Perception and Feldenkrais

Straight after an intense week in Brussles, representing the UK Guild at the International Feldenkrais Federation, this week I’ve been teaching teachers on the London Professional Training Programme! It’s great to be back in a learning environment, seeing the learning process, now for the third time around.

We were lucky to have the wonderful Mara della Pergola, an Italian trainer, who taught on my training. She’s recently written a book on transformation with Feldenkrais, currently only in Italian.

One interesting idea she had was looking at Feldenkrais and Art. When we perceive ourselves differently, we connect with the world around us differently, even down to how we respond to art. 

Try it yourself. Don’t take my word for it. 

  • Find a painting that you like to look at.
  • Notice where your eye is drawn,
  • What moves you about or in the painting
  • If there are figures what do you think about them
  • If there are colours, how vivid do they seem?
  • Anything else that springs to mind

Then go and do a Feldenkrais lesson. It doesn’t need to be a long one. You could try one on my video page.

When you have finished the lesson, come back to the painting, and look again. Ask the same questions, and see if the answers are the same. You could do the same with a piece of music too of course.

The Self-Image

Our self-image is everything. It shapes how we see the world around us. It changes how we respond to it, how we interpret events, and the actions of others. 

There’s an indisputable link between how we view ourselves, and how we view the world and people around us. When we can feel ourselves more in three dimensions, the world around us also takes clearer shape. 

When we can feel ourselves, where we begin and end, we can set clearer boundaries. And it’s easier to recognise, sense and feel those of others. When we understand our motivations, fears, and habits, it’s easier to understand those around us. When we have more self-knowledge we ascribe benevolence rather than disrespect. After all, we’re the centre of our own lives. Why shouldn’t everyone else be the centres of theirs?

Prior to Lockdown, I was working with a lady who suffered with tension and anxiety, we’ll call her Rachel. She came because she wanted to feel better in herself, and about herself. She wanted to reclaim herself. She had suffered abuse as a child, and it had made her adult life very difficult. She viewed the world in a negative light. The choices she had made weren’t always in her own interest, and how she responded to others didn’t help her make the connections she needed. 

Rachel would get upset very easily. She would think badly of others or herself whatever the situation. Even getting to my studio on public transport was a huge endeavour, for her to cope with being in close proximity to so many people. Most of whom she saw as threatening. 

She loved art, and went to a weekly art class, but often spent her time without being able to make a decision. She would leave at the end not having made a start on anything, not even a mark on the page. She felt paralysed with indecision, with judgement, imagined of others, and her own. She imagined that people were thinking ill of her, whether they were or not. She wanted to make something, but was holding herself back. And this was a habit across much of  her  life. She wanted more from her life. She wanted to change, and somehow found me.

Improving our self-image improves our thinking and action

Over our sessions together we worked on improving her self-image. Finding a improved physical sense of herself so she could reclaim her body. 

We started with improving her breathing. Finding flexibility in the ribs, so she could breathe more fully and freely.  So that move-ability could be part of her idea of herself.

When we have been holding ourself still for many years, there can be compressed emotions that can float up to the surface. So at times it was challenging, but she trusted me to be able to hold them with her. As she was able to breathe better, her blood flow and her digestion improved.

Feeling her torso moving with her breath gave her more sense of her own aliveness and vitality. 

We worked together on improving Rachel’s sense of grounding. Recognising the strength of her pelvis. Exploring physical support from the floor. Recognising the strength she has, instead of only seeing her weaknesses and failures. Which was otherwise an incomplete picture of herself. 

She learnt more about her skeletal support structure, sensing the solidity of herself. Including the pelvis (the motor-centre) in her self-image, allowed her to walk more pleasurably. She could join the parts of herself together to feel more complete. 

Over time , she included more and more of herself in her self image, through kinaesthetic touch.  She slowly found her confidence. 

She changed physically, and also emotionally and mentally. 

When we first met, she was tense and frowning each time I opened the door,  and started each session with a negative story about her week. 

After a while she would arrive smiling, and sometimes leave bouncing. She began to enjoy her own ability to move. To sashay, to hop or walk in a different way. She noticed things that she could  enjoy: the warmth of a sunny day, a flower she’d seen, or a conversation. She recognised when her thoughts weren’t useful to her, and learnt to self-soothe and calm. 

As Rachel changed, her interactions with others became more neutral or positive. She realised she could play a big part in creating a more positive world for herself to inhabit.

And she was rightly proud of herself when she showed me a picture of her finished artwork. 

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