The last few months I've had the opportunity to practice my teaching of these lessons with some pretty awesome people, two of whom have generously allowed me to write about and share the details of their experiences.
Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lessons are verbally guided lessons where the practitioner talks students through intricately crafted movement sequences. The goal is to develop more awareness of one's own use of their body in movement and to be able to explore and discover new possibilities, more depth, and greater ease and potential within their own experience and abilities. Lessons often lead to an awareness of habitual but limiting movement patterns and then explore new ways of doing the same movement, creating new options, creating new neural pathways.
The focus is not just about the experience during the movement lesson, but also what these new discoveries offer as the student continues on throughout the activities and actions of their lives.
Today's story is about my work with Steven Skoczen of Ink and Feet.
In March, Steven had just arrived in Bangkok, Thailand and was experiencing foot pain. Steven is a runner and loves parkour training. He'd been looking forward to the opportunity to train with one of the founders of parkour who lives in Bangkok, but he said the foot pain was making him wonder if he'd get that chance.
In our initial conversation about how ATM lessons might help, one of Steven's biggest concerns was the amount of time in his schedule the lessons would take up. He was able to commit to 1-2 virtual lessons/week if they could be kept to 20-30 minutes each, preferably closer to 20.
I began, not with a Feldenkrais ATM lesson, but with some instruction around self-massage techniques for the feet. One principle of the Feldenkrais Method is that is extremely difficult (if not impossible) for the intertwined body/brain to learn something new while in pain. It's important to find a position or relationship with the body that can be comfortable, that doesn't activate the pain response.
I taught Steven a sequence of gentle massage and manipulation of the various structures of the feet that he could do in 5-10 minutes a day. At the end of the lesson, Steven reported that his feet felt softer in their connection to the floor and that he felt more connected to his feet through his whole body. And, no pain. Also, what he told me was his favorite effect, "so much squish!"
We scheduled two lessons a week for the first two weeks and then, as Steven's feet were feeling much better after lessons and somewhat better overall, we continued with once a week lessons.
We did a series of lessons related to balance, ease of walking, propulsion, jumping, and coordination of all of these elements as they relate to running, walking, and even running up the side of a building and jumping off, taking a roll, and getting back on your feet.
In the midst of that, we also followed what Steven felt he needed each week. Sometimes that meant talking about a specific point of pain he was experiencing in his knee or soreness in his calves and figuring out a combination of self-massage techniques and then doing a short ATM lesson. Sometimes that meant a lesson that would give him some movements and information to help keep his body comfortable through a series of international flights.
The results? Steven's foot pain lessened dramatically. He started running again. He started a new workout routine that he has been able to maintain every day. And during his last week in Thailand, he told me he had been able to fit in a parkour training session!
Here's what Steven had to say:
Mary got me running, jumping, and moving without pain again, and gave me tools to handle marathon flights, passport queues, and the body-wringing machinations of international travel. My body and I are so grateful!
Steven (and his shoes) are now in Mendoza, Argentina. Check out Steven’s writing at Ink and Feet.
I've got a second story to share with you all next week.
In the meantime, if there is a specific movement related goal you are working with, injury you are recovering from, or just want to find a more comfortable way of being in your body, the Feldeknrais Method and Awareness Through Movement lessons offer a beautiful opportunity to engage with your body, find new ways of moving, and get closer to those goals.
I'll be working with a couple more practice clients July through September. Lessons can be done in person at one of my offices or virtually via video chat. If you are interested in whether this might be a good fit for you, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My projected certification for teaching Awareness through Movement is September 2016.
If you are interested in learning more about The Feldenkrais Method and finding a Guild Certified Practitioner in your area, you can learn lots more at www.feldenkrais.com.