Blog and Free Lessons

29th June 2022

Movement on the airwaves – yours truly live on air

Live on Frome FM!

With July very nearly upon us, I’m excited to say that I’m restarting my Frome FM shows on Friday 1st July at 9am.   This time round, however, it will be live, which adds an extra frisson of excitement for me.  I will have to hold back my inclination to go off on tangents and start cracking jokes – feedback very welcome!  And of course, if you don’t want to listen on Friday morning you can catch up online.

The focus of the hour will be how to comfortably – and with as little effort as possible – come from lying down to sitting up.  It’s a kind of a prologue to my workshop on the 23rd JulyThe Ground is Your Friend which will explore standing up from the ground, and getting down again (and sitting in between).  There are still places for the workshop, so do join us if you can.

The lesson on Frome FM – and the workshop – go to the heart of what the Feldenkrais Method is all about, and how it works. 

You may think that moving from lying to sitting is not a particularly difficult movement, and one which can be readily achieved.  But can you do it comfortably, and can you make best use of gravity and your skeleton, nervous system and musculature?

In fact, if you experience lower back pain, or are prone to a stiff neck, or have a dodgy knee (to name at random a few common afflictions), you may find that this apparently simple movement is not so easy to do comfortably, with the minimum of effort.  Indeed some of us may attest to how difficult it can become, as injury or age catches up with us.

One of the things I love about this lesson is how we have a chance to explore movement throughout the whole skeleton – head, pelvis, spine, limbs – and enhance the co-ordination required with the nervous system and musculature.

Dusting off the cobwebs

Indeed there was a time, in the early months of your life, that this particular endeavour was central to your aims in life.  Not content in merely being an infant lying on your back, you worked out little by little how you could sit up and begin to explore the world and experience your environment from a whole new vantage point – seated.  Then, as you experimented further, you crawled – maybe – and after hundreds of little stages, finally made it up to standing.  

It also gives us an insight into how the Feldenkrais Method helps us to improve our movements and general function in life.  In drawing attention to specific bits of us, we can begin to rewire the nervous system.  Gentle movements then amplify this phenomenon, so that between them – attention and movement – we can begin to sculpt the architecture of the brain and nervous system beyond. 

As babies, and as infants, we learnt to expand our movement repertoire through exploring and testing what is and isn’t possible.  Many of these movements – rolling, twisting, lengthening, crawling to name but a few – are replicated in Feldenkrais lessons.  As we grow older, our movement repertoire can often shrink.  We stop rolling around on the floor, and get chained to chairs, desks and other aspects of life which keep us stiller than we might want to be.

If at some point later in life, we find ourselves unable to sit down comfortably on the ground again, we can draw on our lived expertise from when we were much younger and were able to do these things easily.  By returning to developmental-type movements, we can re-find movement patterns which felt lost, and regain abilities which had been buried under the demands of adult life.  

The software in the system has not disappeared, it just needs a bit of a re-boot.

So do come and join me on Friday morning, and see if you can find pleasure again in trying to come up to sit.

Feldenkrais Frome Facebook Page

In other news…Jackie Adkins and I are developing our Feldenkrais Frome facebook page a bit more.  Jackie is also a Frome practitioner, and we are initially exploring how to communicate the benefits of the method through pictures – do take a look.

1st June 2022

Almost got to the horizon

June is here and the sun seems to be making a return: here’s to long days, blue skies, and clear views.  I am going to  base my next 6 weeks’ of classes, which begin on Monday (6th June), on exploring how we relate to the horizon. 

I noticed a while back that when I was running, and sometimes walking, I often looked at the ground a little way in front of me, rather than towards a notional horizon.  It surprised me that it wasn’t more natural just to look at what you’d expect to be, for want of a better expression, ‘straight ahead.’

Feldenkrais is very much not about doing the correct thing, imposed from the outside, in relation to the horizon or anything else.  The key idea is that we have options that are available to us, both in movement and in other areas of life, and that we respond appropriately to any given environment in any given moment.  So there are definitely many circumstances where looking under or above the horizon is just fine.

