The first somatic discipline that I discovered, and for that reason the most significant personally, is the Feldenkrais Method. This was in the Autumn of 1991. I found that it helped me to begin to develop the sensitivity and awareness that opened doors to many other somatic practices that I discovered subsequently. It improved my ability to move without pain and gave an added dimension to the work I was doing as a performer at that time. It also got me thinking about how I learn and later, as I began to teach, about how everyone learns.
I studied with a Feldenkrais teacher for 11 years before beginning a professional training programme (2002-2005) to become a teacher of the method myself and had already spent eight years teaching other other movement forms. After entering the training I became increasingly aware of just how much my previous experience of the method was already permeating my whole approach to teaching, no matter what the form. And I was surprised to discover that some of the things that were being presented in the training, but are largely absent from the method as usually presented to the public, were things that I was was very familiar with from other somatic studies that I’d made in relation to dance and had been teaching myself.
There are many forms that I have studied and teachers who I’ve studied with that in one way or another concern themselves explicitly with experiential anatomy and developmental movement. Basically, form and function. While the Feldenkrais Method is explicitly more concerned with function, on the training we also studied a lot of anatomy.
Experiential anatomy takes an embodied approach to anatomy. Through attending to our inner sensations, we develop the ability to perceive in increasing detail our own structure. Developmental movement concerns the ways we coordinate our many parts to work together as a single entity. In both areas, there is something to learn that is both general, in relation to our species, and personal, in relation to ourselves.
In both, practical first-hand knowledge is privileged. My experience is that the more I learn about myself, then the more I learn about others. Ultimately my ability to teach others depends on how much I know about myself. For example, I can only help someone sense their shoulder to the extent that I am able to sense my own. Just like I can only teach someone as much of a language as I can speak it – in my case I could teach you a lot about English, less about French and German, and not much about Finnish.
Form and function
Moshe Feldenkrais himself was reputed to be in conflict with the his contemporary Ida Rolf over whether, in trying to help someone improve how they move through life, it was better to intervene in their form, as Ida Rolf did in her form of physical manipulation called Structural Integration (or sometimes simply Rolfing or in their function as Feldenkrais was interested in doing. Indeed he named his individual sessions Functional Integration as a counter to Rolf.
Rolf argued that people are constricted by their forms and there was no point attempting to change their function if the form was left untouched. Alter the form and the function will follow. Feldenkrais argued to the contrary, that there is little point changing their form if their way of functioning was left untouched. Improve the function and the form will improve of itself.
Having experienced the Feldenkrais Method and Structural Integration, as well as many other somatic practices, I am interested in both. To me, the study of movement is inseparable from the study of our physical structure and how we arrived at those structures and abilities within an evolutionary framework. This then represents one of the major strands of my work. show less…