with the Feldenkrais Method
Cathy Butler, GCFP
Obviously we can handle
a certain amount of stress, but sometimes our body’s innate ability
to function effectively is compromised or too overwhelmed to be effective.
Over time when stress is not dealt with fully it causes serious physical
problems. One way to help the body is the Feldenkrais Methodâ. This
is a technique of movement education, a gentle, pleasurable movement system
with a wide range of benefits. Regular sessions or classes in learning new
ways to move the body reduce stress and increase overall health.
The real impact of stress on our lives and bodies today
Stress that is not adequately coped with, especially over time, causes a
wide range of ailments. In Prescription for Nutritional Healing (1990), James and Phyllis Balch describe the stress response. “When
faced with a high degree of stress …digestion shuts off and heart
rate increases, with a resulting increase in blood pressure and breathing.
Fats and sugars are released from stores in the body, cholesterol levels
rise, and the blood prepares for clotting… In primitive times, these
changes in the body prepared man to flee or fight. Now, we rarely use this
response.” (298) James and Phyllis Balch continue by saying, “When
sustained over time, instead of preparing us for a crucial action, the stress
response tires out our body, weakens our immune system and creates chronic
problems of hypertension and high cholesterol (298). Doctors and scientists
have linked stress to a range of ailments. Minor conditions include headaches,
digestive problems, and fatigue. More serious problems are insomnia, Crohn’s
disease, depression, impotence, and cancer, to name a few.”
The Feldenkrais Method and Stress
Taking part in Feldenkrais provides short and long term benefits. Feldenkrais
can be learned in classes (called Awareness Through Movementâ) or
individual hands-on sessions (Functional Integrationâ). Immediate
benefits can include breathing more fully and easily, sleeping more deeply,
feeling more relaxed and alert, more comfortable in your body and more flexible.
Stress melts away and future or past worries take up a smaller space in
your brain during a class or an individual session as you learn to keep
your mind in the present and in your body. As your breathing slows and deepens
your heart rate decreases and your blood pressure drops. One enters into
a parasympathetic state where the body more easily recuperates from stress.
However, the real benefit of learning these types of body control methods
appears in how you deal with stress outside of a class or session.
Feldenkrais teaches clients to identify and manage stress more effectively
on their own. This process begins with improving awareness of causes of
stress and learning to identify its effects on the body. The next step is
to learn techniques that will help you consciously change your response
to anxiety-producing events in the moment. In group or personal lessons,
clients learn to move in ways that are easy, light, and relaxing. Repeating
these movements during a stressful situation reminds your body and mind
how to relax and reduces the negative impact of the event. Breathing is
also a crucial element of managing stress in the moment.
The most essential learning made possible by continuing this kind of work
guides you to spontaneously respond to events effectively. Babies experiment
endlessly with different ways to come up onto the hands and knees in order
to be able to crawl across the floor to get to a favorite toy. Although
they lack the instinctual knowledge of how to walk immediately after birth
that most animals have, they do possess “…an innate urge to
incessantly test and search for what works better and what is more enjoyable”
(Mindful Spontaneity: Returning to Natural Movement, Ruthy Alon,
1996:33). As adults, however, we lose touch with this urge. We get stuck
in habitual ways of doing things including habitual ways of dealing with
stress. Feldenkrais “…stimulat[es] the urge to search for more
gratifying ways of moving as well as awake[ns] the intelligence to adjust
more effectively to new situations” (Mindful Spontaneity: Returning
to Natural Movement, Ruthy Alon, 1996:33). This ability is the deepest
and most profound gift -- the ability to reawaken our capacity to learn
and adapt to all situations that come up in life.
is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner who maintains a private practice
in McKinleyville. She will be giving a free talk and mini-class, “Stress
Reduction and the Feldenkrais Method”, at Moonrise Herbs on Tuesday,
October 19th 7-9pm. She also teaches classes and workshops at the Community
Yoga Center and other facilities in the area.
Visit Christine Breese's Metaphysical Sciences youtube channel to view free video satsangs.