Yet…one of the genius parts of the human design is the ability to rotate in our upright position through 270 degrees, presumably stemming from our ancestral need to be able to scan the savannah for prey and predators.  This ability to comfortably rotate, particularly the head, can quickly become compromised by rounding or extending ourselves too much or too little.

It’s amazing when you hit the sweet spot in terms of uprightness, so to speak, how easy it is to turn.  And how readily, perhaps, we are willing to relinquish this ability by not being very aware of where our horizon is.  It’s an exploration that touches on much of the skeleton – there are many ways we can adjust our orientation to ‘straight ahead’ from the feet all the way to the top of the spine.

Try this lesson, from my Frome FM series, to explore this theme.

16th May 2022

A purposeful stride into the unknown

What do you want to learn to do this summer?

Hi there – how are things as summer gathers pace? It’s lovely here in Frome to hear the birdsong from my bedroom window, and see all the greenery outside (though I can barely see the nearby hills for the mist and cloud today).

I mentioned back in November that I’d started open-water swimming in a nearby quarry lake.  As the temperatures begin to rise fast now (it’s back up to 15 degrees, after a low of 6.5 degrees in March), I can really begin to work on improving my breathing and stroke without worrying about getting too cold.  

There can be few more rewarding things than learning something new.  I’ve always had a sense (though not that well defined) that I’d wanted to swim long distances comfortably.  And now it’s really very pleasurable to see myself beginning to do that.

Then yesterday, in an indoor pool with my daughter, I managed to do a roly-poly for the first time (as far as I can remember).  I’ve always hated inverting myself in water (partly because of being trapped in a canoe underwater as a child), but also because it was so uncomfortable for my nose.  I had discovered from my new swimming teacher that if you hum, air has to come out of your nose.   Lo and behold – if I hum underwater, even when I’m upside down, water doesn’t go up my nose.

It’s the little things we learn, that have hitherto eluded us, that can be so satisfying!
 

What on earth does this have to do with Feldenkrais? 

Obviously, it can be very helpful in any physical activities – a more refined sense of ourselves in movement will certainly lead to more comfortable and quicker learning.

But more than that, the core of the method is being able to learn to do new things in a general sense:  to be able to control our actions, to not be beholden to unhelpful habits.

As one of Feldenkrais’s first students said the method should be called ‘Yes, you can!’  In finding new options in movement by doing this work, this spills over into other aspects of our life, and helps us address life’s wider challenges.  For more on this, take a look at a longer piece I have written on this subject on my website.

What do you want to learn this summer?  What do you want to be able to do that you haven’t been able to do before, or for a while?

Do get in touch – it would be lovely to hear from you.  My weekly classes continue on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (one week off for half term, w/b 30th May).

I’m also running a day-long workshop on the weekend of 23/24 July 2022. I’ll confirm details in a week or so.  We will be focusing on that lifelong endeavour of getting up and down from the ground in a comfortable and effortless way.  It’s very likely you nailed it when you were a child.  Why is it so much more difficult now?

In the meantime, have a go at this lesson from my Frome FM series.  Remember the golden rule: never do anything that’s uncomfortable – do it slower, or smaller if that keeps you out of pain.  And you can even imagine any movements if you like.

Till the next time, Ed.

17th March 2022

Feldenkrais the man – an inspiration for change

much more than just a thoughtful face – very much a man of action too

Moshe Feldenkrais was a remarkable man.  Born at the beginning of the 20th Century, his long and fascinating life is instructive on what his method aims to achieve. He travelled extensively from an early age.   He carried out a wide variety of different work from teacher to labourer to scientist to writer (acting was next on the list.)  And he integrated this enormous variety of experience and knowledge to develop his life’s work.

He grew up in what is now the Ukraine, part of the extensive Jewish community which then existed, in the time leading up to the First World War.  Feldenkrais was not a religious man, but his upbringing in a culture steeped in Hasidic Judaism had a profound influence on his life… Click here to read whole article 

14th February 2022

How are your hip joints?

buds of possibility

We’re getting there…spring can’t be too far around the corner now! 

