Friday, July 23, 2010

Small Movements and Imagination

Feldenkrais isn’t what I’d really call exercise.  Yes I do it at the gym. But it’s more flexing and wiggling than exercise. Nobody sweats unless the room is warm.  If a movement hurts, the instructions are to make the movement smaller.

I’m used to lifting free weights, stretching large muscles, using all my strength to pedal a bike or propel myself through water (swim).  What’s with these tiny movements that require no strength at all?

When I first started lifting free weights (read soup cans) repetitively, I thought it was boring and difficult.  I couldn’t believe how quickly my triceps got tired just moving a 1 lb soup can away from my body.  Now I can heft 6 lb dumbbells with no trouble, and when I want a tougher workout, I pick up the 8 lb dumbbells.

Feldenkrais is complicated – not boring.  There is no reward. There’s no progress to see. No weight to watch, no asana to feel the alignment improve.  It’s just tiny movements. And you concentrate not only on the tiny movements, but also on not moving anything else. And not cheating by rotating a joint, or shifting weight to a different part of the body.  Just follow simple instructions (eyes closed) and do NOTHING else.

So, I sat there with my eyes closed, trying to lift my right hip slightly off the chair. I can imagine what that might be like. I can feel some muscles that ought to be able to move it in the intended direction. My left foot tilts to the side. I correct that. I try again. I feel like I’m meeting my body for the first time and I have to learn to program it, like a computer that has developed glitches.

Moshe Feldenkrais developed his method after refusing surgery for a soccer injury. He calls his technique Awareness Through Movement.  I can’t say after one class that I’m aware of anything more than knowing more precisely where I hurt and what I can’t do and how my body tries to compensate for what I can’t do.  The premise here is that if I persistently work with what I can do, even my imagination of what it would be like if I could do it, that my body will gain ability and mobility.

Having just had the 2nd surgery on my collar bone (to remove the metal) I think it would be great if I can heal my hip with small movements and imagination.

Here’s a link for a basic book on the Feldenkrais method:


  1. Should have known Dr. Feldenkrais was a nuclear physicist. I used to be one, and we are all a bunch of nuts! ;)

    But seriously, for me, working through injuries has always been a matter of training (re-training) muscles and tendons to do things that they used to do instinctively. Post injury, they always learned some very bad habits. I have found it takes very conscious attention to position, body placement, and such, not strength, to get back into shape. This method sounds very interesting.

    Is Still Here

  2. Here's a website with more information about Feldenkrais Method.
    I finally got a good look at myself in the mirror. It's not just my shoulder that's skewed -- it's the hips. If I straighten my hips, the shoulder falls into place. But trying to walk with my hips aligned is going to be a major project!