I have a client who, when hearing that I’m offering classes to people, will regularly chime in on Facebook to say some version of “his hoodoo works.” He calls it “hoodoo” because how we work in the Feldenkrais Method is unique, and even though he intellectually understands the process, he’s regularly stunned at how changes happen from doing “basically nothing” for forty-five minutes or so. Especially for a guy whose other gains are built around Moving Heavy Objects With A Solid Work Ethic.
But there’s a reason why it works, and that reason is also what makes the work different from every other Method out there. We don’t stretch and pull on the body: we train brains. Moshe Feldenkrais realized early on, based on reading the neurology of his day, that the nervous system operates as a unified entity, rather than one which sub-divides processes.
In simple words, if you’re drinking coffee and tapping your toes (while doing eighty other things you’re not consciously aware of), your nervous system is engaged in One Movement Pattern. Now, obviously, the pattern is less complex if you’re lying in bed getting ready to sleep, and more complex if you’re “the Unipiper” playing flaming bagpipes while riding a unicycle…
Or, you know, upgrading to “droid mode.” But each time you do something, you’re still creating one complex movement pattern, and it’s a much more complex pattern than we can hold entirely in our conscious attention. That’s why we have a motor cortex after all — so we don’t have to! And that means that every time you can refine any part of your pattern, you refine everything you do with your body, because what you’re actually improving isn’t the strength or flexibility of muscle X or Y, but your ability to create “movement plans” which involve less strain. Sometimes that movement is a conscious “aha! I’m doing this silly thing when I breathe! And sometimes it’s something that your motor cortex has figured out “way under the radar,” and you know that you feel different, somehow more relaxed, somehow more fluid, but can’t say how.
The “hoodoo” still works, because at some level, you’ve learned. This month, we’re working on what are ostensibly “breathing lessons,” because anybody who gets Covid-19 is likely to benefit from as refined breathing as they can get. But during that time, we’re also leveraging the role of the Intrinsic Core in regulating both breath and balance. And the more you refine either of those, the more relaxed and capable, and less stressed and anxious, your movement patterns will be.