Dancing the back

by Isabella Turino

There are several cues
that can reveal
a good posture.
If you hold your breath,
for instance,
it means that
your body position
is inadequate
and walking
and sitting can
become difficult…
In the Feldenkrais Method®
your back,
as part of the whole,
participates in a process.
Reconnecting Movement to Life.

If I go over my training as a teacher I realize that I devoted myself to studying human movement from an early age. I was a track athlete, I achieved a University Degree in Physical Education in Florence, I taught physical education in public high school. In 1984 I began to study the Feldenkrais Method®, at first in seminars and then attending a Training Program directed by Ruthy Alon.
It is gratifying to realize that even today this work continues to enrich me. I can say it has enlightened my life.
My interest is to find a way to bring people to feel their bodies through pleasure, through satisfaction and through wholeness in their normal everyday actions.
At the moment I am focusing on the ribs and thorax and their relationship with the spine and other body parts. How are the ribs perceived? How is one able to say: "Look, my ribs are moving, they exist, I enjoy feeling them, feeling my breathing flowing fully, deeply, totally"? Most people become aware of their ribs only when they, for example, feel a sharp intercostal pain, or bump into an object with a hard edge..
In our lessons (Group lessons in the Feldenkrais Method® are called Awareness through Movement®) we often involve the ribs with the movement of other body parts, but externally, i.e. from a perspective outside of the body. We sense how the ribs move, whether they are still, when they start moving, whether they rise toward the ceiling and

focus on other relationships too. I thought to reverse this concept - as we often do in our method - inviting the students to imagine their thoraxes from the inside, from their internal parts. Where do the dorsal vertebrae connect with the ribs? What are the many other relationships? What is the shape of the thorax? What are its walls like if we imagine them from the inside? What is there inside? What is the consistency of the lungs: is it a solid, a liquid, or a soft mass? We follow the air as it comes in (this is also possible while reading). Where does it go? What does it push? What is its colour? Is it fresh? What does it cause to move? What shifts when we inhale? Most people think that the air moves the ribs and the back when it comes in.
Well, let’s reverse this concept and observe what happens. In what sense do we reverse it? The contrary of coming in is going out. Now let the air out and feel how the thorax moves and where it does not move when the air is expelled. Next, exhale and utter a sound. Then utter the
note A, then the note C. Sense the vibrations between the ribs, the differencies in vibrations. The air is expelled with a sound and the ribs vibrate. Which ones vibrate more and which less? Where is the movement easier? Where is it more enjoyable?
I ran a workshop in Rovereto last December. By the end of the workshop, the sounds one could hear in the room were harmonious: high and low sounds, genuine sounds, touching sounds. The participants had an open, calm gait. Their shoulders were relaxed, their breasts large and peaceful, their backs elongated, their knees soft and their feet strong, their eyes bright. It was a real pleasure to see them. The most exciting aspect of Awarenesss through Movement® workshops is that the work develops around an initial idea of mine related to some neuro-motor function and it evolves according to the needs of the group. I feel I am working with them, breathing with them. I sense where there is freedom and where there is some difficulty. I adjust my directions.
I check if the directions are clear enough, e.g. whether the individuals perceive their backs. From their movements and their breathing I can understand a lot and get attuned.
Individual lessons in the Feldenkrais Method® are called Functional Integrations®. Each of these lessons, as well as group lessons and seminars, creates a continuing dialogue between teacher and student. In Functional Integration® communication and learning occur through touching, through the tactile sensory-motor pathways that are direct and suited to achieve substantial functional changes.
In some moments, when I am working, I feel a kind of waiting state within myself, a void that can be filled by what I receive from the person I am touching. There are moments when my listening to the other becomes deep and the search for gratifying movement oc- curs effortlessly. The more a person perceives to be guided, listened to and touched with respect, the more his/her joints acquire inner room and the more

About the Feldenkrais Method® ...
Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), PhD in Natural Sciences is the founder of the Awareness through Movement® school and of the Institute for the diffusion of his method of neuromotor learning in Tel Aviv which is now spread all over the world. Feldenkrais wanted to leave his name by the Method, although many of his pupils had asked him to change it because it was and is not so easy to explain what it is about. But Moshe did not want to confine it in too determined fields.
Through the Method one gets great improvements in motion, though it is not gymnastic. One achieves great motor recovery and good rehabilitation, especially in individual sessions called Functional Integration® - where the pupil is touched - but it is not medicine, nor physical therapy nor manipulation.
People acquire self-esteem and trust their own possibilities, they witness emotional changes in themselves, but it is not psychotherapy.
Through the Feldenkrais Method® you learn to know yourself better, you find new ways to carry out the habitual actions, you recognise needless efforts, you can develop your own human potential that is often little used. You learn to stand and breathe more easily, to feel better with yourself and the others. The Method can be located in the learning and self-education area.
Through enjoyable, comfortable movements, accomplished with curiosity, people find out other ways of moving, that is how to carry out the same action in different ways. A simple example: I wish to bring my arm upward. How can I do that using different modalities?. You can refresh patterns of movement that might be concealed, forgotten. You can get several ways to do the same action. The Method initiates a process that brings your brain to its highest functions: exploring, seeking, learning, creating. Feldenkrais starts by observing that movement and life dovetail, one cannot exist without the other. The Method of learning of Moshe Feldenkrais chooses movement and touching and deep listening, as the path to walk along to learn how to learn.
some musculature tends to abandon the excessive, unnecessary protection. Thus, even when some parts of the back are painful, it is possible through a process of satisfying movements to accomplish good function. In Functional Integration® it is provided the possibility to find a new and efficient way of moving. The more movements the person discovers to be able to do, without sensing any pain, the more he/she will recover the capacity itself of moving. The organism, as a whole, will find the well-being.