Most people who live to the age of sixty start to have a few aches and pains. It’s too soon to predict, but I may have come upon a way to push these aches and pains into the background, far from the place where they currently reside. The fancy name for my discovery is the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education. I’ve copied and modified this quote from Wikipedia to define “somatic” as I experienced it in my first Feldenkrais class yesterday. “The somatic nervous system (SNS) is the part of the peripheral nervous system  associated with the voluntary control of body movements via skeletal muscles. The SNS consists of the nerves responsible for stimulating muscle contraction, including all the neurons connected with skeletal muscles, skin and sense organs.”
Several weeks ago in a conversation over coffee, my friend Jill introduced the topic of Feldenkrais. She said, “My doctor suggested it when I was having a long bout of chronic fatigue. I was amazed at how such simple, easy movements could have such a profound effect on the body. After doing some of the movements that seem like nothing much, I felt much more ‘grounded,’ e.g. , when standing, it felt as if my feet were going through the floor. My balance improved – and I still continue to be aware of not always doing the same things such as putting on my pants, a sweater or coat in the same way. I’m right-handed and had always done things with that dominant side rather than making sure I was using both hands equally.” I also was aware from a book I reported on recently, Stroke of Insight, that Feldenkrais was one technique the author used to reprogram her ability to move after suffering a massive stroke.
I was at my local Y earlier this week when I saw a schedule of fitness classes and at the top of the list was “Feldenkrais.” What serendipity! I’ve only attended one session, but during that hour I found out that Jill was right. The movements we did were so small and seemingly inconsequential that it was hard to imagine that doing them would have any effect at all. We laid on our backs on woven cloth mats that reminded me of Mexican blankets, raised our arms and shoulders and lowered them, raise them and lowered them again. We pressed our feet into the floor and later did the same with our hips. Then we pictured the pathways from the foot to hip to the opposite side shoulder, all the parts that come together when we walk. It seems to me, based only on this one experience, that we are learning to become more aware of each of our muscles and how they work together, and then to educate them to become more efficient without creating unnecessary pain.
When I awoke this morning I felt like something was missing. The something was a tight spot where my neck meets my back that I didn’t even know I had until it was no longer there. Now I can’t wait to see if the tight spots I’m always aware of also disappear. You can count on reading about it here if they do.
My physical therapist, who was trained in Feldenkrais, told me that our bodies know what is the best way to do things – it is we who have “forgotten” – practicing the exercises allows our bodies to return to how they work most efficiently – and thus may increase energy and decrease some of the achy places.
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