Awareness Through Movement
Awareness Through Movement (ATM) classes are the form in which the Feldenkrais Method is taught to groups. ATM classes usually last about 40-60 minutes. The majority of classes take place with you lying down comfortably on a mat on the floor, often on your back, side or your belly although there are also classes you do sitting on the floor or on a chair, and in standing too.
Each ATM class presents you with a series of movements that fit together like a puzzle that informs a particular function (like walking, standing, sitting, reaching, etc). The movements that you explore in a particular class may sometimes be easy or sometimes more challenging. Whichever the case, movements are broken down into small manageable steps and you are guided through them without any pressure to succeed at anything in particular. In fact, it is not even necessary for you to get the movements right in order to benefit, since it is the process of you paying attention to yourself as you move that is the focus of ATM classes. It is by improving your ability to attend to yourself that can ultimately benefit you in every aspect of your life.
One characteristic of the method is that you are never told or shown how to do a movement correctly. My job as a teacher is to guide you verbally through the various steps that form a class, continually adapting the instructions so that everyone is brought along through the intended progression without anyone being singled out for praise or correction. Often, students will close their eyes to shut out the distractions of vision to better focus on their inner world of sensation.
Learning at your own pace
Many times you are presented with a few different choices as to how to put together the various ingredients for a particular movement. One of the strengths of the method is that you are encouraged to make the choices yourself, guided by your own inner sense of what feels most comfortable and easy.
Whatever movements you are exploring, you’ll be encouraged to work within the comfortable easy range with which you already move. By avoiding discomfort and strain, you’ll give yourself the freedom to listen to all the sensations that accompany your movement that are normally drowned out by being focused on achieving some outward goal.
There’s nothing special you need to wear or bring, just warm comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely. “Comfortable” so that you are free to give full attention to physical sensations you have as a result of the movements you’ll be exploring. And “warm”, since the movements are often small and slow, warm clothes and even a blanket can help since feeling cold will also prevent you giving full attention to yourself as you move.
Connecting to other forms
More and more these days I teach Feldenkrais ATM classes within the larger context of my Proto-technique and BodySchool workshops and courses. Many of my longer term students who have experienced my teaching of ATM both alone and within these other contexts enjoy more how I connect it to other forms. Indeed this is how it is presented in the Feldenkrais professional trainings. Of course what I do is no substitute for that, but some students have been inspired to go on and do a professional training after taking these workshops with me. You can read more about how and why I made the decision to work in this way in my MA thesis entitled Awareness Perception Presence : Teaching From A Body Of Knowledge