I am in my 4th and final year of training to become a Feldenkrais Practitioner. Some have asked why I am taking this training. Here’s my answer:
It was May 2005. I struggled though half of my second Masters recital and got to the end of the Bach solo sonata and just couldn’t see the music anymore. For a moment, everything looked blurry and my body just couldn’t function normally. I think I just made up something and kept playing while I tried to get it together. I did finish the piece and the entire recital but it’s not a performance I want to revisit.
At the time, I was living and practicing with nerve pain and numbness in both arms. When performing, I battled dry mouth and blurry vision too. I seriously contemplated selling my flute and quitting my flute career. But it wasn’t due to the pain and the discomfort while playing the flute. I wanted to quit because I was frustrated that I couldn’t make music with my flute. My physical and mental limitations prevented me from expressing myself through this instrument.
Luckily, a friend suggested that I attend a week-long flute masterclass that summer, where the teachers also taught the Alexander Technique, Body Mapping, and the Feldenkrais Method®. It was my first exposure to such movement related education. That summer class saved my career. The Feldenkrais Method, in particular, completely changed the way I taught flute students and how I learned new music.
The Feldenkrais Method is all about curiosity, exploring possibilities, developing a better sense of discrimination, and absolutely no judgment. It’s the no judgment part that was so bewildering and empowering.
As I near the end of my 4 years of Feldenkrais practitioner training, I am still impressed by the non-judgmental approaches to teaching the Feldenkrais Method. Instead of evaluating or judging a client’s movements, a Feldenkrais Practitioner would observe the person and ask questions (to the client or quietly to themselves) instead of labeling a movement or posture as good, bad, wrong, or right. When I touch a client in a one-on-one Functional Integration® lesson, I am looking to make a connection with the other person and their nervous system. I do notice when ribs are not symmetric or one limb moves differently than another but I just gather that information in a spirit of curiosity. I am never thinking, “Oh my. This person’s right leg is really messed up and I need to make both legs move the same way!” My goal is never to “fix” anyone or make someone do something the “right” way. My goal is to explore the client’s current potential and possibilities and help them increase their potential. One cannot be an effective Feldenkrais practitioner if they are not able to set aside their judgment when teaching the method.
Over the last decade, I’ve been fighting my own judgment reflex in all aspects of my life. Even when I was taking a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® lesson, I would be disappointed to discover that my left shoulder didn’t have the same range of motion as my right. I would then try harder to make the left shoulder get as good as my right. This was a completely futile exercise, for trying harder prevents learning and there would be less improvement than if I kept an open mind. The best case scenario would be that my left shoulder would move better but my right would also improve so the differences were still there. It was only recently that I was able to start noticing my movements, thoughts, and emotions without judging myself.
In my musical life, I used to compare myself to others constantly. I would compare my technical ability or my overall career to my colleagues. I would also think snide thoughts when I hear a less than perfect performance. I relished schadenfreude. It is embarrassing to admit this to the world. Unfortunately, judging others means that when I made a mistake in performance, I knew others were judging me as I had judged them. One source of performance anxiety was knowing that others would be there to judge me as I judged them. It’s a never-ending cycle. Once I stopped judging others, I was able to stop judging myself. Once I started forgiving myself for wrong notes, I was able to forgive and forget others’. And vice versa.
I know that I will be working on being less judgmental for the rest of my life. I am grateful though that if I want to be an effective Feldenkrais practitioner, I have to practice observing without evaluation — at least within the context of teaching the Feldenkrais Method.
I'll be teaching a free Feldenkrais Workshop at the Center for New Music on Monday, August 19th!
This will be one of the few chances left to have a free Feldenkrais lesson with me!
Awareness Through Movement® Workshop: Improve Your Life
Flutist and Authorized Trainee Awareness Through Movement® Teacher Meerenai Shim will lead this 1-2 hour workshop for musicians. Please wear comfortable/loose/flexible clothing and bring an exercise mat.
The first hour of the workshop will include an introduction to the Feldenkrais Method® and an Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lesson. Using slow and gentle movement explorations we will get in tune with ourselves to rediscover our imagination and potential. Most people describe feeling more relaxed, grounded, centered, flexible, and alert after participating in an ATM class.
In the second hour of the workshop we will address any specific questions from participants. Possible topics may include repetitive stress injuries, sitting at a computer for long periods of time, ergonomics, and performance anxiety. If you have a particular issue or question, please email Meerenai ahead of time at email@example.com and bring your instrument or laptop if applicable.
Earlier in the day, I will have limited availability to give a few 45-minute long one-on-one Feldenkrais Functional Integration® lessons. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule a free lesson.
The following are service marks or certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America: Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Functional Integration®, Awareness Through Movement®, ATM®, and FI®.