Feldenkrais is a method of movement that uses very subtle, sometimes imperceptible or even imaginary gestures to rewire the brain in profound ways. It is a healing modality and is used by performance artists and athletes to enhance performance.
Feldenkrais is widely recognized among today’s neuroscientists as being ahead of the curve in his understanding of human development and the brain’s neuroplasticity. He applied his scientific understanding and extraordinary intuition to develop a unique method of healing the mind and body.
For example, in one case, Feldenkrais helped a child named Elizabeth, who was born missing a third of her cerebellum, which regulates motor control. According to the account of Dr. Norman Doidge, who wrote about her in his best-selling book “The Brain’s Way of Healing,” after a year of conventional therapies, the only movement she could do was to roll onto one side.
Her doctors gave up and predicted she would require institutionalization due to severe motor and cognitive impairment. Fortunately, her parents persisted in looking for help and were eventually led to Feldenkrais. He offered a gentler approach, joining Elizabeth at her level of development as opposed to forcing her to try to do things like sit up.
He helped Elizabeth learn to crawl and hold her head upright in her first two sessions. After many years of hard work with Feldenkrais, Elizabeth proved all the conventional doctors wrong and is now married and runs a small business.
So whether it’s swinging a golf club, playing an instrument, improving a dead lift or yoga pose, or even something as simple as learning to knit with less effort to reduce strain on your hands, the Feldenkrais method of movement can help you improve.
This is the first of a four-part series that will explore a few basic lessons and principles of the Feldenkrais Method and help you build awareness through movement.
“If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want!” This is one of my favorite quotes by Feldenkrais; it captures the spirit of the method. On that note, let’s begin a lesson.
Pelvic Clock Lesson
The pelvis is essentially the center of our skeleton. With training, one can learn to access and channel power from the pelvis into any part of the body. In this lesson, we will explore some simple movements of the pelvis while lying on the floor; however, this lesson can also be performed seated or in bed.
Movements should be performed with minimal effort and with no pain or strain. Take frequent rests to enhance brain learning. Set aside at least 10 minutes to complete this lesson. Take your time and enjoy the process.
- Lie on your back, eyes open or closed. Place a folded towel under your head and a pillow under your knees if needed. Notice the space under your lower back and the pressure of your pelvis and head on the floor. What else do you notice?
- Slowly bend your knees and stand your feet on the floor. Imagine your pelvis is lying on a clock with 12 toward your head and 6 toward your feet. Slowly tilt the pelvis toward 12 by very gently pressing your feet into the floor. Notice the tailbone slowly tilt away from the floor while the lower back flattens. Reduce the effort. Are you using your back muscles? Repeat several times with a pause between each repetition. Rest.
- Slowly tilt the pelvis toward 6. Notice the lower back lifts away from the floor. Do less. Allow the abdomen to expand as you tilt the pelvis. Rest. Feel the difference. How is the space under your lower back?
- Tilt the pelvis from 12 to 6. Slowly. Repeat several times. Try a few times quickly. Imagine your pelvis is heavy as you move it. Then light. Notice how your head moves in relation to the pelvis. Rest. Observe your breath.
- Explore some different diagonals such as 1 to 7 or 11 to 5. Move your pelvis in clockwise then counterclockwise circles. Try moving your pelvis clockwise and your head counterclockwise. Rest.
- Imagine slowly moving the pelvis from 12 to 6 several times. What path does your pelvis take? Move your pelvis from 12 to 6 as you imagine the opposite. Move your pelvis in a clockwise circle as you imagine counterclockwise. Rest and feel the difference from the beginning.
- Slowly come to sitting and standing. Sense the ground. Walk and notice what you notice.
Matt Leve is a physical therapist and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner at Shift Integrative Medicine in Manhattan. He incorporates principles of physical therapy, The Feldenkrais Method®, tai chi, and aikido to help clients achieve optimal performance and self-organization. For questions, email him at Matt@Shift.nyc. For more information, call 212-604-1316.