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A book by Moshe Feldenkrais

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Ideally, your bones should move as if linked only by ligaments, without muscles!

  • Mar 23, 2011
Rating:
+4

I cannot imagine that the first information that you will ever receive about "the Feldenkrais method," aka "Awareness Through Movement" ("ATM") will come from reading Moshe Feldenkrais's 1972 AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT: EASY-TO-DO HEALTH EXERCISES TO IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE, VISION, IMAGINATION, AND PERSONAL AWARENESS. This is not a book for novices.

 

I have not, alas, heard of a beginner's book called FELDENKRAIS FOR DUMMIES or AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT FOR DUMMIES, either. At some point either in your classes, practice sessions or detached study of "ATM," you will, however, I predict, reach for, open the pages and draw much fruit from this book by the Master himself. But the book's fruit is not low-lying, nor will it fall into your lap without effort. 

 

This is a book about noticing your body and its movements. You are shown through dozens of examples how to become aware of your eyelids as your muscles strive to keep them open, lest you fall asleep from boredom. You learn how to pay attention to your neck or your elbows, etc. If you ever pause and ask yourself, says Feldenkrais, "what am I doing?" and then try to describe it minutely and precisely in words, you probably cannot.  At least not before you take part in formal ATM classes about noticing the linkages between staying awake, attending to a bodily movement (e. g., dropping your jaw), the emotions involved, the tensions, possibly the pain. 

 

If there is pain, you are probably doing something wrong and you will be advised how to "shock" your old bad habits out of their rut and learn something new and better to replace them. Dr Moshe Feldenkrais prefaces his Part II "Doing to Understand" and its twelve practical lessons with sometimes knotty descriptions of human anatomy, bones, ligaments, muscles, of lungs and breathing, of the brain and its evolution through Rhinic and Lymbic toward characteristically human "Awareness". Much is made by Moshe Feldenkrais of "self-image" and how it limits what we think we can do. "If it hurts, I quit!  Sitting up bolt upright like a heroine in a Jane Austen novel is just not who I am!" (a limiting self-image).

 

Ideally, adult human postures (while lying prone or supine, sitting, standing, or while walking, working, exercising) should feel effortless and pain free. If your current standing posture is not erect, a Feldenkrais instructor will show you how to make the correct posture habitual, effortless and painless through your growing aware of tiny differentiations that you and your muscles are systematically making both toward and away from that posture. 

 

ATM is first and foremost brain work. But muscles, ligaments, imagination, memory, skeleton, breathing and emotion are also inseparable parts of a holistic approach to good posture. Breathing right is  crucial as well. If you are accustomed to "bulling" your way through school or work or relationships by sheer will-power or through pure grit, then you are wasting precious energy unnecessarily. Notice that clenched jaw? Do you really need to do that in order to lift your right leg off the ground?

 

Let me conclude with a provocative image and theory from AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT, Part II. Lesson 2 "What Action is Good?" There are a hundred or more equally challenging, provocative, informative paragraphs. For this is a very rich book. I hope that I have given you enough of its flavor for you to decide whether you are up to tackling just yet or postponing for later AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT: 

 

"The ideal path of action for the skeleton as it moves from one posture to another -- say, from sitting to standing or from lying to sitting -- is the path through which it would move if it had no muscles at all, if the bones were linked only by ligaments. In order to get up from the floor by the shortest and most efficient path, the body must be organized in such a way that the bones will follow the path indicated by a skeleton pulled up by its head. If they follow this path the muscular effort will be transmitted through the bones and all the effort of the pelvic muscles will be turned into useful work."

The substance of this book is FIVE STAR. The way it is presented, however, need not, in my opinion, be quite so erudite or dense. Hence my FOUR STAR overall rating.

 

-OOO-

Ideally, your bones should move as if linked only by ligaments, without muscles! Ideally, your bones should move as if linked only by ligaments, without muscles! Ideally, your bones should move as if linked only by ligaments, without muscles! Ideally, your bones should move as if linked only by ligaments, without muscles!

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March 25, 2011
Excellent review! Thanks for pointing out that this isn't for novices. I shall be featuring either this review or another one of your reviews for the April Cafe Libri newsletter. Let me know if you have a preference! Thanks for all your contributions!
 
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About the reviewer
(Thomas) Patrick Killough ()
Ranked #94
I am a retired American diplomat. Married for 47 years. My wife Mary (PhD in German and Linguistics) and I have two sons, six grandsons and two granddaughters. Our home is Highland Farms Retirement Community … more
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