Figuring it out
Wednesday, July 1, 1998

Section: Healthy Aging

Dr. Feldenkrais talked about how learning isn't something we do, but is a biological necessity. The Feldenkrais Method® suggests that we can still apply learning to improve our physical abilities at any age. Too often people feel their aches and pains and limitations and yet haven't been taught that they still can feel differences in how they move, and that they have the power to change these movements to be more comfortable or to move beyond their limitations.

A Feldenkrais® practitioner's hope is that a student's whole being be engaged in a way that stimulates that need and love of learning. We see it in children when they have a new sensory experience. They immediately begin to explore and develop more experiences from the first one, thus expanding their abilities.

Feldenkrais practitioner Bonnie Kissam has had many joyful moments through the years, working with people over 60, 70, 80, and even 90 who love to learn. She recently worked with an 87 year old woman who, after the third lesson, announced that she "figured it out." The woman realized she had been walking around with her knees bent all the time and that if she straightened her knees as she walked, her walk and posture were better.

What is interesting is that Bonnie did not offer verbal suggestions to this idea. Their first lesson was about listening to differences in movement sensations as her client sat in a chair. After that Bonnie simply began to offer nonverbal, kinesthetic suggestions to how her ribs could move differently in relationship to her hips. Bonnie and her client also paid attention to her feet and ankles and their relationship to her knees and hips. Bonnie did talk and explain in sensory terms what she was doing, but never directly suggested that if she straightened her knees - she would have better posture.

"I loved watching this intelligent senior citizen take subtle sensory suggestions, think about them, and 'figure it out,'" explains Bonnie. "I immediately reinforced, nonverbally, this notion of how extending her knees will continue to extend her whole back. She is a great example of how being engaged in learning increases one's ability to improve."
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