Feldenkrais is an approach of somatic education that aims at the development of self-awareness through movement and, if necessary, re-education through movement. What are the limits that hinder our potential, engrammed in our nervous system? Through organic awareness, brakes can be lifted, so that new patterns of thought, movement and feeling can emerge.
Reconstruction of the nervous network
Feldenkrais encourages people to recognize themselves as a unified whole, maintaining a healthy relationship with their environment. Born in Ukraine, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), the creator of the approach, emigrated to Palestine in the 1920s and then to France in the 1930s. He systematically studied the relationship between feeling, thinking, moving and feeling. An engineer physicist, he worked in a French laboratory. As a result of a knee injury, he refuses an operation whose results are uncertain and decides to explore on his own a way to overcome the disabilities he is facing. His work of body observation and gentle movement, coupled with the deepening of his knowledge of anatomy, allow him to gradually rebuild the circuits of his nervous system. This personal reeducation leads him giving birth to his own method, he will be one of the leaders in holistic approaches and one of the first to emphasize the importance of movement in the development of thought.
Benefits of the method
How do we operate by default? The way we move is our own personal signature. Our heritage and our history make us develop behavior patterns, both emotionally and physically. The discomforts of everyday life eventually settle in the body. Feldenkrais invites to regain the ability to feel our own body and to be present to our bodily sensations. In fact, we do live with anesthetized parts in our body. These regions are no longer part of our consciousness and, therefore, they are no longer fulfilling their original function. By perceiving these anesthetized parts again, we can slowly return to an optimization of our possibilities, while expanding the repertoire of movements that our habits have limited over time. New data is recorded by the nervous system which establishes new circuits. New possibilities are invited to be felt. By becoming aware of how our thoughts affect our actions and vice versa, it is our entire inner and outer universe that is being redefined. When our consciousness expands, the psycho-physical system sharpens too. Neuroplasticity is expanded and awakened through these new perceptions. Thoughts, sensations, perceptions and actions can be integrated in a more unified way.
Ana meets Feldenkrais
How did Ana cross the path with Feldenkrais? “In Brazil, I fell in love with Butoh dance. The director was teaching Feldenkrais lessons. I started to discover the practice and later, I joined the dance company. All the preparation work for the improvisation of the dance was based on Feldenkrais. Feldenkrais brings a very strong relaxation. It’s a search, an exploration of new possibilities. Which parts of our back make contact with the ground? Which parts do not? For everyone, the representation of the body or the understanding of the movement will be different and will be translated in the body in a different way. The exploration work is unique for everyone. The richness of this approach lies there.”
Ana’s classes are strongly influenced by her background with some masters who she has worked with in her life or whose work has widely inspired her: Pedro Kupfer (Hatha Yoga), Toshi Tanaka (Seitai Ho), José Maria Carvalho (Butoh, Feldenkrais, Aikido), Spinoza, Nietzsche and Deleuze (philosophy), Eric Baret (Tantric Shivaism of Kashmir), Walt Whitman, Clarice Lispector and Fernando Pessoa (poetry). Through a hypnotic guidance, she puts this philosophy of conscience, presence and embodiment at the service of her classes. We find the footprints of this heritage in her teachings of the very slow and contemplative yoga of Kashmir: “it is a very meditative approach which tends towards nothing, towards silence, without any subject or object. The body adopts postures without trying to perform, it follows, without forcing into it.”
A group workshop
Feldenkrais’ group lessons are guided by instructions to explore slowly executed movement, in our case, focusing on the flexibility and the coordination with our extensors. Invited by Pascal Cambier who organizes workshops and trainings in Namur (Belgium), I join a 4-hour workshop. As we are laying on our mats, we are invited to take a moment to feel ourselves. Unlike a more traditional soft gymnastics, where movements can be mechanical or where the goal could mainly focus on sculpting the body, Feldenkrais aims at a broader awareness of oneself and a reduction of any unnecessary muscular effort.
Everyone evolves at their own pace in a context of security and pleasure by paying attention to their own feelings. Do we do something to feel? Is feeling a reaction? How do we feel the contact of our heels with the ground? What about the distribution of their weight on the floor or the weight distribution on both sides of the body? We are invited to observe the micro-reactions that occur in ourselves. “We each have our mental representations of what the head is, of what the hand is. The representation of one will not be the same for someone else.” Lessons are also given in individual classes.
What to expect?
After the 4-hour long session, I feel more present, more anchored and very relaxed. With Feldenkrais, we can hope for an improvement in posture, coordination, flexibility in the joints as well as better mobility in the rib cage, the pelvis, the spine and a reduction of muscle tension. Accessible to all, even to people who feel weak, sick or quite inactive physically, this method leads us to using our movements with more efficiency and to being more anchored and more connected to the pleasure of being alive.