I have grown taller since yesterday, or at least that’s how I feel. As one who was 5’8″ for much of her adult life, it has been crushing to hear my doctor’s nurse reporting aloud my shrinkage, first to 5’7 and 1/2″, then to 5’7″ and finally to 5’6 and 1/2.” When I have my annual physical in a few weeks, if I learn that I have stretched upward even slightly, I will give full credit to my participation in Feldenkrais movement awareness classes.
About a month ago I wrote about attending my first Feldenkrais class and feeling like the techniques used had potential to cure a lot of physical annoyances — the tight shoulder and hip, the achy knee, and the bad posture. Since then I have attended three more classes and had two private sessions with the teacher and am convinced that this method of retraining your body to increase the efficiency of your movements is nothing short of miraculous. I already feel physical changes, including in my height. One big goal of the program is to increase your awareness of what occurs when you move. You wouldn’t think this matters, but it does. When you walk, for example, it’s not just your feet and legs that need to get in the act, but also your shoulders and hips; however, sometimes we may walk stiffly as if the legs were performing a solo. When you start paying attention to your body, you begin to notice where it needs adjusting. Then, guided by the teacher in a series of simple retraining exercises you can soon recognize where your problems lie.
Here’s how it works. I have pain in my left knee, which is a recent development. It comes and goes and is not severe, but I would like to address it now before it worsens. Yesterday, in my private session, Helen, the teacher, had me sit on her table (lower than a massage table and not so well-cushioned) with my knees bent and my feet on the floor. She asked me to consider my feet. Did they feel solidly connected to the ground? Was the pressure equal all around the foot? Were there parts not touching the ground? As my knees splayed out I realized that my weight was not distributed equally. I felt more pressure on the outsides of my feet. This realization dictated where our session should focus.
First, Helen had me try to raise each toe independently of all the other toes (impossible). Following this, for 30 minutes she made almost imperceptible movements with my toes and spent another 10 minutes doing the same to my neck. I left my session feeling taller, but with no changes other than that. Today in class we worked on shoulders, hips and feet while lying down, and I discovered that only one knee was splaying and the other was straight and perfectly aligned. When did that happen? I went on a walk after class and found that the weight was evenly distributed on my right foot. Only my left foot remained in need of attention.
I won’t see the teacher for another month so I asked her for exercises I could do while she was away. “Play with your feet,” she said. “Gently stretch your toes, spread them apart, bend them. She summed up her instructions sounding like a Zen master presenting an impossible riddle: ‘Yes, playing with your toes will be the key.” I will follow her recommendations faithfully while she is gone. If nothing else, they will prepare me to stand on my toes when I hit the doctor’s office scale.