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It’s so long ago that I forget what a profound effect the method had on my mental and emotional life in the first year. I write this to remind myself to mention this to new students. First I need to tell some stories about me.

I had a difficult entry into the world and when I started to walk I had such extreme knocked knees that, at that time, it was considered necessary for me to wear braces on both legs during the day and have my legs bound up in a half-plaster cast at night. This whole process lasted around 18 months and started when I was around three years old.

Despite the difficulties, my mum said I always loved to move. Even with the braces on I’d run along with the other kids. After the treatment I was told I had “perfect legs”. As I grew older I started playing sports, some at quite high level, but I was always held back by persistent injuries. When I was 15 years old I sustained a major back injury while playing cricket and was eventually told by a specialist to “lead a sedentary life and avoid lifting things.

Following advice

I followed the suggestion until I was 24. By then I was in a lot of discomfort, physical and mental, and went to see an osteopath. Alongside the treatments he suggested I swim. I said I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. He assured me it couldn’t do any harm and encouraged me to at least give it a chance. I did and of course I felt great. 

After a year during which I built up to swimming four or five times a week, he suggested I take up a sport. Since I’d had some difficult experiences playing high-level sports, I decided instead to take some evening classes at a local circus school. Through circus I discovered the Feldenkrais Method and Contact Improvisation, my passion for circus gave way to dance and the rest, as they say, is history.

That’s the short version. You can maybe imagine that the story with movement through my childhood took many turns and was somewhat traumatic. As an adult I knew my history, but I couldn’t really remember any details and didn’t really have any feelings about it one way or the other.

Finding Feldenkrais  

Once I started to work with the Feldenkrais Method, it all started to come back to me. I’d wake up having nightmares and I’d sometimes have flashbacks during the day. I asked my Feldenkrais teacher about this and she said that yes, it could be connected to working with the method, but that she was a movement teacher and not qualified to help me with this. She suggested that maybe it would be useful to go see a therapist or counsellor to help process the memories.

I did this and it helped me a lot. Mostly, I’d just talk about and integrate the memories but sometimes I’d have a revelation through the spoken dialogue and I’d notice that this would change the feeling in my body; my attitude. I was doing so much Feldenkrais at that time and it was so new to me that I was tuned to notice the differences.

I prefer the word attitude to posture to describe that phenomenon, since in English the word attitude covers both physical and sensorial “posture”, and the cognitive and emotional “posture”; our characteristic way of orienting to our environment. In my experience they are inseparable.

Change can arrive from many angles

I mostly learn about myself and grow through immersing myself in the world of movement and sensation, but when something shifts there it causes an adjustment in my mental and emotional life. What I learned through this counselling experience is that change can also go in the other direction. When I learn something about myself through exploring my thoughts and emotions then it causes a shift in my experience of movement and sensation.

When I later began to read the books of Moshe Feldenkrais, then I felt I had direct experience of what he proposed, that humans are singular systems that are always moving, sensing, thinking and having feelings. If you intervene to raise the level of function in any one of those areas, then necessarily the level of function of the whole system would be raised.

The price of pleasure

What happened for me during that first year or two, when I spent my days practising circus trapeze and my evenings and weekends taking Feldenkrais classes and dancing contact improvisation, was that dealing with the nightmares and flashbacks seemed to be the disconcerting but necessary price to pay, for this extraordinary experience of opening up of my body, gaining in strength and flexibility and above all else reconnecting with my joy of moving.

It took some years more for it to truly land in my experience that the method, and Moshe Feldenkrais’ ambitions for it, extended to much more than movement.

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