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By Tiffany Sankary, GCFP
My first memory of my body was putting on tights before ballet class when I was four years old. My grandmother pointed at my belly and said: Look at those spare tires. After that point, dance was for other people. Years later I went to that same ballet studio and watched my friend dance. I sat on the edge, watching. This was my relationship to bodies and movement: I observed, from the outside.
I tried playing sports later on, but it never felt right. I lacked coordination and feared the competition. That was also not the place for me. I spent years trying to fix my relationship with my body by using my mind: therapy, spirituality, self-help courses and books…
My mom introduced to me the Feldenkrais Method® when I was 24. She called me and said, “I just had a session with this woman. She barely moved me at all, but I feel taller! I want to sign up for this four year training program to learn how to do this!” A week later I visited her in New York City and had a lesson with the same woman. I didn’t feel taller, but after I left the building I felt beautiful, which surprised me. I hadn’t been feeling that way. Several blocks later I noticed that my walking was different. It felt like my hip joints had been oiled. I felt a sense of fluidity and ease like the spinning wheels of a bicycle. This made me curious. I walked myself over to a bookstore and bought my first copy of Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais.
I was fascinated with his idea that “We act in accordance with our self image.” “Self image” expanded my idea of “body image” to include a perception of myself from the inside related to my actions in the world. And this could change? Through movement?
I found that there was a training program in Berkeley happening around the same time as my mom’s. I went the first few days to check it out. And I stayed. What a gift! Everything changed in the course of those 4 years.
I remember one lesson, sitting on the floor with the soles of my feet together, leaning on my hands behind me. I was rocking my pelvis forward and back. I clearly remember a moment of being invited to do something which I had been trying to contradict my whole life. I watched as I expanded my abdomen forward with breath, my hip joints opening, lower back arching. I felt the front and the back of myself at the same time. I was in a room with other people, but I was inside myself, in my own process. There was no competition, no judgment. I was learning to feel more and more of myself in movement with a loving, pleasurable quality.
At some point it occurred to me - if I can move this way, slowly, with attention, coordination, and comfort, then why not move faster with music and rhythm? A door, which had been closed for so long, suddenly opened. Dance class! I brought in principles from Awareness Through Movement® of being patient and curious. I was not in a hurry to get it right away. I had learned how to learn. I am still surprised when I organize myself in complex movements, shapes and patterns that were not available to me before. The Feldenkrais Method gave me the gift of my body: myself!
When I meet people and they ask: “Are you a Dancer?” Sometimes it is still a shock to me. How do they know? “The way you look and move. Graceful, fluid…” When this happens now, I thank Feldenkrais.
I have a whole new world of movement, joy, exploration and I get to share this with other people! Feldenkrais said the highest purpose of his work was to help people live their unavowed dreams. My dreams were hidden from my view. Now they are visible when I walk in a room. Gratitude, gratitude.
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