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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?