This summer, I re-read the movement classic, “Somatics,” by Thomas Hanna. The following two paragraphs from the introduction had me cheering with clarity about the “WHY?” of somatic education generally, and the Feldenkrais Method(R) specifically.
“The fact is that, during the course of our lives, our sensory-motor systems continually respond to daily stresses and traumas with specific muscular reflexes. These reflexes, repeatedly triggered, create habitual muscular contractions, which we cannot – voluntarily — relax. These muscular contractions have become so deeply involuntary and unconscious that, eventually, we no longer remember how to move about freely. The result is stiffness, soreness, and a restricted range of movement.
“This habituated state of forgetfulness is called sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). It is a memory loss of how certain muscle groups feel and how to control them. And, because this occurs within the central nervous system, we are not aware of it, yet it affects us to our very core. Our image of who we are, what we can experience, and what we can do is profoundly diminished by sensory-motor amnesia. And it is primarily this event, and its secondary effects, that we falsely think of as ‘growing older.'”
While “forgetting” might be inevitable with age, decline is not. I frequently bring students’ attention to parts of themselves that seem to have “gone off the radar.” In a confusing moment, the student is not certain of what they are feeling, or sometimes even how to go about “contacting” the part of themselves that they are being asked to move. Other times, I speak of “re-establishing diplomatic relations” with parts of ourselves that we have not moved, freely or at all, in a very long time. Both expressions refer to the same phenomenon of sensory-motor amnesia of which Hanna speaks.
The Feldenkrais Method can help you to re-member and remember yourself, so that your actions in the world can be more effective. You are the teacher, learner, textbook, and laboratory! The syllabus is life, and the course materials are gentle body movement, curiosity, and ample good humor in the process of discovery. What better time to begin than now?
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