild animals, or forest fires/ floods and so on.
Moshe Feldenkrais as a real historical person had to engage in hand to hand combat and judo for survival reasons in the early days of Palestine before Israel became a state. Built into the core of the Feldenkrais methodology, in my mind, is an understanding that good judo makes for good living. Not “tough guy” judo, but the central aspects of what makes good judo good, what makes powerful and easy judo powerful and easy. And what are these aspects?
One, once more our deep moving friend the pelvis. And one more necessity: freedom of our necks.
Many a martial artist has or could improve their tai chi, karate, judo, aikido, boxing, with two hints that Moshe stressed as central to martial arts: 1. having the power connected to the pelvis region and that region always clear and connected to gravity and 2. having a flexible and mobile neck and eyes, so we can always look around to find the enemy.
To my mind, almost a given in a good Feldenkrais® lessons are these two: increase our clarity, ease and power in our pelvis, and enhance and open to ease and mobility in our neck and breathing. And why? To feed better, feel better, partner better, have that powerful moving forward in our life for which “fighting” in its most grounded sense can be taken as a metaphor.
In other words: to have a better, easier, more potent life.
Happy learning to you.
Photo of baby eating by Federico Stevanin. Photo of punch courtesy of Salvatore Vuono. Photo of man eating apple by Andy Newson.