Search This Blog

Monday, November 21, 2011


Hi Everyone!

We seem to feel our aches, pains and physical issues more, when the weather is cold or changeable, so stability and balance are even more important to us when the ground is wet or icy.  Who hasn't taken a tumble from stepping on an unseen slippery place during winter?

To support better balance and to relieve wintery aches and pains, Feldenkrais will help you keep your feet on the ground in comfort and stability.  Dr. Feldenkrais' primary focus was to create lessons that teach to us bring more of ourselves into our conscious brain map, thereby connecting to ourselves more fully.  In this way, your body is more able to call upon its own natural internal intelligence in all the movements you undertake.

This improved connection with your internal body intelligence will have a positive influence on all your activities!
  • In yoga classes and fitness training
  • walking the dog, or going up or down stairs
  • skiing and other winter sports
  • or going out for the mail, getting in or out of your car!
And as your range of movement and stability improve, aches and pains lessen; tension releases, feeling returns and a sense of comfort develops, no matter what your age or condition.

Note that 'no matter what your age and condition' is a key Feldenkrais concept and I will say more about it soon.  The point is, you can optimize how you feel and move, whether you are 20 or 80 yrs old; whether you are a professional athlete or using a walker.  Each of us can find movement that is more comfortable and efficient, when we are are more fully present in our bodies, instead of dissociated from our physical conditions.  This is what Feldenkrais teaches and I invite you to explore for yourself what this can mean for you. 

Classes will be going all winter:
It's a good opportunity to take time for yourself, make feeling better a personal priority.  It can give you more energy and capacity to do the things you love.  Maps and complete schedules are in the left side bar.  Check often for Holiday schedule updates.
Meanwhile, stay warm and feel well!
Best wishes,

Monday, October 10, 2011

How is Feldenkrais different from other modalities?

The purpose of the material below is to address in a simple way questions people often ask me about the Feldenkrais Method -- it looks at a few basic elements of form, and does not touch on philosophy, function, or the endless list of possible comparatives. The material is a synthesis of existing information and my own thoughts.  I hope the reader will take these brief paragraphs in the spirit in which they are meant.  Thanks! Carole

Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration®

The basis of the Feldenkrais Method is about learning in the body and the nervous system — learning that happens profoundly through your own experience, while doing gentle, guided, non-habitual movement sequences. As you direct your attention to sense and feel yourself in movement, your brain understands at a deep level that it is no longer limited by habits. The body and mind learn to release and connect more deeply; new patterns of thinking, feeling and movement emerge that can be used at any age and in every activity.

How Feldenkrais is different than…

· Yoga: The Feldenkrais Method is focused on movement, function and individual, dynamic organization, i.e., each person discovering their own most efficient and comfortable way to accomplish the action required in each moment. Yoga focuses on perfecting specific positions or static poses that everyone seeks to perform or hold in the same, ideal way.

· T’ai Chi: Feldenkrais, though similar to T’ai Chi in focusing on movement with the whole self, builds up incrementally to a refined quality of movement using simple, developmentally oriented steps. Each person performs Feldenkrais movements differently, according to capacity and physical condition; i.e., there is no form. T’ai Chi movements are precise forms that are learned in whole, and are performed in the the same by everyone.

· Pilates: Feldenkrais is similar to Pilates, being concerned with physical coordination and organization; it differs by being oriented toward efficient, easy and reversible movement and not only building strength. Your body is the only equipment you need for Feldenkrais.

How is Feldenkrais different from physical therapy?

The Feldenkrais Method centers on helping students study their existing movement patterns and re-learn the transmission of movement throughout their whole body, while minimizing unnecessary muscular contraction and tension. Examining movement in all parts of the body and its effect on all other parts, supports the development of stable, comfortable and efficient action and movement. Physical therapy targets specific muscles or muscle groups that are isolated from the rest of the body for repair and/or strengthening.

How is Feldenkrais different from chiropractic?

Feldenkrais lessons do not adjust or manipulate bones per se. Instead, lessons present new movement patterns and possibilities to your nervous system that safely help you regulate your own movement choices--both consciously and subconsciously. Chiropractic manipulates bones directly; but because muscles pull bones out of alignment, if new movement patterns aren’t presented, your muscles return to their old patterns, despite numerous skeletal adjustments--and the sequence of events causing misalignment begins anew.

