Jane Brody, veteran health journalist for the New York Times, is hardly a fluttering reporter swooning over the latest health fad. But she waxed poetic in describing her body after a couple Feldenkrais sessions: “I felt like I was walking on air.”
Feldenkrais is one of those mind-body techniques like yoga to make you be more aware of how you’re carrying your body, then learn ways to move more efficiently with less stress. The basis of Feldenkrais is neuroplasticity: the brain can learn new ways to move the body — old brain, new tricks.
My current trainer is a certified Feldenkrais practitioner. (Yikes, certification requires three and a half years of training). Not surprisingly, she incorporates Feldenkrais techniques and philosophy in her sessions. Unfortunately for me, part of the philosophy is that there is no “right” way to move: Feldenkrais teachers do not give formulas for a proper way of behaving; rather, they rely on their patients’ ability to self-discover and self-correct. I frankly find this balderdash — In a precious, expensive hour’s session, I do not have time (nor knowledge) to “self-discover” and “self-correct” — I just need to be told the right way to stand.
However, I don’t seem to be standing very well, as I continue to hunch over, and my poor posture is killing my lower back. So my trainer persuaded me to try a Feldenkrais session. I shrugged and said it was something else to add to the toolbox. She responded (having waded through my pages and pages of exercises collected over the years) that maybe I needed a new toolbox.
Hmmm….body awareness is all well and good (and I’m certainly lacking in this awareness). But somehow I find the Feldenkrais info I’ve found on the web a little hard to take seriously. The exercises are typically described as “simple”, “slow” and “gentle” and sound like yoga on tranquilizers. Aren’t exercises supposed to be sweaty and uncomfortable to do you any good? A suspiciously glowing article (turns out to be written by the co-founder of the Feldenkrais Institute) in Arthritis Self-Management magazine has this startling observation: “[An] intriguing benefit of the Feldenkrais Method is that over time, the user’s …awareness of his bodily position…is clarified…It enables a person to use and benefit from the Feldenkrais Method without moving at all.” At last! Exercise without the….exercise…. Kind of reminds you of Professor Harold Hill’s “think method” for his musical pupils in The Music Man.
But my back is killing me and I seem to be incapable of maintaining an upright posture. Guess I’ve got to try something. At least, look at the exercises more seriously.