As a professional practitioner of a system that most people have a hard time pronouncing the first time, I get asked frequently what led me to Feldenkrais® and what is it? In today’s blog, I am going to answer what led me to Feldenkrais®. You can read about what Feldenkrais® is here.
In summer of 1999, I had a stress fracture in my right tibia. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with it in spring of 2000 when I stopped dancing. A fellow dancer recommended that I try the Feldenkrais Method® and I began going to Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) classes. From the first class, I was intrigued with the method—it blew my mind how my body felt so different after 45 minutes of gentle movement. I could not believe that I experienced that kind of change from somebody instructing me, and yet I was the one doing the work. But the work was not the work that I have known my whole life—working hard, using my maximum, straining for the best—it was gentle, nurturing, relaxing, not difficult to do. Because it was so novel, it was not boring. My body always felt more relaxed and less achy, and the shape of my body felt progressively different. When I stood up to walk, I would feel dizzy and disoriented from the change that occurred. That was the level of awareness I had at the beginning of my experience with Feldenkrais®.
By fall of 2000 I thought I was ready to get back to dancing and took up one ballet class. One day during class at the barre, I had a revelation: while I was executing a tendu (extension of the leg with a pointed foot), I felt a sudden gripping and wrenching in my pelvis, my back, my legs, my feet, my entire body. For many years, I have suffered from chronic injuries like tendonitis, knee pain, back pain, shin splints, stress fractures, sprains, etc.— I felt the history of my injuries and suppressed pain hit me like a bomb at that moment, like my nervous system woke up. I became conscious of how much I overexerted myself and how I had been doing this to myself for a long time. Everything started hurting, and I ended up having an emotional breakdown in class. This happened after attending ATM classes regularly for 6 months, and I knew that the mind and body work had brought on the awakening.
From that day I started doing less and less, everything became more and more painful: my hip flexors, my shoulders, my back, my neck, and my hands. I had trouble sleeping, getting out of bed, putting my clothes on, carrying my backpack, standing, sitting, and walking. I was only able to do minute movement in ATM classes because I couldn’t execute much movement without straining or hurting myself more. I attended class twice a week and began regular Functional Integration® lessons every two weeks. I cut down almost all physical activity, and for one year in dance classes, worked on standing on one leg. The rest of the time was spent on the floor in exploration.
After diligently chipping away at my “cement block” rib cage and rod-like spine, the pain began to dissipate. I learned that less is more, and change happens best for me when I’m not straining, yanking, wrenching, etc. I learned that I was locked up from habitually moving and initializing from the same places in my body due to many years of dance training and as well as other experiential, environmental, emotional, mental, and spiritual factors. I learned new awareness of the skeletal system especially in the thoracic spine and rib cage, and the integration of those parts to the pelvis and the rest of the body. My experience from kinesthetic learning was mostly based from a visual standpoint. The dancer looks at the instructor and the mirror and produces movement based on how the movement looks, from the outside in. Through Feldenkrais® I learned from the internal: how it feels, and not how it looks. Therefore with new awareness, I learned how to conduct movement with more integrity.
“Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.” — Moshe Feldenkrais