Carole Bucher, BA, GCFP/T

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Awareness Means for Musicians (and the rest of us, too...)

Musicians (and others) have long used the Feldenkrais Method® to refine and improve their playing; in effect, tuning themselves, by bringing their bodies and brains into greater harmony. When we use ourselves with more conscious awareness, we cannot fail to improve nearly any undertaking. This is one of the gifts that people often receive as their capacity for self-awareness and sensing develops and accumulates. This capacity becomes apparent in our daily activities and in nearly everything we do, enriching our experience in living.

Our brief journey below into one musician's experience is uplifting and exciting, and most important, his experience can apply to us all. 

I hope you enjoy reading it.  Best wishes, Carole

Freeing Your Body Towards Greater Motion and Emotion
By Patricia Holman, GCFP

A saxophone player once came to me suffering through arm, shoulder and back pain. He was familiar with the Feldenkrais Method because he had taken the group classes, called Awareness Through Movement, during his college music training. His practices were becoming more and more troublesome and he found he needed to inhibit certain movements in order to make it through a performance. Technically, he had mastered his instrument. His level of virtuosity was quite apparent. Yet, he was physically uncomfortable. This same virtuosity, as well as his livelihood, was being threatened by his current condition.
In the beginning of one of our first lessons, I asked him to play a few musical passages that were: a.) easy and comfortable, b.) difficult and required significant effort, and c.) poignant and full of emotion. Observing him play, I noticed a great attention to the music, but considerably less attention to himself. The musical notes were the foreground, and his body a distant background. I noticed there was little acknowledgment of the ground through his feet. His difficulty manifested itself in back and shoulder pain. His eyes were strongly tensed and his head position forward, as if he were trying to reach the musical notes on an imaginary music stand. His habitual tensions were forming the quality of tone, effort and expression in his playing.
When we are unaware of habits such as tensing our shoulders, neck and jaw, or stressing our backs unnecessarily, or are unaware of the support of the ground through our feet, we may develop some kind of difficulty. In the series of lessons we would have together, I was hoping to show him the relationships among these forgotten parts of himself and how this new awareness could change his overall effort and tension. I wanted to help him become more present to the process of music making.
After this initial exercise, I had him lie down on a table, where I began to explore with him the simple act of lifting and lowering his right arm, then his left arm, on the table, resting for several breaths between each series of small lifts. We proceeded to lifting and lowering his right leg, then 

Monday, August 8, 2011

How the Feldenkrais Method works, by Dr. Feldenkrais!

‘Bodily Expressions’ Moshe Feldenkrais D.Sc.
Published posthumously in Somatics, Vol. 6, No. 4, Spring/Summer 1988. (Translated from the French by Thomas Hanna)

Our self-image is a body-image, which not only determines what we think of ourselves but also what we do and how we do it. The behaviour of human beings is firmly based on the self-image they have made for themselves. Accordingly, if one wishes to change one's behaviour, it will be necessary to change this image.
What is a self-image? I would argue that it is a body image; namely, it is the shape and relationship of the bodily parts, which means the spatial and temporal relationships, as well as the kinaesthetic feelings. Included with this are feelings and emotions and one's thoughts. All of these form an integrated whole. How does a self-image come about? Everyone feels that his way of walking, speaking, and behaving is uniquely his own and unchangeable. He totally identifies with this behaviour-as if he were born with it. The way he sees objects in space, the way he tracks movements, the way he inclines his head, and the way he looks at things seem to be innate; and he believes it impossible to change any of these things --other than perhaps their rate of speed or intensity or duration.
Despite this belief, everything central to human behaviour is acquired only by a long period of learning: to walk, to speak, to see a photo or painting in three dimensions -one's very movements, attitude, and language are acquired purely according to the accidental circumstances of one's place of birth and environment. Thus, when we learn to speak a second language, we always speak it with an accent-an earlier learning always stands in the way of a new learning. It is always difficult to sit as the Japanese or Hindus do, because earlier habits stand in the way.
Thus, whatever the accident of one's birth, the difficulty we experience when attempting to change mental or physical habits has little to do with heredity and everything to do with the general problem of changing any habit that has already been acquired. It is obvious that the difficulty is not in the habit per se but with the earlier point in time at which these accidental habits were formed. And so it appears that our self-image is acquired purely by accident.
Hence, the question arises as to whether it might be possible that one can freely choose new habit patterns which are more appropriate and fitting to one's unique person. Understand that what is in question here is not simply the replacement of one mode of acting with another which would be purely a static change. What I am suggesting is a change in our way of acting which aims at a dynamic change in the whole process of one's action.
Before we go any further, it may be worthwhile to engage in a brief experiment that will allow one to feel this possibility rather than merely to understand it.
If you lie down on your stomach and bend the right knee so that the lower leg points up toward the ceiling, you will find that the relation of the foot with respect to the leg is highly variable with different people. Everyone does not hold his foot in the same position. This becomes obvious if we place a book on the sole of the foot: The plane of the book will most