It’s a nice time to start getting more active again, perhaps in the garden, or dusting down those running shoes or hiking boots.  So, I thought to take a closer look at our hip joints, which are central to these kinds of activities.

The idea of ‘self-image’ is key to Feldenkrais.  The hip joints (where the heads of the femur meet the pelvis) are key to many, many actions.  But, they can be difficult to locate.

If your image of where your hip joint is located is very different to reality, this can begin to get you into trouble. Where do you sense your hips joints in this month’s lesson?  Are they close to the groin, or perhaps buried in the buttocks? And does noticing this affect your walking? Here’s a few more pointers on how to look after yourself during these lessons.

18th January 2022

Finding your feet and a remarkable 66 joints

It’s not just a baby’s feet which are worth admiring

How is the new year treating you?  I can’t resist the temptation of asking if you’ve found your feet yet…Weak puns aside, it’s worth spending a moment to marvel at our feet.  They have quite a job to do.

Densely packed with sensory and motor neurons, they receive lots of sensory input and make tiny adjustments much of the time to enable us to balance, stand and walk.  

Each foot has 33 joints.  There is potential for a wide variety of movement, and opportunity to optimise their function – not least because shoes can have the effect of discouraging their versatility. 

Try this month’s lesson, on your front, to explore some of that variety.   If you’re not used to being on your front, take it easy; and only stay prone for short periods. Here’s a few more pointers on how to look after yourself during these lessons.

16th December 2021

How easy is it for you to rest?

Even St. Nick needs to rest (from time to time) at this time of year
Christmas is coming!  Much as we may look forward to doing less, it’s not always so straightforward to wind down.  Giving yourself a chance to catch up and recuperate is so important, but it’s a skill which is often under-rated.

Rests are key in Feldenkrais.  During group lessons these are frequent and short.  It’s an integral part of not straining: knowing when a break will enhance what you’re doing, and then resting. Yet so often in our busy lives, we’re expected to do more, more and yet more – and many of us have internalised these expectations.

Try this breathing lesson, from my Frome FM series.  It should help you to genuinely relax, and put all those things you feel you should be doing into perspective.  Take it easy, don’t do anything uncomfortable; if needs be take it slower, smaller, or even imagine the movements.

I’m now on holiday until week of 10th January, and classes and lessons will restart then. Very happy festivities, and rest well!

17th November 2021

How much of yourself do you make use of?

surprisingly enjoyable even at 13 degress Celsius

A new post…and a new resolution from me to post more often!  Every month is the plan, so hold me to that if you don’t get anything for several weeks.

It’s been a while since the last one, April in fact.  Time flies, and reading it over again it reminds me how recently we were locked down and yet how distant that all feels now.  Let’s hope it stays that way.  

I’m getting quite a kick from open-water swimming at the moment, in Vobster, a beautiful quarry lake near Frome.  The water temperature is now 13 degrees, but still comfortable to have a 40 minute swim.  I’ve loved exploring the use of myself from the tips of my toes to the tips of my fingers.  My ribs are particularly enjoying going to places they haven’t been to in a while, if ever. 

So…my focus in class till Christmas is ‘using the whole self’: how can we bring more, often much more, of ourselves into our movements?  It can be very helpful, and freeing, to not rely on the same old bones, muscles and bits of our nervous system, to carry out our actions.

The classes are taking place in Frome, Somerset, on Monday and Tuesday mornings at 9.30am.  The space is relatively small, so there is plenty of opportunity for me to give you individual attention.  I’m also continuing my Friday morning zoom classes, now at 8.30am UK time.  

To get you into the mood, try this lesson, called ‘hooking the big toe’.  It’s from my Frome FM series.  Take it really easy…and you definitely don’t have to straighten the leg.

21 April 2021

Eyes, Jaw and Tongue – how do they affect the rest of you?

