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Feldenkrais with Daniel Gelblum

The Feldenkrais method, named after its originator Dr Moshe Feldenkrais, is a scientific way of learning movement. Dr Feldenkrais developed over 1000 lessons, normally with 12 or more movements, mapping out all areas of voluntary movement in the body. Daniel Gelblum tells us about Feldenkrais, yoga, and how they can help alleviate impaired mobility.

I can’t stress enough how useful Feldenkrais is for Yoga teachers and practitioners. Let me tell you about myself and my special journey with Yoga.

My father Dr Tuvia Gelblum was a lecturer of Yoga philosophy and Sanskrit at SOAS University. He developed Parkinson’s disease, so I set about to explore what could help him. I learnt special massage techniques in India and in the UK including shiatsu. I also became a Yoga teacher as well as a practitioner of martial art styles from China and Russia.

My father also told me about classes he used to go to back in Israel in the 1950s with a man called Moshe Feldenkrais. He demonstrated some movements I was surprised he could do so well when frozen with Parkinson’s.

So, from Israel I got material on the method which I started to read up and practice with my father who benefited so much from it, more so than other techniques we had tried so far. I also began to use it with other clients with Parkinson’s, MS and impaired mobility.

One lesson I sometimes used is the following (do the most gentle possible movements for it to work, repeat each step several times and rest between steps,). Tip: think of any movement as energy.*

1) Sit up in a chair with feet flat on the floor, hands in your lap. Comfortably and as easily as possible, turn right without feeling any strain (make a mental note of how far you turn). Then turn left and also make a mental note of how far you turn. Tip: is one side different for the other in terms of flexibility and/or quality of movement?

2) Focus eyes on something straight ahead, keep eyes still, while turning head and your upper body right, sliding hands on legs (right hand slides down right leg and left hand slides up left leg while turning right). Tip: when resting between steps with eyes open or closed, try and observe any sensations as if meditating.

3) Keep head and eyes still focusing eyes ahead, while slowly turning shoulders and upper body right, sliding hands on legs as above. Tip: every time when repeating a movement, make it easier, gentler with less effort — a bit like tai chi.

4) Turn whole body right noticing how it’s becoming easier. Feel movement going though bones and left knee moving forwards whole turning. Tip: also feel how you return paying good attention to the process of the movement.

5) Just slide left knee forwards and right knee back, repeating gently and follow mini twist up through body.

6) Turn whole body right, feeling knees, legs, ribs, shoulders and the whole of yourself including your attention turning with you and returning. Tip: notice how the movement of the left knee helps you turn.

7) Repeat all steps on the other side.

8) Alternate going right and left.

9) Alternate turning right and left whole fixing eyes and head looking ahead.

10) Alternate turning as above but turn head and eyes in opposite direction. Tip: try to feel what twists with the head and what twists with the rest of the body.

11) Alternate turning leg and right and how does it compare to the beginning? If one side seemed more flexible before, does it feel different? Twisting is really important for improving how we walk and reach, use our arms and legs, our alignment and even breathe — this lesson amongst others helped so many people who were extremely stiff.

I also found I could use elements of Feldenkrais to improve my massage techniques. I learnt that with my increasing awareness of bones and how force travels through them with Feldenkrais lessons, I could give a much deeper deep tissue massage which was both more effective and so much more pleasant to me and my clients e.g. Instead of pressing harder into a shoulder to undo muscle tension, I could gently lean into the sole of a foot and follow the transmission of force softly through the leg, the hip, pelvis, vertebrae into the ribs and someone’s shoulder and work my way through diffe-ent parts of the shoulder blade or joint, gently using the clients bones to extremely effectively go through the most stubborn tense shoulders and not only reduce muscle tension and stiffness, but improve how the shoulder works. I also noticed how Feldenkrais practice took daily Yoga to amazing new levels of awareness of myself and my body.

I found I could do postures that were normally difficult with extreme ease as if something woke up in me, whether it was Yoga enlightenment or higher/deeper levels of consciousness developing or just removing the rust in my joints in a practical way.

From here the fun began — I started to introduce some of the techniques into my Yoga classes and was surprised to see how my students shared similar experiences to me and were suddenly more able not just in achieving Yoga postures, but overall improvements of better organisation, posture, mobility, flexibility, coordination and overall well being.

As a result of introducing Feldenkrais method to my classes, yoga students reported great improvements in other Yoga classes they attended, dance classes, martial arts classes, running, swimming, climbing, coping with stress, improved sleep and the list goes on.

More and more yoga teachers began attending my classes and told me how they were “stealing” my moves for other classes. I was and still am just so happy to spread something so wonderfully beneficial.

As I trained in the Feldenkrais method, I went onto do advanced training and made further self-discoveries in the infinite ways Feldenkrais can be a perfect accompaniment to Yoga and more.

The Feldenkrais method, named after its originator Dr Moshe Feldenkrais, is a scientific way of learning movement. He developed over 1000 lessons normally with 12 or more movements, mapping out all areas of voluntary movement in the body.

With yoga we can sometimes work our way deep into postures, discovering how far we can go. Sometimes we use great skills in stretching and muscle control to align ourselves. In Feldenkrais we take advantage of the body’s amazing abilities to improve itself through gentle often meditative movements, allowing the brain to detect, reduce and sometimes remove unnecessary, counterproductive, muscular effort in your the body. Meaning that we can discover gentle movements that can take us into asanas with much less effort and this also gives us more possibilities within the asana.

All yoga postures can be improved with the Feldenkrais method — some very dramatically. It’s common for me to hear students (new students and very very experienced yogis) comment on how they’ve never been able to do a certain asana until doing a class or workshop with me, or feel how they can go further into asanas and with much more ease and pleasure.

With all my classes and workshops I want to really share how this method of how I have married Yoga/Feldenkrais and my other experiences is really truly amazing and highly recommended so many people — as I edit this during a yoga holiday in lovely Sardinia, lots of people have come as this method has been recommended by others who have been to my classes, workshops or yoga holidays.

My father even commented once that Feldenkrais is more Yoga than Yoga. This I leave for my students to decide as I just like the lessons to do the talking.

Daniel teaches at both our centres, his new class starts at Islington next Wednesday 11.00–12.30. His classes are well attended and popular.

View Daniel’s teaching schedule.

Read more about Feldenkrais.