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Understanding Feldenkrais - Low tech, high tech self-improvement?

You CAN Take It With You! (FELDENKRAIS)

golf swing 2
Image by Companygolflessons via Flickr
I think that FELDENRKAIS is the most low-tech, high tech system for self-improvement out there. Think about it — all you need is a floor to lie upon, or a chair to sit in, and you have a very accurate and personalized  biofeedback “device” that will give you a lot of detailed information about yourself, if you stop and pay attention.
Each lesson is an exploration, or an experiment in movement. The stakes are low — the cost of failure is ZERO — and you’re going so slowly and gently that you won’t risk injury. There are no gadgets, weights, medicine balls, or torture racks — just you and a mat, perhaps a couple of towels. Best of all, the technology is completely portable. Have body and brain, will travel. As my friend and colleague Ayala Teichman says, “You don’t have to go to the gym in order to “do” Feldenkrais. You already have “Feldenkrais” Built within you, in every movement that you make. If you do go to a Feldi Lesson – Take the movements with you to your own life.”
Once a student “gets this” —  how to take the movements into life — there’s no stopping them. Last week at the class at the MD Anderson Integrative Medicine Center, a man shared two really interesting comments with me. Immediately after the lesson (one with tilting crossed legs slowly to the side, noticing details; then slowly tilting arms in the opposite direction) he got up on his feet and then walked around a bit, with a curious smile on his face. “I hope it’s OK,” he grinned, “but during that lesson I kept thinking about how that twist was really going to help my golf swing.” I told him that was indeed OK – and indeed, it was the whole point — to take the movements into your own life, doing whatever it is that you want to do, or must do.
He then shared that he is currently undergoing proton therapy, a very advanced type of radiation treatment, for his cancer — and that he must lie very still within the “tube” during the treatments. “I realized that even when I’m not moving, there’s a lot moving — like my breathing. Maybe I can just THINK about moving while I’m in there — and they’ll never know.” This man got some of his power back that day on the floor, and was looking forward to getting out on the links to try his Feldenkrais-improved swing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An 8 wk old goat kid joined our Awareness Through Movement class last Thursday at the River School Farm in Reno, near the Patagonia Outlet.  He saw himself in the mirror and not knowing about mirrors, challenged himself to a little head butting.    Exploring change, but a little too effortful for Feldenkrais... Good thing class was almost over!  The River School is a beautiful and  quiet setting for ATM, right on the Truckee River.  Students can enjoy the property before and after class, or join in the communal Thursday dinner following class, but be sure to bring a potluck dish to share.

What part does ATTENTION play in Feldenkrais and Cognition?

Dr. Feldenkrais was the grandfather of neuroplasticity, observing changes in people and their brains several decades before technology existed to verify his hypotheses and anecdotal evidence.  This excerpt from a blog by Gisele at Feldenkrais Manitoba gives us some fascinating insight into how Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration® lessons can work to keep us connected and cognizing!  Best wishes! Carole