That’s quite some sensory input those eyes take in

I was lucky enough to get away to North Norfolk last weekend and found myself on an empty beach early one morning.  I was running into the sun, which was still very low and bright, and closed my eyes for a few moments.  Due to the emptiness and the flatness of the sand, I was able to keep them closed for some time.
 
What a wonderful sensory experience!  After a while it almost felt like I wasn’t moving at all, feeling a bit like running on a treadmill.  The loss of the visual cues really seemed to change the way I ran.
 
Feldenkrais is a systems-based method.  You have pain in your shoulder, say.  We don’t try to fix the shoulder, but help students to learn how to better co-ordinate the different parts of themselves – including the musculature, the skeleton and the nervous system – to alleviate the pain.  So, changing how you receive sensory input, much of which we receive through organs of the head, can have a big impact on your whole system, the musculature and skeleton.
 
For the next few weeks, in my online classes, we’ll be exploring how use of the eyes, jaw and other teleceptors in the head change the way we use ourselves.  Do come and join us on Fridays, from 23rd April, 10am (UK time.) 
 
And in the meantime, why not try this jaw lesson at home, and notice how interconnected even the unlikeliest bits of us can be.  

8th March 2021

Why is back pain so common?

What a remarkable thing the spine is

Many of us experience back pain from time to time.  It was one of the reasons I started with Feldenkrais.  Somehow, my six and a half foot frame couldn’t cope with sitting at a desk.  It took me a while to get to know my spine well enough to sort these issues out.

The strength of muscles is important.  But it is not the only thing that matters.  

To optimise movement and alleviate pain, it’s important to learn how to release as well as contract muscles.  If you habitually contract along your front and your back at the same time, it can become a painful tug-of-war between your own muscles.  Or, if in looking at a screen for a long period, your head can drift forwards and lose support from lower down the spine.

Try this month’s lesson to explore the use of your spine, and how the different parts of it help one another.  Do look after yourself in these lessons, here’s a few pointers.

1st February 2021

Learning how to learn

Note taking is all very well…but that’s not all there is to learning

Like many, our kids’ classroom is at home at the moment with lockdown- yikes!  I get frustrated with the overriding importance given to studying for exams.  To my eyes they so often seem an unnecessary hoop to jump through, which obscures what children could learn about themselves and the world to thrive in life.

And while Moshe Feldenkrais was an extraordinary learner in the traditional sense, surrounded by books, he also placed huge importance on organic learning.  So here goes, an article on this subject.

Learning to Learn – the Core of the Feldenkrais Method

The Feldenkrais method is not straightforward to describe.  Relief of pain is a common feature, but Feldenkrais the man was clear that his approach was not a treatment, and that he was not a healer.  Movement is central, but movement is not the end in itself…Read the whole article

11th January 2021

Heavy legs, light torso

The legs are only half the story

Another year, another lockdown…aaaaarrgh! I do hope you are managing to navigate it alright.   

I have found myself running again, and walking a lot with the dog with so many restrictions in place.  It’s a great release but I’m finding my feet, knees and ankles need a bit of a reminder of how to work effectively.

It’s helpful to think not just of our legs but the rest of ourselves.  Thinking of heavy legs and a light torso is one way to do this when we walk or run.  Weight and strength in the legs enables the pelvis and ribs to move more easily, and the head to find greater freedom.  

Try this 15 minute lesson – do you notice a better connection across yourself at the end?

3rd December 2020

Good health!

Staying healthy to a ripe old age

The news of vaccines will cheer many of us – but health is a complex concept, a lot more nuanced than an absence of illness.

Moshe Feldenkrais felt a healthy person was one who followed their unavowed dreams fully. (‘Unavowed’ in the sense of those dreams we have not yet owned up to, or promised ourselves yet.)  He also argued that good health was about the ability to recover from shocks.  Both of these ideas give agency to us as individuals, and the Feldenkrais method opens up new options for change.  

Try this month’s lesson: do your shoulders have more possibilities to move by the end?   

24th June 2020

Do you let your limbs do too much of the work?

How far from ‘you’ are your hands?

