Finding My Body with the Feldenkrais Method® by Drew Biel, LMP, Author of Trail Guide to the Body
In June of 1997, while driving down Interstate 5 in Seattle, I was rear-ended by another driver. Like quick-acting glue, I could feel my neck and shoulders begin to stiffen. Within twenty minutes, I had a throbbing headache between my eyes. Six hours later my symptoms had worsened and a friend suggested I call Annie Thoe.
Annie was a Feldenkrais® practitioner who I knew from a class called Awareness Through Movement®. The other students and I would lie on the floor while Annie instructed us to do slow, gentle movements. It was all very relaxing, but at the end of class I noticed something else had occurred. I could literally sense how the sleeping parts of my body had awaken and become responsive. It sounds silly, but I could feel my body and, in turn, realize how often I didn’t feel my body.
As I got off the phone with Annie, I couldn’t help but voice my doubts, “Those classes were fun and wonderful for my awareness, but this is an injury. I’m in a lot of pain.” My friend assured me of my decision and the next day I went to my appointment.
After interviewing me about the accident and my symptoms (by now my neck and shoulders were in almost constant pain and I was having difficulty seeing straight), Annie asked me to lay down on a padded table. As I lay on my back, she began moving my feet and toes. After five minutes of this, I said, “Annie, um . . . it’s my neck. My neck is what hurts.”
“Yes, your neck does hurt,” she responded. “That’s why I’m working with your feet.”
Though this made no sense to me, I was surprised to find my headache beginning to subside. She continued to work on my feet, toes and pelvis for the next thirty minutes, and my neck and shoulders began to soften. They seemed to be receiving encouraging messages from the rest of my body saying, “It’s OK . . . you can let go a little bit.” At the end of the first session, my headache was virtually gone and my body felt more unified.
“There’s only one thing that concerns me,” I told her. “I’m moving to Colorado in two weeks. What can we do in that time?” She suggested we meet every other day before I left.
For the next several sessions, I would begin by sitting in a folding chair. Annie placed a large, foam roller under my feet and asked me to rhythmically roll the pad from my heel to my toes. While I attempted this deceptively difficult maneuver, she observed my knee and hip movements. Then she took both of my hands and gently moved my arms in various directions. And just when I was getting good at a particular movement, she would challenge me to “breathe easier into your belly” or be sure to “keep your hips level.”
Later in our sessions, while on the table, Annie would take my head in her hands and gently move it from side to side. While doing this, she asked me to perform simple actions such as raising my arm slightly or to flex and extend my spine. At other times she instructed me to roll my eyes in a particular direction. According to Annie, these odd movement combinations were designed to activate and challenge my nervous system. And, in turn, they would help my entire skeleton to create easier movements in my neck, head and shoulders.
Annie was not solely interested in my areas of pain. She wanted to talk to my whole body – especially my bones and joints. Always listening and watching, she would quietly tap into the deeper, more visceral aspect of my persona. She seemed to be simply asking, “How can I help you to move more effortlessly?”
After two weeks and only seven sessions, my headaches were gone, my neck pain was minimal and I could move my head and neck without any pain. No, I don’t exactly understand what we did in those sessions. But one thing is for sure: When I arrived in Colorado I realized that my whole body felt better than I did before the accident.
Andrew Biel, LMP is the author of Trail Guide to the Body: How to locate muscles,bones and more and an instructor at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy in Boulder, Colorado.
Annie Thoe, GCFP, LMP is a Feldenkrais® Practitioner in Seattle, Washington.
The Feldenkrais Method® is an educational method, founded by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), using movement and self-awareness to improve the quality of a person’s life. Through guided physical movements, a person explores new choices of using his/her body and using less effort and more skeletal support. For more information, contact the Feldenkrais® Guild or Ms. Thoe at www.sensingvitality.com, youtube channel: Sensing Vitality and CD lesson downloads at CDbaby, iTunes or Amazon.