Check out the following quotes from <”The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph From the Frontiers of Brain Science“>by Norman Doidge about discoveries recently made in the neuroscience of learning and his conversations with neuroscientist physician Michael Merzenich:
“The cerebral cortex”, he says of the thin outer layer of the brain, “is actually selectively refining its processing capacities to fit each task at hand.” It doesn’t simply learn; it is always “learning how to learn.” The brain Merzenich describes is not an inanimate vessel that we fill; rather it is more like a living creature with an appetite, one that can grow and change itself with proper nourishment and exercise.”
“Finally, Merzenich discovered that paying close attention is essential to log-term plastic change. In numerous experiments he found that lasting changes occurred only when his monkeys paid close attention. When the animals performed tasks automatically without paying attention, they changed their brain maps, but the changes did not last. We often praise “the ability to multitask.” While you can learn when you divide your attention, divided attention doesn’t lead to aiding change in your brain maps.”
Other discoveries have had to do with the neurotransmitters (chemicals in your brain). When we experience the sense of well-being after doing something satisfying, it is like a reward. Reward in learning is important because it is then that we “secrete such neurotransmitters as dopamine and acetylcholine, which help consolidate the changes in the brain that have just been made. (Dopamine reinforces the reward, and acetylcholine helps the brain “tune in ” and sharpen memories.)”
Another important brain chemical is brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. BDNF seems to do many things, and is crucial in infants and youth as it is what makes learning so effortless at these stages of our lives. After these initial critical learning period of youth are over, the only way the areas of the brain that need to be “turned on” to allow enhanced, long lasting learning are activated is only when something important, surprising, or novel occurs, or if we make the effort to pay close attention.
For those of you familiar with Feldenkrais® lessons, you know that very often you are doing things that are very novel to you as adults, and that often, surprising changes happen. And, you are constantly directed in your use of attention.
It may be interesting to know that I’ve heard it said that Moshe Feldenkrais had once made the comment that he could do the same thing with his students teaching them mathematics. That, to me, says much about what the work is and isn’t about.
Here is some more from the book that may inspire you to continue learning in the true sense of the word:
“We have an intense period of learning in childhood, every day is a day of new stuff. And then, in our early employment, we are intensely engaged in learning and acquiring new skills, and abilities. And more and more as we progress in life we are operating as users of mastered skills and abilities.
…We still regard ourselves as active [in mid life], but we have a tendency to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are learning as we were before. We rarely engage in tasks in which we must focus our attention as closely as we did when we were younger…By the time we hit our seventies, we may not have systematically engaged the systems in the brain that regulate plasticity for fifty years…
…To keep the mind alive requires learning something truly new with intense focus. That is what will allow you to both lay down new memories and have a system that can easily access and preserve the older ones.”

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Try a MINI Awareness Through Movement Lesson!

First MINI ATM: 

1) In a sitting position with feet flat on the floor, gently and slowly turn your head to the left and then to the right. Notice the place on the wall that is the point you can see with no feeling of strain in the neck. This should not be the maximum that you can turn. A very small turn is okay. Repeat this a few times, each time noticing the point on the wall that is the farthest you can comfortably see.

2) Cradle your head with the palms of your hands, so that the heel of your hands is at your jaw line, and the fingers rest on the sides of your eyes. Your elbows or upper arms are resting on your chest with your forearms together as much as possible.

3) Keeping your elbows glued to your chest, with your hands cradling your head, gently turn to the left side only as far as is comfortable and then back to the center. Then turn to the right side. Repeat this to the left and the right a few times. Notice that your upper body is turning.

4) Slowly drop your hands to your lap again and pause briefly. Then, cupping your head again in the same position as before, look upwards gently and then downwards. Do this a few times and stop.

5) Turn your head to the right and then the left. Do you see a point that was farther than the point you saw when you began?

6) Do this sitting at your computer from time to time – the AWARENESS of what you are doing is most important.

Second MINI ATM:

1) Lie down on the floor with your legs straight. Notice how much space is behind your lower back. If your back hurts, bend your knees. Otherwise keep your legs straight.

2) With your arms at your sides, lift your head for a moment to look at your feet. Notice how high your head lifts easily. The key word is "easily." Don't strain, please! Make a mental note of how high your head went.

3) Please bend your knees and place your feet about hip width apart.

4) Cross your hands over your sternum (breastbone).

5) Gently press down on your sternum. Does it feel springy or immovable? Can you feel movement in your chest as you do this?

