Lodestones of Sensation: the Feldenkrais Method in the Yoga Classroom
Thursday, September 29, 2016
by: Sheri Cohen, GCFP

Section: Yoga




One of the governing principles shared by the Feldenkrais Method® and hatha yoga is the notion that our experiences in the movement classroom change our selves, and therefore change our life experiences outside the classroom. But how does this happen? Spontaneous eruptions of well-being? Urgent and self-conscious planning? Both of these?

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais elucidated a theory that experience is made up of four component parts—all interrelated and indivisible, but nonetheless describable—sensing, feeling, thinking, and acting. Action, he pronounced, is the only thing we have the power to change (Awareness Through Movement, 10-12) Sensing, feeling, and thinking, being largely organic processes located in the body and organized by unconscious p
rocesses, cannot be affected by our desire, want, or will. The only choice we have is to act.

This is what makes the movement classroom such a potent site. In it, we reenact our most unconscious habits, discover what was once buried, and alight new ways of doing. But what is to keep this process of transformation from staying in the classroom? In yoga, there is much talk about “taking your yoga off the mat.” More and more, yogis are practicing at home, at work, on the beach, and on the slopes. Wonderful efforts are being made in the direction of social justice and community involvement among yoga practitioners. But what is the process? What is the mechanism of change inside the individual that leads her from stretching her hamstrings to stretching her personal limitations at work, play, and home?


Dr. Feldenkrais points to something in his name for his group lessons: Awareness Through Movement® (ATM®). Emphasis on the awareness. During Awareness Through Movement lessons, students are constantly referring to their changing sensations. This happens moment by moment, while in movement, and during the rest periods. A Feldenkrais® teacher will guide the students’ attention to certain lodestones of sensation, perhaps the way the feet contact the floor, or the movements of the breath, or the perceived length of a limb. The teacher will refer back to these lodestones again and again in order to create reference points for each student to notice changes in himself over time. These lodestones are enormously important to the student’s ability to recognize and “metabolize” changes in his actions.

What if we “out” this internal mechanism of change? What if we don’t plan laboriously, nor leave it up to chance, but instead observe the way we are when we begin our movement class, and then the way we are at the end of our movement class, and ask ourselves, “What are the sensations I am experiencing now that I want to keep? What of this do I want to cultivate in myself later today? Later in the week? When I am walking into work / sitting at the dinner table with my family / warming up to play basketball? What is the bodily feeling that I am recognizing right now that I want to carry with me somehow—especially!—when I’m under stress or in some unfamiliar territory?

These bodily sensations are how we know ourselves. They are traces of ourselves in action. When we create lodestones for ourselves, we give ourselves greater opportunity to know ourselves well, allowing us to watch ourselves unfold with greater clarity.


Sheri Cohen is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm, dancer and yoga instructor in Seattle, WA. For more about Sheri, please go to
www.SheriCohenMovement.com.
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