Old habits – The Feldenkrais Method

I have been reading the list for several weeks now and have both a personal and a professional interest. Twenty years ago I had DeQuervains, was operated on, and have long experience of the aftermath. I had never touched a computer, but have double-jointed thumbs and was very manual with sports, music, and writing. I went through years of splint dependency, weakened muscles, dipping my hand in hot wax twice a day, and even now, my hand can still go cold. I have experience more recently with epicondylitis from playing tennis, compounded by work as an aroma therapist. I read everyone’s stories with interest and feel that after recently reading about trying to “retrain my body”, or finding relief in relaxation but still “going back to old habits”, and debates on posture and pain that I must contribute. Reference has been made to Physio and Alexander, but I would like to draw people attention to the Feldenkrais Method. When I first joined the list I was pleased to see the article by Mike Mossey about his experience with Feldenkrais and Alexander, but I wonder how many of you may have explored Feldenkrais as an option to help you with recovery. I think the 2 methods are often spoken of together; they have similarities but are not the same.

Feldenkrais is a teaching method that works well alongside therapy. Whilst your posture can improve through Feldenkrais the focus is the use and organisation of the self. Not just alignment, or back, neck and shoulders, but your whole self, from fingertips to toes. My DeQuervains almost certainly had something to do with the use of my fingers, and their integration and connection, or lack of, to my arm and to my back. Pascarelli and Quilter, in their description of Focal Dystonia mention a Dr. Gowers, who in 1888 “wisely observed that this disease could be prevented if people would only write from their shoulders”. How about writing from your back! It is fine, but difficult to try and retrain the body. Many of us know what we ‘should’ be doing, how we ‘should’ be sitting, but those old habits that got us into trouble in the first place have a habit of returning. These habits are often learned very early, and the problem with a habit is that it becomes something outside our awareness and automatic. Habits are almost always limiting, and when we try and find alternatives to them, we can’t. We can try and sit ‘straight’ but within a few minutes we go back to our pattern.

The Feldenkrais Method helps you identify limiting habits, and by working with the nervous system, increases your self-awareness and teaches you new options for reorganisation of the self, and easy, comfortable movement. Your body finds its new, comfortable organisation without any effort or strain. You gain a clearer sense of you skeletal structure and consequently let go of any unnecessary muscular tension – you no longer need to hold yourself in place. If you would like to know more, there is a wealth of information about Feldenkrais on the web. Try www.feldenkrais.co.uk for the UK Guild. Also, 1 US site: www.somatic.com Ralph Strauch, author of Low-Stress Computing.  I qualified as a Feldenkrais Teacher last year after 4 years training. It has changed my life, how I use my body, my sense of self within myself and the world, and my outlook on life. For me Feldenkrais is a lifelong study, and personal exploration.

You will find a directory of teachers on the Guild site, so far; however there are still less than 100 teachers nation-wide. I teach workshops and courses of Awareness through Movement for Computer Users, in Sussex. They are designed for people who use computers and are concerned about safe use or are already experiencing some discomfort. They are also for those who have had RSI and want to learn more about their own organisation whilst shedding old habits. Individual Lessons of Functional Integration are recommended for people who have RSI, so their individual needs can be addressed. I hope this information might encourage some of you to investigate this area. Apologies for going on at length. One of my interests at the moment is researching the use of computers in schools and colleges, Feldenkrais may be one way of helping prevent the growing computer generation from joining the ranks of people in pain.

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