6) Gently press down on your sternum several times. Think of your sternum as simultaneously going closer to the floor and closer to your pelvis.

7) Now slowly lift your head as you press down on your sternum with your crossed hands. Does your head lift higher?

8) Slowly lift your head a few times while gently pressing down on your sternum.


Monday, May 2, 2011


This interesting article by Feldenkrais practitioner Kathy James gives us insight into how our protective habits may actually interfere with recovery from injury or chronic pain.  Kathy also illustrates how using Feldenkrais gives you new, effective and accessible tools to manage your pain and recovery.  Thanks for reading!  Carole Bucher, BA, GCFT
We all experience physical aches and pains at some time or another.  Some of these are acute (from an injury or accident), while others may stay with us or develop over time (chronic).
If you’re like many others, you may have had the experience that your physical pain is aggravated by movement—which is accurate:  Our body’s natural response to pain is often to increase muscular tension, restrict movement, and make postural changes to guard or protect the painful area.  But sometimes this natural protective response, while serving an important purpose in the short term, can actually create different, and more complicated, problems over the long term.
It’s worthwhile noting that dealing with chronic pain is usually more challenging than acute problems.  We are now learning that this is because chronic pain follows different pathways in the nervous system than acute pain—which explains why pain medication that alleviates acute pain often doesn’t have the same effect on chronic pain.
Fortunately, there are a variety of alternative approaches to chronic pain that may be effective, and which don’t entail costly drugs or surgery.  As a Feldenkrais teacher, my perspective is generally to start with the basics:  How is a person moving—walking, sitting, standing, and how might their habitual (unconscious) movement patterns be contributing or even causing the pain.
Let’s take Mary as an example… Mary limped into my office complaining about severe pain in her right hip when she walked.  She often woke in the middle of the night with pain, but couldn’t figure out what was causing it.  Although she had broken her ankle (and had surgery for it) three years earlier, that couldn’t be the cause of her hip pain, could it?
I first asked Mary to walk back and forth a few times, so that I could observe how she moved.  I then asked her if she noticed how differently each of her legs swung when she walked, and how she always placed her right foot way off to the side, while the left foot came down right under her hip?   She was surprised to realize that she was doing that, and commented that this was exactly how she had walked when her leg was in a cast after her ankle surgery.
In other words, Mary was walking today, three years later, as if her ankle were still broken and in a cast. Though her ankle injury had long since healed, the habitual way she had compensated for this injury had continued, and was now causing problems with Mary’s hips.  At some point, she might well start feeling pain in her spine, or even neck, if this habitual pattern of movement continued.
The key word in all of this is “habitual.”  Our bodies have tremendous wisdom, and will often (if we listen) inform us how best to respond to life’s immediate challenges.  But sometimes we continue responding the same way long after the immediate challenge is over.  This is clearly what was happening with Mary.
Over the next several sessions, Mary and I worked on helping her to sense and feel her habitual movement patterns more clearly, and to practice new ways of moving that were easier and more comfortable for her.  Just by focusing her attention on what she was doing, Mary started feeling differences almost immediately.  Pretty soon her limp had disappeared and she was walking normally again.  Without all of the added strain of having to walk in such a lopsided way, her hip pain also vanished, letting her sleep through the night comfortably.
Most of us take our movement for granted.  We do what we do, and we do it the same way, every day.   The next few times you stand up from your chair or sofa, pay attention to how you actually do it—how you shift your weight, where you put your feet, how you use your head, what you do with your hands.  You’ll probably notice that you do it the same way every time.  Is this a problem?  Not necessarily, since we all need to be able to do some things without thinking too much about them.  But it may be a problem if you’re caught in a cycle of pain, discomfort or limitation that just doesn’t seem to go away.   In that case, becoming aware of these habits, and learning new ways of moving, with greater balance and ease, may be exactly what your body is asking for.

Friday, March 18, 2011

How to prepare for an Awareness Through Movement® class or workshop

By Carole Bucher, BA, GCFT

Feldenkrais is VERY different from other movement modalities in several important ways, not the least of which is its skeletal, structural orientation.  The information below will help you reap ongoing benefits from your Awareness Through Movement classes and workshops.

