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Body Awareness as Healing Therapy: The Case of Nora

1 rating: 4.0
A book by Moshe Feldenkrais.

"...a rare gem. This book has inspired my students and me for over a decade with its intimate revelations detailing how Feldenkrais went about solving the problems of his case. It is of interest to medical practitioners who work directly with the … see full wiki

Author: Moshe Feldenkrais
Genre: Professional & Technical, Health, Mind & Body
Publisher: Frog Books
1 review about Body Awareness as Healing Therapy: The Case...

"Do we not read with our mouths?"

  • Apr 2, 2011

Doctor (of Physics, not Medicine) Moshe Feldenkrais (1904 - 1984) was an innovator. He studied under two time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie in Paris. He was a pioneer of judo in Europe. He smuggled atomic research materials out of Hitler's Germany to England. He created the two-pronged "Feldenkrais Method" to increase human health through self-awareness. Previously, Feldenkrais had studied mind control, auto-suggestion and Emile Coue's upbeat work in psycho-therapy, especially relaxation and self-hypnosis. One fact is not always emphasized: his wife was a pediatrician. Through her Moshe had ample opportunity to watch infants as they happily and spontaneously learned to see, walk and control their hands. Feldenkrais drew practical inferences from what he saw.


Fairly late in his career as a healer and analyst of human movements, Moshe Feldenkrais planned to release a series of monographs describing his work with individual "patients." As things developed, however, only one such monograph emerged in his lifetime, THE CASE OF NORA. That case study exemplified the one-on-one, hands-on direct healing side of the Feldenkrais method, called Functional Integration or "FI" for short. The other side of the Feldenkrais coin, Awareness Through Movement (ATM), had been presented in a knotty, sometimes obscure book by that name five years earlier. ATM is hands-off teaching of several students at once in a classroom/gymnasium setting.


Nora was a sixty-something, educated, polyglot Swiss woman. Knowing that Moshe  was visiting Switzerland from his base in Israel, Nora's sister wrote to Dr Feldenkrais, asking him to see Nora.  A sudden stroke had stiffened Nora's body a bit, left her speech slightly impaired and soon took away her ability to read and write. A specialist found left-brain circulatory damage. The trauma might heal itself. But in three years it had not been healed. Nora grew depressed. Wrote Feldenkrais: "I was her relatives' last hope." In THE CASE OF NORA he details his many months of effort, most of them in Israel, which eventually restored Nora's ability to read, and later to write. He began by observing her head movements. 


THE CASE OF NORA has several little asides and excursions that lay out Feldenkrais's indebtedness to Jean Piaget and others who had studied children. You must crawl before you can walk. You must read before you can write. An early question Moshe asked himself: back to what childhood age or level had Nora's brain regressed to make Nora unable to read and write? Children may be blind for the first two weeks after birth. But they already hear sounds in the womb. "The fetus hears the heartbeats of its mother, the noises of her digestive tract, bubbling of gasses of all kinds, sounds of her breathing, coughing, sneezing and other noises. ... An infant is predominantly a hearing animal" (Appendix: The Essence).


The infant is also a feeding, sucking animal. As it grows and learns to see, it also masters its fingers and thumbs. And it probably prepares to acquire the skill of reading through its mouth, through speaking. Without talking there is no reading. Indeed there are people to this day who can read only aloud or must at least move their lips silently to grasp a written text. People wondered why Feldenkrais taught Nora to read by means of a straw held in her mouth.  Feldenkrais spontaneously replied:  "Do we not read with our mouths?" (Ch. 5). 


For the longest time, even the best educated Romans had only read aloud. In 384 in Milan Saint Augustine marveled to find Saint Ambrose reading silently to himself in his room. "When he read," said Augustine, "his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud," CONFESSIONS, Ch. 6.


Step by step the former physicist taught his pupil Nora to relax, to relish the tiny steps she was taking and learning to repeat and adapt, to choose freely and with joy like the child she had been when she learned to read and write the first time. It worked. Read all about it in Feldenkrais's BODY AWARENESS AS HEALING THERAPY: THE CASE OF NORA. The book is short and makes its points without many wasted words. It may, however, seem a fault that the author is not always clear to himself or to readers why this or that hunch did or did not pay off. Sometimes even the great Moshe Feldenkrais can only guess, speculate or shrug his shoulders. 



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