Our hands and feet can be quite distant from our centre, and it’s possible to think of them as separate to ourselves.  We might think of ‘my hand’ or ‘my toes’, say, rather than ‘me’: a subtle but significant difference.

We can run into difficulties if we allow our limbs to be used without harnessing the power of much of the skeleton.  Try this month’s lesson, and notice how a small movement of the hands can change the whole torso.  

It’s important to look after yourself while doing Feldenkrais lessons – please listen to this short audio to find out how. 20th April 2020

Finding Home

How are you at the moment, between your four walls?

How life has changed these last four weeks!  Lockdown has altered my relationship with home.  It’s been quite a rollercoaster for me, but all in all I seem to have found a way to belong between these four walls.  Necessity being the mother of invention etc.

Try this month’s lesson.  In rounding along the spine do you have a more restful, comforting sense of yourself? In opening up again, extending the spine, do you sense a greater readiness to face the world? And speaking metaphorically,  where along the continuum of rounding and then straightening feels more like home at the moment?

And of course I wish you and your loved ones all the very best at this time.

11th March 2020

Releasing (and harnessing) stress

Looking chilled now, but adrenaline will be needed again soon enough

Everybody knows stress is bad for you – almost a leitmotiv of our times. But it is necessary, in a physiological sense, and can be beneficial.    In the short term, adrenaline improves memory, cognition and mobilises energy. It’s the shifting between an aroused and more resting state which is the tricky bit.  

Try this month’s lesson – how does flexing and extending relate to these two different states?

Feldenkrais often makes people more relaxed, but this is only the start – the place where your organism is safe enough to make longer term changes.  The end game is actualizing intentions, by bringing a greater awareness to what we do.

13th January 2020

Is sitting driving you crazy?

The floor has much to tell us about sitting comfortably

We sit a lot – and sometimes it’s not comfortable.   It can feel like there’s nothing we can do about it  (stuck at the wheel of a car, say, or fixed to a screen, desperate to get work finished.)

Feldenkrais is all about finding options in movement (and also in a wider sense in life), and not being stuck. 

Try this month’s lesson. You don’t have to unbend the leg any more than is completely comfortable (imagine the movement if you prefer not to straighten at all.) What does it tell you about how your hip joints – together with your legs, spine, ribs and head – can make your sitting more comfy?

28th November 2019

How to avoid a pain in the neck

the neck is part of the whole skeleton, not just a discrete unit

Our skeleton is designed to keep the head free, the hunter-gatherer in us able to locate opportunities and dangers. Yet it’s easy to overwork the small muscles of the neck, and find it stiff.

While the neck is a discrete area, it’s very much part of a larger whole.  The spine is designed to work best in concert throughout its length. It then needs to co-ordinate with the limbs and head to optimise movement.

In our eagerness to compartmentalize ourselves, the neck gets isolated and we ask it to do more heavy-lifting (in the literal and metaphorical sense) than it should.  Try this month’s lesson to see how the length of the skeleton can do wonders for the neck.

25th October 2019

Open the chest……

…..are there any treasures inside?

Many of us do it: rounding the upper spine and shoulders, closing the chest a little too much and too often.   Laptops, smartphones and modern life have much to answer for.  

A more open chest can feel very different – a sense of greater power, ease of breathing, better support and turning of the head, and a more resonant voice.

See what difference this month’s lesson can make.

The power of gentle movements is remarkable – that is the Feldenkrais way.   It doesn’t have to be forceful, you don’t have to stand like a sergeant major, or take it any further than is completely comfortable.  

16th June 2019

Release the jaw…and release tension across your whole self

Why might you want to lie down, and move your jaw around a bit? Try this lesson to find out.

Now that’s impressive flexibility in the jaw….

It makes up a significant proportion of our head bone, and enables (among other things) the nifty circular motion of chewing.

Different parts of the body relate through the nervous system.  The jaw (or say, hands or face) can be places we particularly hold tension.  Such areas are key in infant movements, and are therefore wired deeply into and heavily influence our nervous system.  By releasing one of these areas you can release tension throughout your musculature.