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The Outstanding Student

By Felicia Noelle Trujillo

Alice looked like the proverbial little old lady with her white hair, twinkling blue eyes, and cane. She sought Feldenkrais Method® lessons to address the peripheral neuropathy that had made the cane a necessary addition. Then 79, Alice smiled gently and seemed very proper as she inquired how Feldenkrais Method lessons might benefit her current condition.

I explained that the body was well-engineered with parallel systems, especially in the nervous system. The peripheral neuropathy might limit one kind of neural input, but she had another, the proprioceptive nervous system. The proprioceptive nervous system guides and informs movement via nerves located in the joints of the skeleton. However, I suggested, rather than theorize we could just begin and find out if the Feldenkrais Method could improve her situation.

After her third Functional Integration® session, Alice simply forgot her cane. Little did I know then what that meant in the life of this “little old lady”! Alice was an amazing student. She attended every Awareness Through Movement® class and did her “homework,” that is she continued to explore the movements daily at home. I should have known that her excellence as a student was a clue to her background as a well-known professor of anthropology.

She became the oldest student in my intermediate class and the 40- and 50-year old students were inspired to see the quality of human movement that has no category of age and were stunned at Alice’s graceful ease, the velvety puma-like movements of the 80-year old.

It was several years after Alice began her studies with me that I happened across a newspaper article about Alice’s renown as one of the first women anthropologists. Not only had Alice left her cane behind, she had returned to hiking around her beloved Indian reservations and published two new books!

I am reminded of once meeting one of Moshe’s long-time students on a beach in Tel Aviv. Each day I would go to the beach after attending my training. Often I would do a little yoga on the beach before wading out into the warm Mediterranean waves. A 33 year-old American girl studying abroad, I felt fit and young and on top of the world.

Then one day I happened to walk down the beach and saw a woman who was neither young nor slim—in fact, she was in her 80s and quite round—standing on her head rather more easily than I had a few moments before. I strolled toward her and casually asked, “Where did you learn to do that?” “Oh,” she laughed expansively as she slapped sand off her thighs, “long ago I studied with a man named Moshe Feldenkrais…” She then showed me several other movements, none of which I can do to this day…although, just give me until I am 80.

Dr. Feldenkrais had said that those who have had pain or difficulty may learn this work more easily than those who have had no physical limitations. Certainly I have found that my older students often seem know their bodies and themselves better. Alice, now 88, is chuckling still at how she taught her 40 year-old teacher that an older nervous system can be a much more intelligent and capable nervous system.

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