Listening To Whispers
Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration®
The two techniques that make up the method are Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration.
Generally given to groups, Awareness Through Movement lessons are those in which the teacher verbally guides you in the exploration of gentle, unfamiliar movements. These help you to become aware of how you move and how you might move differently, allowing you to let go of limiting habits and discover increased freedom and ease of movement. After the lessons, many people report that they can relax more fully, move more easily, cope better with life’s stresses and even sleep better.
Functional Integration lessons are one-on-one sessions with the practitioner. You remain fully clothed, and may be lying down, seated or standing, while the practitioner initiates small, gentle movements in your body. The learning process of your nervous system is the same as in Awareness Through Movement sessions, although the lesson is directly tailored to and arising from your specific needs and nature.
Feldenkrais workshops are group sessions made up of several Awareness Through Movement lessons given over the course of a morning, afternoon or day. They typically address the requirements of particular activities, such as gardening, riding, music-making or sports, or may be designed to help reduce pain and/or general stiffness and discomfort.
A ‘Making it Easy’ workshop blends Feldenkrais and Tellington Methods. As with a Feldenkrais workshop it is designed to address the needs of the participants, and in addition draws on the Tellington TTouch Method to give them skills to help others.
A Taste Of Feldenkrais
For a taste of Feldenkrais, try the following fun version of a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson:
A word of guidance: take several short breaks, letting your arms hang quietly. If at any time you find yourself stretching, holding your breath, or trying to push through some resistance — stop! Find a way to make it easy, or do it in your imagination. This process is about skill, not will.
Imagine that you are a rather dramatic dancer with a day job waiting tables in a New York restaurant. On the palm of your hand, hold an (imaginary) tray with brimming soup bowls. Without spilling any soup, rotate your hand with the tray so that it passes between your arm and your torso. You may need to bend your waist away if the tray is a big one. Explore how you can continue this rotation to bring the tray back to the starting point.
Tricky, isn’t it? Move slowly, especially when you get to a sticky bit. Be inventive with the rest of yourself to make it easier. Take a break.
Explore rotating it the other way. Begin by lifting the tray up and forward above your head. Notice if it is more or less easy from this direction. Is there anything you discover that might make it easier to go in the original direction? Play with it a little and then leave it.
Now, stand with your arm quietly by your side. Notice how the arm and shoulder feel. Take a look in a mirror. Surprised? Many people will find the arm much longer than the other, although they will express the feeling of it in a wide variety of ways, such as heavier, lighter, fuller, longer or shorter.
So What Has Happened?
Slow, gentle, non-habitual movements, in the absence of fear and pain, allow the nervous system to discover which parts of oneself are participating in an activity, which are necessary, and which aren’t. The nervous system directs the release of tense muscles that are serving no purpose. Your “relaxed” and lengthened arm reflects this, and you might ask yourself, “To what purpose are the muscles in the other arm holding it short and tight?” Probably none, other than to make your life a bit more difficult. After all, doing nothing shouldn’t take much doing.
“If You Know What You Do, You Can Do What You Want.” –M. Feldenkrais
A Feldenkrais lesson is more than simply a relaxing experience. In the lesson the nervous system gains information about both existing habits and new possibilities. Discarding ineffective habitual tension and movement patterns makes room for us to learning something new. Our brilliant nervous systems — as long as there is no pain and fear — will direct us to the most efficient and least stressful possibilities, and we get better and better as we continue to practice and improve upon them.
Picture the process of any activity as a passage through a maze. The difficulties we meet in getting where we want to go are like hedges grown up across the path. They may represent injury, fear, inconvenience, whatever. Most of us have the tendency to push our way through difficulties. We grit our teeth, brace ourselves, hold our breath — common expressions of common practices, and not likely to produce a creative or graceful outcome. Flinging ourselves at the hedge might get us to the other side, but we can get damaged and so can the hedge — although the hedge may well grow back.
The Feldenkrais approach suggests that instead of battling the barriers, we step back, stay flexible, continue to breathe, and approach the problem more creatively. We may find an easy way to get where we want to go, and at the same time discover paths that will be useful in the future.
Want To Learn More?
If you are interested in attending or organizing a Feldenkrais or Making it Easy workshop, you will find more information on the Feldenkrais Workshop page. For more information about the Feldenkrais Method, or to find a practitioner near you, visit www.Feldenkrais.com.