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Healing the Heart: the Feldenkrais Part

Kenn Chase has been on the leading edge of treatment programs for people with heart disease for almost 20 years. In the early ‘80’s, he was part of an innovative team that integrated eastern approaches and western mind/body methods.

Recently he joined with a doctor and nurse to create the TAM (Total Artherosclerosis Management) program. The TAM program is an aggressive risk factor reduction program for coronary artery disease. It is an interdisciplinary approach, utilizing physicians, nurses, dieticians, mental health professionals and Ken, the stress management consultant. Kenn provides a blend of ancient Chinese philosophy, T’ai Chi, and Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lessons.

Kenn chooses his ATM lessons with care, recognizing the special needs of cardiac patients. His aim is to improve the functioning of the back, chest and pelvis, as many patients complain of pain in these areas.

Kenn illustrates the effectiveness of the Method with the following story. Vince joined the TAM program in 1994. He was nearly gray in color; his movement was rigid and awkward, especially in the chest and thoracic spine. At the beginning of his first ATM class he said, “I can barely move, I may not last the whole program, but I’ll give it a try.” Kenn invited him to sit in a chair and simply imagine that he was on the floor doing the movements.

Vince was able to do a few of the movements suggested in the class. At the end, he felt softer, lighter. He reported less pain in walking and turning. Thus, even a partial approximation of the ATM seems to have improved Vince’s situation. Instead of months of slow recovery, Vince was on the floor with the class within two weeks of open heart surgery. He is now one of the TAM program’s most successful graduates.

Kenn has found that the Feldenkrais Method® had powerful benefits for this population. Cardiac patients are most willing to accept gentle, relaxed and competent teaching. They do not need competitive, forceful or pushing approaches to learning. He says, “given any ATM, the accomplishment of a movement is not the critical factor. Rather, it is the entire process of moving; awareness of how we learn is the unique thing. As a result of this context, learning is non-competitive, easy and elegant.”

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