I found this week’s lecture to be very interesting and engaging due to the hands-on experience that our guests engaged us with. I especially enjoyed Dr. Deborah Forster’s comments on the ways in which we can get to know ourselves better and understand particular preferences, habits, and characteristics merely by engaging in exercises that force us to pay attention to the psychology of our body without performing strenuous exercise. This “awareness through movement,” activity is referred to as the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education and teaches its pupils mindfulness by using the disciplines of cognitive neuroscience and experimental movement. However, as someone who is not inclines to practicing “mindfulness,” or other activities that are deemed spiritual such as yoga and/or meditation, I found this exercise really insightful and relaxing. Forster explained how this method is appealing to all different types of people to young elementary school children to her adult architecture students, explaining how they connected the psychological and habitual motions of the body to the structural ways of thinking that are employed in their studies and practice. This method allows students to enhance their health-both psychologically and physically-through learning methods of self-observance related to the movement of their body and understanding patterns of one’s nervous system. I noticed that when she initially asked us to lower our heads and place our feet one ground, it felt forced and my muscles were very tense. By the second time that we were instructed to repeat the motion and raise and lower our heads, I felt increasingly calm and my muscles felt less constricted. The benefits of practicing this method are reducing pain, increased strength and abilities of movement, reduction of anxiety and muscle tension, improved body image, and enhanced mental and physical coordination.
“I usually make clear that the point of my work is to lead to awareness in action, or the ability to make contact with one’s own skeleton and muscles and with the environment practically simultaneously. This is not ‘relaxation’, for true relaxation can be maintained only when doing nothing. The aim is not complete relaxation but healthy, powerful, easy and pleasurable exertion. The reduction of tension is necessary because efficient movement should be effortless. Inefficiency is sensed as effort and prevents doing more and better. The gradual reduction of useless effort is necessary in order to increase kinesthetic sensitivity, without which a person cannot become self-regulating.” –Moshe Feldenkrais
The Feldenkrais method was developed physicist, engineer, and martial artist Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1940s after he suffered a knee injury and was unable to receive adequate treatment from medical surgery. This inspired him to further investigate the relationship between physical movement and consciousness. In his book Body and Mind, Feldenkrais emphasized the method’s focus on being individualized and specific to each person who practices it. It is about learning to be in the moment and observe the reactionary movements of one’s body. This technique can be done in a group environment (functional integration) or in a group setting (awareness through movement). During an individual session, the instructor will generally be instructed to lie down as Moshe believed that this was the best way to begin because it reduces one’s concentration on the boundaries of gravity, which in turn, “frees the nervous system.” Next, the instructor will teach/suggest areas of focus in their muscular movements and nervous system, such as focusing on breathing when standing, sitting, lying down, etc. and how the positioning or subtle motions (like raising and lowering the head) affect these patterns when altered slightly. He acknowledges that the first couple of sessions that one experiences, may yield positive results and improvements due to the “novelty effect,” but that with increased practice of this method, the awareness spills over into all aspects of one’s life and well-being, leading to more mindfulness personality that tension of all kinds.