1. There is No Form to Follow
Your body dictates how you move in Feldenkrais.  Unlike Yoga or Pilates, there is no form or right way to do any movement, other than to pay attention to yourself and to do move only in comfort.  In a class of 15 people, all 15 will do the movements differently.  Some people may even need to visualize the movement or part of a movement, and so do the movement in their minds. Visualizing can be hard work but is great for the brain and forging better body-brain communication.  In every case, each person finds their own tempo, rhythm, speed, size of movement -- you will find your own 'right way.'  You will be learning to listen to the information your body has for you. Whatever works for your comfort and attention is the only 'right way.'

2.  Go Slowly
Time is an extremely valuable tool in the Feldenkrais Method.  The movements you learn may seem unusual and unfamiliar to you.  You will need time to assimilate them, to feel the way your body is moving and changing. Above all, DO NOT RUSH OR HURRY.  Stop or pause when you feel the need; take breaks when your body tells you to.  Fatigue is not your friend in Feldenkrais--your attention, however, is very much your friend in this journey of self exploration and relearning.  Movements can feel interesting and pleasurable as you begin to listen to your body and experience yourself in new ways.

3.  Comfort Only -- NO PAIN or DIS-comfort, EVER -- instead:  smaller, slower, visualize
There is no reward in doing any of the movements in an uncomfortable position or way.  If a guided direction is not comfortable for you, you must feel free (and even responsible) to modify your position or the movement in whatever way works for you. Make the movement smaller, slower, or do it in your mind, by visualizing.  All are equally good.  Pain is NOT GOOD.  Pain is entirely counterproductive to the restorative process of Feldenkrais. Pain is a signal from your body that you need to find a different, new way to move. Learn to respect that and listen to your body.

4.  Don't Test Your Limits
Feldenkrais is not about seeing how far you can move, how high you can lift, or how long you can stretch.  Your goal is to discover how your body completes or performs a movement now, so that you can learn to make that movement easier.  Your movements should always be light and as effortless as possible.  Imagine how good it will feel to do simple, daily tasks without trying hard or working inefficiently. Effortlessness can apply to every activity you engage in.  As you develop more capacity to sense yourself subconsciously and make better movement choices, you will find this for yourself.

Thanks to Dr. Frank Wildman, GCFT, for his clarifications and ideas.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Heightened body awareness aids efficiency of motion and freedom from pain
All Norman Goodman wanted was to be able to golf again. But Goodman's MRI showed that the stroke he had suffered caused so much damage to his brain that holding a golf club was now all but impossible. While Goodman retained motion in his shoulder and elbow, his right hand would not cooperate.
Twelve long months of sophisticated OT and PT designed to restore function to the hand showed limited results. Goodman's physiatrist and rehab team told him to accept the fact that he might never play his beloved game again.
That's when Goodman began treatment with Sandy Burkart, PhD, PT, certified Feldenkrais practitioner (CFP), who came at the problem from a different angle.
"We were able to capture the hand's function through movement patterns in the trunk, cervical spine, head and eyes that were associated with a golf swing," said Dr. Burkart. "His functional retraining program began with postural retraining coupled with muscular tone reduction techniques on his uninvolved side, and the facilitation of selected movements on the involved side. Essentially, these movements bypassed the damaged areas of the brain and provided an opportunity for his central nervous system to use pathways away from the damaged site in his brain," he said.
Dr. Burkart likens the unusual methods he used with Goodman to current research into constraint-induced movement therapy for people who have had a stroke, which trains the uninvolved side of the body. "We relaxed the uninvolved side so that it basically did nothing except be quiet," he said. "I then went to work on the involved, spastic side, decreasing the tone in the spastic muscles by selectively facilitating the extensors or antagonists of the spastic muscles. As I tried that with Norman, first one finger moved, then two, three, and soon the hand was opening and closing.
"Norman plays 18 holes now with his wife and friends," Dr. Burkart continued. "He dropped an eight-foot putt the first time he went out. He still has a lot of sensory motor neglect in the arm and hand, but at least he's able to golf with his wife and friends and to do the things he wants to. It's a whole new life for him."
This cutting edge approach to integrating all aspects of motor control and motor learning makes up the basic tenets of the Feldenkrais Method, an education-based approach to movement and sensory accompaniment that even today remains largely misunderstood and is often met with a raised eyebrow.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Larry Goldfarb Talks About Awareness Through Movement

Moving Beyond Habits - by Larry Goldfarb, CFT, Ph.D.

