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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