By Darcia Dexter, GCFP CM
“Mom, I can see you!”
“Really? The eye doctor said you would only see out of your left eye if your right eye was covered up.”
“I know, but I can SEE you!”
“Okay, how many fingers am I holding up?”
“That’s a good guess, honey.”
“But you’re waving your hand…”
It was a Sunday morning in 1988. Mom was standing in the kitchen to my left and squeals of delight ensued as we realized that I could see out of both eyes simultaneously (binocular vision) versus the single-eye (monocular) vision that had been my destiny up until my first Feldenkrais experience the day before.
A few days earlier, my mom went to her first Functional Integration (FI) lesson after having picked up a flier for Feldenkrais individual lessons and classes at our women’s gym. She had chronic neck and shoulder pain from a couple of car accidents and also was always looking for different ways to help me with a chronic autoimmune condition. Thinking it would help us both, she booked individual appointments as well as classes. Being the mom, she would, of course, go first to make sure it was something that wouldn’t harm me. More importantly I was a very uptight child who had to know what was happening and didn’t like surprises so she wanted to be able to allay my fears. When she got back from her first FI, she couldn’t really describe what happened other than it was gentle and pleasant, most importantly a lot of her pain was gone. “I’m glad it helped, but I don’t have pain so I wonder how it’s going to help me…” is what my nineteen-year-old self told my mom. Little did I know…
My mom and I went together to the appointment down to a local beachside town . Mom waited in the living room while I went in with the practitioner for my lesson. We chatted a bit about why I was there (skin condition related to hair loss called alopecia) and then I laid down on her low table. She started moving my feet around and asked me if I’d broken or sprained my left ankle and I said no, dismissing her in my mind, thinking “why is she touching my feet when I’m here for hair loss”. She worked her way up my legs and it was somewhere around my pelvis and ribcage when I said, “I never sprained my ankle, but I was born with a 1/3 club foot inversion. My mom had to do exercises on my foot and I wore shoes that were neither right nor left.” This explanation seemed to satisfy the practitioner and she kept on moving me this way and that, finally reaching my head. At the end of the hour long lesson I sat up and had no idea what happened, but I felt really different. I remember thinking the sun was so bright as mom and I sat at lunch afterward, which I attributed to that first Feldenkrais lesson feeling. We went back after lunch for two Awareness Through Movement classes that included a handful of other people. I laid on the floor and tried to follow directions, in between wondering what this stuff was all about and looking around at the others to see if I was “doing it right.”
Next day I had a new eyesight, a change which would lead to many new insights and a lifelong journey down the Feldenkrais road. Mom and I went back for two more group lessons and shared the exciting news with the practitioner and others in class. In addition to the clubfoot at birth and just before my hair started falling out at age two, my eyes started to cross. I had two surgeries to correct the cosmetic look of the strabismus and wore thick coke-bottle bifocals until my teens when, as the doctor predicted, the hormones would help keep the eyes straight, but every eye checkup pre-Feldenkrais showed that I still only used one eye or the other, and mostly my right eye to move through life.
I was seeing out of both eyes for the first time that I could remember and as mom and I continued with weekly classes and a handful of individual lessons over the next few months, I began truly connecting the dots of my life. I had never been good at sports because I had poor depth perception so I was always picked last in physical education team activities. I preferred dance classes because I could feel and control my body moving in space without worrying about connecting a foot, bat, or racket to a ball. Using only one eye to read can make for very slow reading so I listened carefully and “cliff noted” my way through English classes.
This was only the beginning of the strain of a-ha moments. Over the next couple of years I would return to tennis lessons in college and be able to overcome the childhood challenges. I realized from being so right eye and right side dominant that turning to the left was so easy, so my tennis partner had to beware of my backhand!
After graduating college, I had my first (and last) desk job with a long Southern California commute resulting in neck and back pain. It had been some time since doing Feldenkrais lessons and I decided to try a different practitioner. In two FIs and six group classes all my pain was gone. It was the tipping point for deciding to join a Feldenkrais training six months later, but not without my mom!
Thirty-four years and thousands of lessons later the insights continue! My posture and personality were centered around the use of my right eye, from being checked for scoliosis multiple times (of course there’s a twist in your spine if you’re head is always turned to the left) and prior to Feldenkrais, being a person that always “had to be right” because I was only aware of my right side. I’m so grateful that my mom picked up a flier at our gym which led me down this path giving me a new way of seeing ourselves and how I am seen in the world.
Darcia Dexter is A Lifestyle and Movement Educator based in Orange County since 1996. She works with individuals, teaches weekly classes and designs Feldenkrais®-based wellness programs often integrating her additional certifications in Pilates, Bones For Life® and Neuro-Linguistics. Her website is www.darciadexter.com.