“I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning. A brain without a body could not think; at least, the continuing of mental functions is assured by corresponding motor functions…“I am not seeking to develop flexible bodies, but flexible minds….I am interested in the re-establishment of our human dignity”
– Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais
“We do not work with people’s problems, but with their health. Health as the capacity to recover from shock; the ability to overcome obstacles; the capacity to live one’s dreams. ”
The experience of the lesson is often described as a feeling of being very balanced and stable, less likely to fall. Often the feet are experienced as feeling very connected to the ground. Quite literally, grounded, with the ability to turn more easily in both directions. The experience of feeling centred is a very physical reality. A sense of flexibility is translated into emotional resilience, and a feeling that we could be more readily adaptable to life’s changing circumstances.
So with the kinaesthetic experience of feeling balanced, grounded, and centred, not to mention resilient, it is interesting to observe the impact these very physical sensations have our psychological and cognitive state, including the tone and quality our own internal conversation. Whilst Feldenkrais does not promise to remove all your stresses and concerns, it certainly changes way you relate to them.
Beyond these initial re-set lessons, many people use on-going lessons from The Feldenkrais Method to get to know and understand themselves more. People come to understand how to manage their own unique trigger/response patterns better.
Developing self-awareness, in addition to a broader vocabulary of responses to life’s challenges, and the adaptability to move easily into change, helps us to discover the most potent versions of ourselves, and in doing so achieving a greater congruency between how we feel and how we behave.
Feldenkrais posed that there was no separation between the mind and the body, in fact, as a system, both impact the other. We cannot experience thought or emotion separate from the biological responses within the body. Emotions impact our physical organisation, and our physical organisation in turn can affect how we feel emotionally.
The most primitive and survival related physical response to emotion is the body pattern of anxiety. Moshe Feldenkrais wrote much about this response in his book titled ‘Body and Mature Behaviour’, his first book in which he presented the theory behind his Method.
He describes how the human response to anxiety is a chronic holding by the muscles that are responsible for folding the body, the Flexors. It is believed that this pattern of flexing evolved as a crucial protective response, to protect the vital organs of the body in case of fall or blow.
But here’s the thing, the nervous system tends not to make a great distinction between a physical or emotional threat or onslaught. You cry if you stub your toe, as much as if you break your heart. The body perceives and responds to physical or emotional threat (and pain) in much the same way.
If the triggers are repeated frequently enough then this anxiety response may well become a chronic habit of tension. This habit becomes hard to unravel. Some of the characteristics of this pattern include poor posture, tightness in the belly, the jaw, chronic anxiety and insomnia.
I often explain that Feldenkrais lessons act as a kind of re-boot back to your original factory setting! By re-calibrating the nervous system back to a healthier pattern of organisation, rebalancing the flexor and extensor tone, the skeleton is returned to a more healthy alignment in standing.
“There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centered on the body.”
“No matter how closely we look, it is difficult to find a mental act that can take place without the support of some physical function.”
Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.”