Side Effects You Want
Thursday, April 1, 2004
by: Carolyn Garfinkel and Kate Jurgens

Section: Yoga

The Student Says:
As I wound my way up the highway from Los Angeles, I felt myself relaxing as I got closer and closer to Big Sur. The weather was clear and beautiful, a perfect warm California autumn afternoon. As I slowed down to negotiate one of the narrow hairpin turns, my car was struck head-on by a 60 foot semi. The truck was much too long for the tiny road, and had crossed over into my lane to avoid going over the cliff. At the time I didn’t agree with his choice.

After weeks of doctor’s visits, x-rays and pain relievers,I was determined to find a Feldenkrais® practitioner in my area to help with rehabilitation. I’d worked with a Feldenkrais practitioner several years previously on the recommendation of my mother who had seen one for chronic pain issues. The ATM lessons I’d taken had noticeably helped my lower back pain, so I wanted to give it a try now that my neck and back were in such bad shape from the accident. After several dead ends, I fortunately found Carolyn Garfinkel, and after several weeks of private lessons, I was getting some flexibility back in my neck and spine.

As I began feeling better, I returned cautiously to my yoga practice. I started to notice that the yoga classes I took in the afternoon after a Feldenkrais lesson were so much more enjoyable, and (western mindset!) productive.

I mentioned this to Carolyn, and we began to incorporate specific lessons into my work with her to address some of the yoga positions I’d always struggled with. Warrior One, Camel, and of course the dreaded Downward Dog were all asanas I had pretended to enjoy, but secretly hated. Now with my shoulder blades free to slide down my back, and the whole length of my spine able to move and curve, suddenly the asanas I’d detested had become something to look forward to!

So thanks to a car accident, I have a whole new yoga practice. You just never know…

—by Kate Juergens, Producer and Student

The Teacher Says:
I had been a yoga Practitioner for over 25 years when I began my Feldenkrais training program. While at training I would be away from home and my yoga practice for three to six weeks at a time. When I returned home, I found that I was able to perform my asanas at a higher level of expertise and with more ease and comfort. I was baffled at first. Why should my yoga get better by practicing the Feldenkrais Method? This improvement in my yoga continued during the four years of my Feldenkrais training and still occurs.

What I learned from Feldenkrais lessons was that I had other options for movement that I hadn’t realized. Instead of being locked in my same habitual yoga movement patterns that kept my yoga at a plateau, I learned that I had other ways to move my body. Instead of practicing what I already knew, the Feldenkrais Method taught me to explore other ways of movement besides my habitual movement patterns into which I had been locked. I learned to release chronic muscle contractions and use more of myself in new ways once I moved away from the familiar to what was more efficient and effective. My yoga practice is always better after a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson or after having received a Functional Integration lesson.

My experience as a yoga practitioner and yoga teacher has given me insights into how to help my students –many of whom say they feel stuck with certain poses in their yoga practices. In my Feldenkrais practice, I help students improve their yoga postures. To begin a lesson, I will have my student do a yoga pose that they want to improve and then I will give a Functional Integration lesson to the student. The student will then practice the same pose and is usually astonished at the difference.

Practicing the Feldenkrais Method has elevated my yoga practice and that of my clients to a higher level. We have learned to perform postures in comfort—not through muscular effort and we have experienced very satisfying feelings of achieving poses that were once thought to be impossible.

—by Carolyn Garfinkel, GCFT
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