“What are you doing that’s different from the other PTs in your office?” I asked Stacy, the physical therapist (PT) whom the orthopedic surgeon told me was the best he knew. I was referred to her by the doctor after he told me that the way to regain function and eliminate the pain/stiffness in my neck, and weakness/pain radiating down my left arm was surgery, and I responded by asking for a referral to the best physical therapist he knew. The prospect of the surgery he described scared the daylights out of me. I was committed to discovering whether there was a non-invasive alternative that would enable me to regain function and eliminate pain.
Stacy had just returned from a vacation. We worked together for several sessions prior to her vacation. At the end of each appointment I experienced improvement. This session was no different. However, while she was away, I was treated by other PTs in her office, with very different results.
Stacy used the same, types of physical therapy modalities as the others. But something about the hands-on work she did with me, and my response to it…consistently created profound, positive change.
I bought into the Feldenkrais Method® well before I knew what it was…before I had heard either the name or the history of the method. Now, I’m a scientist, a biologist. I am curious about the natural world and how I fit into it. For the life of me, I could not figure out what was happening to me during my time with Stacy, but I did know that each time she worked with me, inflammation, pain, and stiffness reduced as function improved. Sometimes I shifted into a state akin to a trance during a short part of our session. More often, I was very relaxed and interested in my increasing awareness of the nonverbal dialogue that occurred between us as she gently guided me through a variety of movement sequences.
Soon I was able to stop taking anti-inflammatory medications. My neck and shoulder regained full functionality without surgery. I was intrigued and had to learn more. What was the mechanism? How was what she did with me different, when I couldn’t identify specific distinctions? I asked her.
She smiled and told me that along with the physical therapy modalities she had utilized the hands-on version of the Feldenkrais Method, called Functional Integration®. She talked to me a little bit about it, and when I had recovered enough, invited me to attend her weekly Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) classes. I attended regularly and was amazed by the improvement in my ability to move comfortably. Prior to the ATM classes, I began to notice that certain movements were not as easy as before I entered my 40s. I wondered where those grunts came from that accompanied getting up from the floor…my parents were nowhere in sight. Uh oh, they arose from me. Participating in ATM classes on a regular basis led to the disappearance of grunting effort and the return of light, enjoyable movement.
After a while, Stacy suggested I enter Elizabeth Beringer’s Feldenkrais Professional Training Program in San Diego, California. She believed that I could benefit greatly from the experience. It would be a serious investment of time, energy, and finances. I benefited tremendously from the work I did with Stacy, but still had no idea why or how the techniques worked. So, I applied to the program right away, committed to learn as much as I could about what I had experienced.
At first I envisioned the endeavor as one of personal growth, but I also entertained fantasies about how amazing it would be to share what I learned with others. As much as I appreciated my healing journey with Stacy, the three and a half year training transformed my life in many ways and on many levels.
I’ve bonded with my classmates, a diverse group of people from around the world. I’ve explored my learning habits and developed an appreciation of learning in ways that were once less than comfortable. I have studied how I dealt with frustration and obstacles. Now I find them genuinely interesting…puzzles to sort through, enjoying the process of seeking solutions gracefully, easily, rather than attempting to force an answer and winding up angry or tearful. I am interested in learning from challenges, rather than conquering them. Physical and other setbacks that were once scary are now opportunities to explore established and new approaches to comfort and healing.
Now I teach group Awareness Through Movement classes and give private Functional Integration lessons. The training has enabled me to help friends, family, colleagues, classmates, and strangers move into greater comfort, ease of movement, enhanced performance, and a higher sense of self-awareness that adds to the pleasure of their lives. My students have ranged from toddlers to seniors, across a variety of ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds, from the healthy to the dying, from partially paralyzed to a high performance operatic singer. I am honored to have the opportunity to help each find the wisdom within him or her self to make powerful, positive change by exploring neuromuscular paths out of habits that inhibit, into novel options that liberate.