Saturday, May 5, 2007

Linking and Unlinking Mind and Body

Abby, Denise and I were leaving the gym together after class this week when Denise asked, “Is Feldenkrais good for relieving stress? There’s so much going on in my life right now, and I am waking up with my jaw clenched.” She demonstrated. “It’s so intense.”

Denise is new; this week’s class had been her third. Abby is an old-timer; she has been coming for several years.

I was just opening my mouth to respond, when Abby jumped in. “Let me say something, Maureen.”

Turning to Denise, Abby said, “I began several years ago with group classes, and at the same time I did a series of individual sessions. I got a lot out of them. I remember one session especially, when I came in and my arm was really bothering me.”

After a little pause, Abby turned to me and said, “Maureen, I think we know each other well enough by now that I can say this.” Looking again at Denise she said, “Maybe I was complaining, but that day Maureen was pretty short with me. She touched me in a couple places and said, ‘It’s because you’re tense all over.’ The way she said it … well, it stung. But that was probably good because it made me shoot back, ‘That’s because I am dealing with a lot of stress right now!’

Turning again to look at me, Abby said, “And then you said the most amazing thing, Maureen. You said, ‘Well, maybe your body doesn’t have to get all knotted up just because your mind and your emotions are upset.’

Abby continued: "That was the most amazing idea to me! I had always thought, not consciously of course, that if you’re upset, your shoulders just have to go up to here,” and she pulled her shoulders up and her head forward and made her face tense. It looked pretty bad! Then she let that go.

I said, “Yeah! Usually in Feldenkrais we’re working on connecting the mind to the body, but it’s also to good to learn how to disconnect them. The body doesn’t have to always get tense when the mind is upset. It could be that the mind is upset – that’s how it is – but the body stays relaxed.”

Abby responded, “I’ve thought about that a lot. It’s a big job! But I’m working on it, and it’s making a difference for me.”