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The Feldenkrais Method was named after its founder, Dr Moshe Feldenkrais. He was always interested in how we learn, how the brain works, and how the body and brain work together. This method was actually created to rehabilitate himself from his own injuries sustained as an athlete and martial artist.
Rewiring the body with the Feldenkrais Method
In breaking down his own challenges, he started to discover that he could actually rewire his nervous system. He was half a century ahead of his time — he had ideas that now some of us have taken for granted as common knowledge, such as the fact that the brain doesn’t stop growing. He was one of the first people to talk about the holism of the body, that every part contains the other part.
During the course of his life, Feldenkrais developed thousands of different movement sequences and also worked one-on-one with thousands of people, leaving an incredible wealth of knowledge to draw upon.
Awareness through movement
Feldenkrais lessons are also known as Awareness Through Movement, which is a lot easier to say than Feldenkrais! It is the awareness of what I’m doing that actually creates the changes, and reprograms the nervous system, allowing me to find new ways to move.
My story with back pain
I actually got into this work because of my own pain. I speak from major experience — I was a performer for many, many years, and every time I wasn’t on stage, I was in pain. I tried everything, but it wasn’t until I discovered Feldenkrais’ writings that I began to realize that a lot of what was going on for me was habit, emotion, and tension that I was carrying in my body from a lifetime of ballet lessons and different attitudes from my childhood.
Once I started to unscramble those tensions, I began to move better and feel better. There was a huge change in my well-being. I could actually move around without my back hurting, which was amazing as a performer. I was more flexible. I didn’t need as much of a warm-up. I was more relaxed on stage, more present in my body. All of this began to allow me to move in a direction that I’d put aside when i was young, which was to write. Feldenkrais said that his method helps us realize our avowed and our unavowed dreams. The awareness of movement that his method encouraged helped me feel an opening of the emotional and creative spectrums of my life as well.
Widening the field of attention
Feldenkrais said that at every moment, we are thinking, sensing, feeling, and moving. How do we include all of that in our field of attention? The brain and the body are the same thing, it’s not the brain watching the body.
We define pain as the body’s response to disorganization. To be able to move with freedom and without pain allows you to live the life that you want. It’s the ability to be spontaneous, to be able to plan, to be clear about what your intention is, and for you to just feel better.
Less pain, more gain
There’s no strain in the Feldenkrais method, in fact, our motto is “Less pain, more gain.” We never try to push through–we use pain as information. When we encounter discomfort, we use it as an opportunity to check in with the rest of our body. There are a thousand things we can discover about ourselves in these slow, delicate movements.
Everything is interconnected. Your entire body is there all the time–you’re an information system. Everything in your body is responding to the information that you’re receiving. Everything is participating in the pattern of pain and supporting the pattern that you unconsciously choose. Nothing happens in isolation.
Everything is connected
If you think about a bridge, and your bones are the steel structures of the bridge, and the tendons and your ligaments and your muscles are the cables, imagine that one cable is a little too loose or too tight. That would affect the entire structure of the bridge, right? Eventually it will be in need of repair, or it will collapse. Every little thing that takes us out of our organization affects the entire system.
One of the side effects of the Feldenkrais method is relaxation. When our nervous system calms down, we kick into what’s called the parasympathetic mode which governs our healing, our learning, and our rest. When we experience that parasympathetic response, we are actually able to learn better than if we were straining.
Feldenkrais at every age
People at different stages of their lives experience different benefits. When people are young and active and athletic, if they integrate Feldenkrais method into their lives, they’re less prone to injury. They perform at higher levels. In the world of sports and the arts, the Feldenkrais method is used a lot by dancers, actors, musicians, athletes, because it takes you past your perceived limitations. You hit a wall — how do I go further? For the aging population, it’s a great way to maintain flexibility and maintain your balance.
Lavinia Plonka healed her own back pain using The Feldenkrais Method®. This inspired her to become a certified practitioner. Lavinia is considered a master teacher, as well as an internationally recognized expert in body language, offering workshops around the world. She is also the author of several bestselling books, including What Are You Afraid Of? A Body/Mind Approach to Courageous Living. Lavinia is director of Asheville Movement Center in NC, former Vice President of The North American Feldenkrais Guild and loves every opportunity to awaken people’s potential for joy. Lavinia lives by Moshe Feldenkrais’ maxim, “Movement is life. Without movement, life is unthinkable.”