The Feldenkrais® Method of Somatic Education: Awareness Through Movement®
Awareness Through Movement lessons are verbally directed sequences exploring various themes of human form and function. Feldenkrais is concerned with the cultivation of effortlessness and efficiency through self-understanding. These lessons can be done lying, sitting, standing, and in other aforementioned configurations, but primarily they are done lying down. Feldenkrais, a judo master, understood what could be called the “geometry of movement” and organized his lessons around principles such as the six cardinal directions, the three planes of movement, circular and spiralic movement, and other geometric configurations all originating from and supporting human form and function.
Let me give an example of how the Feldenkrais work could benefit someone learning a Qigong form. There is a Qigong moving posture called Swaying the Heavenly Pole, which is a rotational or twisting action of the whole body. Observing some people trying to learn and practice this in my Qigong class, I couldn’t help but see how stunted certain students were by the pressures of time, the severity of learning the “correct”, classical form, and the limits of their own, unknown habits. Swaying the Heavenly Pole is a standing posture. Developmentally speaking, standing on two feet (bipedal) is the most sophisticated and complex organization in the animal kingdom. Feldenkrais realized that much could be learned by removing oneself from this orientation in space. In other words, by lying down one can begin to release the muscles usually engaged in maintaining upright posture. This potentially frees one’s attention to be able to focus on other elements of one’s self-organization, such as the degree of effort one habitually uses to move or simply to be. These lessons are exquisitely designed, so that one may focus on smaller increments of movements, the smaller components of the bigger forms. For instance, one has the chance, perhaps for the first time, to understand how the movement of the eyes affects the movement of the head and neck, and therefore the entire spine. Using non-habitual, novel coordinations of eye/head/neck movement, one can greatly increase ease of motion (quality), as well as range of motion (quantity). Further explorations involving the shoulder girdle and arms, the rib cage, pelvis, and legs, and their interrelationship, help to further one’s understanding not only of the action of twisting, but of one’s own anatomy, physiology, and psychology; or, in short, one’s soma. Upon returning to standing, and to the classical posture, one has a new freedom and understanding heretofore unattainable and elusive.