Facilitated by Mark Keogh,17th September 2011
Reviewed by Sylvia Rowe
Imagine what it would feel like if there was an echo in your pelvis when circling your nose! Just one of the invitations my body received during this day-long introductory experiential workshop held in the Ashling Hotel in Dublin. Mark Keogh divided the day into segments, each of which focussed into a particular form of movement. We were a small group, lying on mats, surrounded by lots of space and by Mark’s voice inviting and guiding our bodies into new expressions.
It was explained that patterns of movement are often set up in us by eleven or twelve years of age. These patterns can then be held so rigidly in the body that we are totally unaware of them. I learned that one of the purposes of the Feldenkrais Method is to invite awareness and loosening of this rigidity in the body. This loosening echoes in the brain and can increase neuroplasticity.
What struck me was a couple of similarities between the processes of Feldenkrais and psychotherapy. Firstly, we were invited to become curious. Curious about how our bodies responded to the different invitations to move. Curious in a deeply mindful way.
Secondly, in the learning of new movement patterns, there was no judgement of what movement was already there in us. We were not removing current habits because they were ‘wrong’ but rather waiting with our bodies while we explored new ones. In psychotherapy, we also respect developmental defences and then wait with the client while space is created for other ways of being in the world to emerge.
I found myself connecting with a childlike sense of play when trying out new movements. One such movement was lying on the floor, having arms in a self-hugging clasp with elbows pointed towards ceiling. Then, working with the breath, moving elbows to right or left and back to centre. Then, repeating the movement, bringing the head in the same direction as the elbows. The next invitation was to hold the eyes focussed on a spot on the ceiling while moving elbows and head. It took a few attempts and a lot of concentration to allow my head to move without my eyeballs!
Our facilitator had an ability to describe the deep detail and rhythm of each movement. We learned to separate skin from muscle from bone. Repetition consolidated new movements. When moving one part, we listened to other parts for ripples of the movement. There were occasional bursts of short fast actions like a piston or a pump.
All this was supported by periods of deep relaxation. The focus and mindfulness of the day brought me into an altered state. At one point, it felt like I was being bathed in a viscous liquid like melted chocolate. At another, my face burst into smiles of pleasure. At 5pm, having dipped my toes into the Feldenkrais Method, I left the room feeling much straighter in the posture of my walk, with softer muscles and deeply calm.