Better Self Care Through Learning How to “Know Thyself”
“I don’t know what you did to me but this is what I needed to release myself.”
“I feel very calm and relaxed now. But I also got upset thinking about all the people who told me nothing was wrong with my leg – because today I discovered how much unnecessary effort I was using there!”
When people come to me for Functional Integration (FI), the hands-on application of the Feldenkrais Method, I often hear the above statements.
Can you guess what they noticed about themselves?
The answer is simple. They noticed they were holding their thoughts, emotions or behaviors to overcome their difficulties. They realized how much extra effort they had been putting into their bodies. They were working hard to move even though they had pain during the movement.
Of course, some effort is often necessary when we want to accomplish what we desire, or when we are stuck due to the sense that we are not where we want to be in life. However, if we’re not aware of our feelings and don’t know what we need, this can lead to increased muscle tension, daytime fatigue, anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, or difficulty with concentration.
As Feldenkrais Practitioners, we help you discover yourself as a whole person. That means increasing awareness of your mind-body connection but not “fixing” or “correcting” a “problem” that you have.
This is how Moshe Feldenkrais defined what we do in his book The Elusive Obvious:
“Functional integration turns to the oldest elements of our sensory system—touch, the feeling of pull and pressure; the warmth of the hand, its caressing stroke.”
The FI session is a new form of “Me-Time” when you are too busy, when you don’t know what you need or when you really want to nourish your health. The session is not only about releasing your mind and body but also promoting self-knowledge so that you can improve your own well-being, health, happiness and performance and live with ease and comfort.
Throughout the FI session, you will experience learning to know 1) who you are, 2) what you want, and 3) what brings out the best in you. It’s an opportunity to ‘Know Thyself’ as the Ancient Greeks would say.
In an FI lesson we start by discussing what brings you here, and then we work in a holistic way to begin to reduce some of the unnecessary effort, or muscular holding, that may be contributing to the problems that you experience. You go through a process of getting to know yourself in new ways so you can begin to understand how you can help yourself to be more effective.
Here is an example of how an FI session can help you to ‘Know Thyself’.
A client came to see me because she felt weak and off balance throughout her daily activities due to an old foot injury. Previously nobody had been able to give her the help that she needed. Everyone she had seen told her that there was nothing wrong with her foot.
So I just listened to her by sensing her body through my touch.
I felt lots of “push” in my hands when I touched the foot she had a problem with. Toward the end of the session, I asked what she experienced from this session. She said, “I feel very calm and relaxed now. But I also got upset thinking about all the people who told me nothing was wrong with my leg – because today I discovered how much unnecessary effort I was using there!”
This discovery was profound for her. She was relieved to finally know that she had been correct to keep looking for solutions even though others had told her there was nothing more to be done. By increasing awareness of her mind and body together, she was able to uncover this unconscious effort, leading her to new feelings of inner calm, stability and resilience.
“Me-Time” Through FI Can Be Your Preventive Health Care
I recently invited two local Japanese newspaper editors in Seattle for FI sessions. Since I’m Japanese, they wanted to introduce my Feldenkrais work in their summer feature on Japanese health care. They had never heard of what I do so I wanted them to experience how I help people. When they came for their sessions, they both said they were living with chronic neck pain from their constant typing and reading as editors, and other than seeing a massage therapist, they never took care of it.
However, what would happen if they realized unconscious efforts they were using in other places than their neck muscles, such as eyes, hands, jaw, and/or back?
Their self care began by increasing their self-awareness because, despite knowing they had chronic neck pain, they had accepted this condition as “normal.” They were not actively looking for improvements other than relieving the tension through massage sessions. They didn’t notice how much extra effort they had been putting into their bodies, what their bodies wanted and what brings out the best in them – this is what I mean by “Know Thyself.”
One of them also mentioned that she was diagnosed with bruxism (teeth grinding) by her dentist a long time ago. She had been wearing a night guard on the dentist’s order for a decade, but, interestingly, never asked herself if it was helping until she had her session with me. She told me she had no health concerns other than bruxism and nothing was bothering her so this was why she had never taken any action.
So I asked if she had noticed any issues with her sleep. She said she slept well but always wanted to sleep longer after waking up.
In other words the quality of her sleep really wasn’t that good, and while she knew she always wanted more rest, somehow she never paid it enough attention to actually take better care of herself.
Throughout the session, she felt her jaw and eyes gradually releasing although she hadn’t previously realized they were tense. Toward the end, she noticed a change in the shape of her lower back and said, “I never knew that my back was able to contact the floor since it always had an arch whenever I lay down.”
She also noticed dramatic changes when she stood up. Her feet were more grounded, her posture was more upright and she was no longer looking down to the floor but out to the horizon. She was very surprised to realize how stressed her entire body had been without her noticing. She said, “So you removed all of my body’s unconscious efforts and helped me find who I really am so I can feel and move better, is that right?”
Yes, FI clients commonly experience these kinds of outcomes because the sessions support changes in muscle tone that are produced by unconscious efforts used in daily activities. They also often experience lightness in their bodies as the result of these changes that allow them to move and feel with ease and comfort.
A few days later, she told me that her jaw had become softer and she could now open her mouth more while brushing her teeth – although she hadn’t known that the range of opening her mouth was limited before. She was sleeping better and grinding her teeth less. She had learned how to take better care of herself through her “Me-Time” and continued exploring what brought out the best in her after the session. Through her experience, she concluded that FI sessions can work like preventive health care for hard working people.
Want to Improve Your Well-being Through “Me-Time”?
“Me-time” through Functional Integration is not just about spending time with yourself but also about being more present with yourself. This helps you learn how to take better care of yourself and take action in service of your well-being, health, happiness and higher performance.
Find your local Feldenkrais practitioner so that you can start practicing “Me-Time” with us. We can guide you to a new direction of learning how to care for yourself!
I’m a recent graduate of Jeff Haller’s Feldenkrais Training Academy in Seattle.
Every lesson is informed by 17 years of experience in my professional movement-based practice: orthopedic rehabilitation, neurological retraining, athletic training and in-depth study of the Feldenkrais Method® … along with my own “endless journey of curiosity”: experiencing and overcoming chronic pain, the stress of perfectionism and creative blocks as a vocal performer.
I’m currently offering FI sessions at my office in Bellevue, WA and online lessons in English and Japanese.
I will guide you with compassion, tenderness and presence.