Each Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lesson consists of a series of movements that fit together to form a meaningful sequence. These lessons are not exercises in the normal use of the word. Instead, Feldenkrais® lessons are guided formats, carefully constructed to bring you to a new sensory appreciation and conceptual understanding of your movement abilities. The main obstacles to easy, efficient action are the habitual, unconscious aspects of our movements. As the lesson guides you to a new awareness of self-limiting habits, you learn to move beyond these restrictions. A central theme to each sequence, even those that emphasize the small motions, is how the whole person—all of you—can be involved in every action. Other themes include learning about your capacity for easy and pain-free movement, changing through awareness rather than effort, learning to learn, and tapping into the possibilities for further improvement.


No Pain, More Gain

How you approach these movements is of utmost importance. If you were to perform the sequence as some sort of exercise, repeating each movement a certain number of times, straining, moving against resistance, and not paying attention to how you move, you would receive little, if any, benefit. Unlike strengthening or flexibility exercises, these lessons do not require struggling, making great effort, and forcing. These lessons are for learning how to improve the way you move. Do every movement slowly and gently, without forcing, pushing, or stretching. Direct your attention to the quality, rather than quantity, of your movement. In each action, use the minimal amount of effort possible and strive for a smooth, continuous movement. That is to say, perform the movement without any little stops and starts, without unevenness in effort or motion.
Do only as much as is comfortable and easy for you, stopping before you experience any strain. If, at any time, you notice discomfort, further decrease the range and effort of your movement until it is comfortable. If you cannot make a specific movement without discomfort or strain, do it only in your imagination.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Awareness Through Movement Class Content

Dear friends,

Last week I began the first in a series of 12 extraordinary Awareness Through Movement lessons designed by an Israeli Ph.D. who has a deep understanding of Dr. Feldenkrais' method. She works closely with Dr. Feldenkrais' remaining original students and has devised some of the most interesting and effective lessons I've had the pleasure to learn and give.

Below is a quote about Lesson #2, the lesson we will be working on during the first week of March, 2011. It is focused on rediscovering and improving the movement of the head, neck and upper chest/back. The lesson builds upon the first lesson which helped us lengthen the extensor muscles and develop more upright posture in the back --by exploring bending in the middle, i.e., the work of the flexor muscles in the front. The result (of Lesson #1) was a surprising and delightful effortless and beautiful, upright posture.

Some aspects that we will touch upon in lesson 2, noted by Dr. Shelhav, are:

*Synchronized movements of the head and eyes
*More coordinating action of the flexors and extensors
*Shaping the curves of the cervical and lumbar spine
*Improving the lifting of the head

"The movement of the eyes in this lesson have an effect on the tone of the muscles in your neck. Tension in the neck makes lifting one's head more difficult...
In order for people to communicate with their environment it is essential that they can easily lift their head. The environment arouses their curiousity and thus stimulates further development. All the components which improve as a result of this lesson, harbor within them the potential for further development."

Dr. Feldenkrais' ability to deconstruct human motor development and serve it back to us in digestible, extraordinarily useful bites, was brilliant, unrivaled. My only dismay is that more people do not have, or make use of, access to this extremely effective, imminently practical and now readily available teaching.

Best wishes,

Monday, January 31, 2011

Some Physiological and Psychological Benefits of Feldenkrais

We all know that better posture brings many health benefits, both physical and mental. ‘Most people have been admonished at some point in time to “Stand up – or sit up -- straight!” And we have all tried to do just that – straighten up from our sometimes less-than-perfect posture, in the midst of a long day or a tedious task, or while seated in an uncomfortable chair. Yet to improve posture we must learn to increase our body awareness and find good posture from the inside out, rather than by mimicking ideas based on appearances. Feldenkrais® practitioners and Bones for Life®  teachers have an impressive track record of teaching better posture with gentle movement lessons. Using a simple, relaxing body scan and lessons you can do in your own home, you can forge a path to better posture, greater body awareness, and the improvements in self-image, fluid movement and wellbeing that come with that achievement.
How does good posture benefit us?
No wonder we make these heroic efforts, forcing ourselves to 'sit up and stand up straight'! Our posture says a lot, sending messages both outward to the world around us, and inward to the enthusiastic animal inside who wants to be ready for action. We know that maintaining a dynamic posture helps us to get right with the world and with ourselves, particularly as we age. We hope to remain tall throughout our lives, and to reap the benefits of better posture:

