Posture: A Week in the Life of a Feldenkrais Practitioner (10/9/2016)

Sunday: Riveted, I watched two presidential candidates take the stage. One, despite her shorter stature, stood tall with a lengthened spine and sure footsteps. She moved toward the questioner as she answered then pivoted to address the audience on the other side of the room. Throughout the ninety minutes of questions and answers, the only time she wasn’t seen moving easily around the room was when she leaned on the chair to wait her turn.

Moshe Feldenkrais was purported to say that when a person was aware of their five lines, that is the line of each leg and arm and the line of the spine, that person could stand in the face of anything with good posture. 

To be clear, good posture isn’t standing at attention or over-arching into a shoulders back position. Good posture is being able to stand poised, ready to move in any direction, at any time, and without a lot of effort. Tennis players have that ability. Dancers have it. Gymnasts too. 

Monday: The musician arrived for his fifth Feldenkrais lesson, drawn by an urge to play with greater spontaneity and expression. He took to the nuance with delight, smiling each time he found greater softness and flexibility in his hands and shoulders. But what really brought a smile to his face was the idea of using the bowl of the pelvis as an orientation to moving his body closer to and away from the keys or to the left or the right depending on the notes he played. Gradually, his shoulders worked less and his hands and arms floated along the keyboard. 

Wednesday: A store clerk learned about scanning the items and putting them in the bag. She made herself a list to hang on her register to remind her that when her arms ached and three hours of her shift remained she still had options. She could move from her pelvis and use her legs to support her pelvis. She noticed her knees were often locked and she repeatedly softened them, reaching for the next item by moving forward from her belly button. As she drew the item across the scanner, she felt the weight shift from her forward foot to her back foot and then she put the item in the bag. Fifteen minutes of working in this way was all it took. By relying more on her legs than on her arms, she noted that her arms no longer ached and the discomfort in her back had eased. The next thing she wanted was to be more comfortable in the car on the way home from work. 

Thursday: Comfort means something different for different people. For an eighty-two year old woman it means sitting at the computer reading or sending emails from friends and family and staying up on current events, with the newspaper at the dining table or a magazine in the chair by the window. It also means sleeping with her head elevated and a bolster under her knees. But all that sitting in a flexed position caused some problems and she experienced cramping in her legs. Her cramps became so severe sometimes she couldn’t walk. She took a suggestion and began lying on the couch on her belly for fifteen minutes per day. When our next session came, she delightedly reported she hadn’t had a leg cramp all week. 

Saturday: I slipped out of bed in the dark and dressed, sleepily padding to the kitchen for the first cup of green tea. I waited for the kettle to boil and rolled my shoulders, reached my arms toward the ceiling, lengthened each side of my torso, and then hugged my shoulders and turned to the left and right, warming up that mid-back part of my spine so often overlooked. Once I left the house, I reflected on my preparations for the half-marathon thus far and then returned my attention to the movements of walking. My joints warmed up and my movements smoothed and I leaned forward into each step in a kind of falling forward that required very little effort and improved my stride. I covered seven miles with ease before returning home to work in the garden.