My experience of Feldenkrais

What I’m thinking of here is what we call Awareness through Movement, the verbally guided classes that are a part of the Feldenkrais method. The classes are very much about our internal experience and as such I suspect people’s perceptions of them vary greatly and are coloured by our own ways of seeing the world. I am generally curious, easily amused by little things, often restless and almost always easily distracted. I am also innately stubborn and retain a childish dislike of doing what I’m told out of principle. I think I probably would have been diagnosed with ADHD had it existed when I was growing up. I suspect my lesson experience reflects all of this at least as much as it does the Feldenkrais method itself.

This lesson starts like so many others lying on your back on the floor. I settle into my mat and luxuriate in the experience of lying down in the middle of the day for no good reason.  I vaguely hear the teacher guiding us to sense certain parts of ourselves resting on the mat and rather reluctantly join in the noticing. I was rather enjoying just lying there not paying attention to anything in particular.

Soon we are being invited to rest an arm on the floor above our heads, stand the opposite foot on the floor and push gently and repeatedly with the standing foot. I start playing with the movement in a rather distracted sort of way, I enjoy moving for the sake of it and don’t always enjoy paying attention. I first get interested in the feeling of my hand sliding on the floor, the slightly cool sensation of varnished wood against the back of my hand. My attention then moves to my foot on the floor. I’m slightly annoyed I’m wearing socks and can’t feel the surface of the floor as clearly as barefoot. I start toying with the idea of stopping to take my socks off. I then notice my hand the back of my hand is registering more chilly than cool and become grateful for warm feet.

I drag my attention back to the actual movement rather than my socks dilemma and get fascinated by the sensation of my ribcage pressing into the floor as I move. I can feel some of the ribs moving independently as I roll slightly to one side. I start to grin, I can feel some flexing in the top three ribs on my left hand side and it feels nice. This isn’t something new but I haven’t tired of the novelty of it yet.

I broke these ribs many years ago in a gymnastics accident when my hands slipped doing back flips on the beam. I have thought of them as my broken ribs ever since, they didn’t heal straight and tended to dig in when I put any pressure on my ribcage. I conveniently learnt to avoid moving them and other than a sense of them digging in when lying on my front I generally forgot about them.

During my training I slowly realised they weren’t as stuck as I thought and was shocked to discover they don’t actually hurt when I move them. I suspect the last time I really tried moving them was shortly after breaking them, they hurt a lot at the time and my brain filed that movement away as ‘not a good idea – painful’ never to be attempted again. Some things we don’t easily forget.

We are now resting on our backs and are being guided to notice our breathing. I’m noticing the sun streaming through the window, the dust floating around being picked up by the sunlight and a pattern of something reflecting on the floor. I’m resisting the temptation to sit up to see where this pattern is coming from by bringing my attention back to my breathing as suggested.

Funny, I can feel more breath and movement on my left side. I wonder if this is partly due to me getting so interested with noticing those top ribs moving on that side.

We return to the same movement on the other side. I’m finding this side less interesting and start to wonder if I could continue the movement to roll all the way onto my stomach. My first inclination with movement is still can I take it further, where does it lead me? Years of training have given me some secondary interesting enquiries, where does the movement initiate, how small can it be for me to still sense it clearly?

Nearly an hour later, the class is drawing to a close and we’re back in standing again. I’m really enjoying a new sensation in my feet, particularly in my heels on the floor that are somehow feeling more articulated and less of a single lump. I’m staying still drinking in this sensation and wanting to anchor it, to hang on to it. We’ve been guided to walk around and I’m ignoring that, too tied up in not wanting to lose my new discovery.

I finally take my newly rearranged feet for a walk around. Unusually for me that’s less fun than standing, even if I still have this lovely sense of articulated heels when I walk. I make a mental note to go looking for that again and join the rest of the group in chatting about the lesson.

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