>  beautiful, effortless, fluid movement
>  space for breathing and for vital organs to work unimpeded
>  improved circulation and energy flow
>  greater comfort and mobility
>  less wear and tear on our joints
> improved mood, self-image and appearance
How do we improve our posture?
For starters, it is helpful to modify our view of posture from a frozen state of ‘straightness’ to a dynamic state of ‘tallness’. In his most popular book, Awareness Through Movement: Easy-to-Do Health Exercises to Improve Your Posture, Vision, Imagination, and Personal Awareness, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais says, “The word ‘straight’ is misleading. It does not express what is needed.” 

What IS needed is a high level of body awareness, and a balanced use of our muscles! In this way, the skeleton is free to do what it does best: counteract the pull of gravity. From this kind of balanced state, beautiful posture emerges naturally. Voila!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Body Can Learn, by Steve Hamlin

What is Feldenkrais®?
As Buddha said, whatever you think, it will not be that way. All I can give here is a little history, a few hints, and my own insights. Feldenkrais® is a study of human movement, and that encompasses all aspects of life. There is no end to ways of looking at it. And it’s really not possible to get a grip on what it is, without getting involved, taking classes.
Moshe Feldenkrais was born in 1904 in the Ukraine. He left home at age 14 to walk to Palestine (now known as Israel). After 10 years, he went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne –physics, mathematics, and electrical and mechanical engineering. He earned a Doctor of Science, and began working with Frederic Joliot-Curie, Director, Curie Institute. During this time he learned Judo from Jigoro Kano, the Japanese Minister of Education. After obtaining his black belt he taught in France and wrote books on Judo.
Kano had tried before to train other westerners for this work, with no success. Kano saw that Feldenkrais had a special quality, and he did, indeed, successfully teach martial arts to many Europeans before WW II. Feldenkrais was on one of the last boats from France to England at Dunkirk, at the start of WW II and he carried with him, in a suitcase, lab notes from Joliot-Curie regarding research on nuclear fission, plans for an incendiary bomb, and two quarts of heavy water that were later used in the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. (Later, however, for personal reasons he declined an invitation to work for the Manhattan Project ). He worked in England for the Admiralty during WWII, helping to develop sonar.
During this time he became interested in human development – especially human movement – and he learned much from observing babies in the office of his wife, Yona Rubenstein, who was a pediatrician. Feldenkrais had a photographic memory, and he studied his wife’s medical books, and in addition became a self-taught neurologist. Because of an old knee injury, he applied his new skills to curing the knee, and he succeeded in learning to walk again and even resume his judo.
He began to work – hands on – with friends in need, and he called this work Functional Integration® (FI). Later he developed a format for teaching these ideas to groups of people, and he called this Awareness Through Movement® (ATM). His ideas, while based on solid science and common sense, still run counter to many popular beliefs and methods. When you do movement work, you’ll certainly find many of your beliefs challenged by what your own body is teaching you. I’ve never seen an exception.
In 1950 Feldenkrais returned to Israel and worked for their Defense Force, and was instrumental in starting Israel’s nuclear program. He taught in Israel and Europe through the 1950’s and first taught in America in 1971. He continued to teach often in America until his death in 1984 at age 80.
Today there are thousands of Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioners® worldwide, and thousands of students who have gained significant benefits from Feldenkrais work.
Feldenkrais is much more than just an alternate form of body-therapy; it’s used by dancers, artists, performers and others to enhance their work. Some practitioners teach in the school system. Psychologists use it. It’s used by many just to feel good or improve posture, and some use it to enhance their spiritual life. For many, it’s a way of life. Yet, because most people first come to Feldenkrais as an alternate “therapy,” that’s how I’m presenting it. So how is Feldenkrais different from other therapies?