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By Jodi Freedman, GCFP
Growing up, I never really enjoyed being physical. I was the kid who was always picked last for team sports and faked having my period as much as possible so I didn’t have to participate in P.E. People seemed to have so much fun running and jumping and dancing. I just didn’t get it. When I had to engage in physical activities, not only did it not feel good, it felt bad. By about ten years old, I figured out that sports were not my thing. Don’t get me wrong, there were many things that I enjoyed, but physical activity was not on the list.
In college it got worse, as the pressure to do aerobics or go for a hike was all around me. We had to take a P.E. course in college and I chose one that I thought had the least amount of movement – archery. I kept getting bulls’ eyes, in the target next to mine! I simply had no idea how to use my body. My self-image was, “this is Jodi, and this is her body, but never shall they actually meet.” I never felt truly connected to my physical body. I had a successful life, job, friends and passions. I was fine.
About ten years ago, I thought maybe I’d give the exercise thing another try. After all, it was supposed to be good for me. I perused the community college catalogue for something slow and gentle; to ease me into movement. And there it was, a once a week class, on mats, that purported to be slow, gentle, easy and was designed to facilitate ease of movement: Feldenkrais. It was open to seniors too, so I figured if they could do it, certainly a thirty-something could handle it. “Dress comfortably and bring a mat,” the catalogue said.
I can’t even remember what we actually did in that first class, but I remember the feeling in my body when I stood up. I felt lighter, taller, less tense and kind-a-sort-a happy to be in my body. I remember that I had a goofy grin on my face as I walked – no floated – back to my car.
For the next six years, I took group Feldenkrais classes, called Awareness Through Movement® lessons, and one-on-one lessons, called Functional Integration®. In Awareness Through Movement classes, a practitioner verbally guides us through a series of slow, gentle movements, that are designed to offer options and choices and also encourages us to decide the quality, rate, and range of movement according to our needs. A private Feldenkrais lesson, called Functional Integration, involves hands-on work, usually with the student lying on a table or sitting in a chair, as the practitioner takes the student through various, function-related movements. And slowly, I came to know my body, and even enjoy my movement.
I am now in my last month of a four-year, 800 hour Feldenkrais practitioner training program. When I tell people that I am doing this, they are curious to know what exactly is the Feldenkrais Method, what happens in a class, and who is it designed for? I wish there were short, easy answers to their queries.
In the past four years, through my Feldenkrais training, I have learned how to stand on my head, do judo rolls, balance books on my hands and feet while rolling on the floor, stand and sit more comfortably, and even on occasion, enjoy walking. But more importantly, I am learning how to think and feel differently not only about my body, but about my life.
Moshe wrote in his book, Awareness Through Movement :
Each one of us speaks, moves, thinks, and feels in a different way, each according to the image of himself/herself that he/she has built upon over the years. In order to change our mode of action we must change the image of ourselves that we carry within us. Such a change involves not only a change in our self-image, but a change in the nature of our motivations, and the mobilization of all the parts of the body concerned.
And that’s exactly what I feel I have gained: a new way to see myself. As I have become aware of my body and learned that I can move in many different ways, I have simultaneously become aware that I can move my life in many ways too. I don’t have to be trapped by my habitual thinking and movements. And through my training, I am learning to help others move, think and feel in new ways.
Feldenkrais also said about physical movement, “...make the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy elegant.” I thought it was impossible for me to be a physical person and enjoy it. I still don’t consider myself an athlete, but there have been times when my movements feel easy, free and even elegant. Where my training will move me, I do not know, but I am excited to move forward. Who knows, maybe I’ll even join a dance class. Wow, there’s something I never thought would happen! Things can change, and my Feldenkrais work has shown me that and much more.
*This article was previously published at http://www.divinecaroline.com