Elisa, A Process toward Freedom

by Isabella Turino

Elisa, a tall and graceful musician, entered and started to explain why she had come to me. "I play the viola in an orchestra. During rehearsals I have shoulder pain and I also feel a pang between my shoulder blades and spinal column. My breathing is incomplete. The back of my neck, from the nape down, is very tense. I would like to stop and rest but I can’t do it every time I want to".
I asked her what she thought I could do for her. She replied that she wanted to get rid of the tension and pain. I answered that I could try to help her find a way of moving that she would like more and that would allow her to do what she wanted more freely.
I am not directly the person who makes the pain go away, I believe pain is essentially one of the ways our body has
of getting us into contact with it. Elisa also told me that she worked out a lot at the gym and didn’t have problems when she moved with force and agility.
I looked at her as she spoke, putting her in and out of focus so I could discern the parts of her that moved and those that participated less. It was clear that her fingers, hands and eyes were extremely mobile; her breathing was fast and shallow.
It’s difficult to explain exactly what occurs during functional integration® but I would like to attempt to describe at least the approach. After looking at the overall movement of the person with a soft look and squinting eyes, I see the movement as a whole and in detail, as though they were a figure coming out of the fog that gradually becomes more
sharply defined.
Her walk was sure, her heels touched the floor entirely, but between her pelvis and rib cage there was something being lost, as though the transmission of the movement was not clear. Here is where I needed the help of my hands. I applied them softly to her calves and then to the fold behind her knees. I gently pushed the back side of my fingers forward to invite the knees to bend but they didn’t feel like doing it. Her legs were solid and strong like two columns, but the knee joints needed help to remember that they had the possibility of becoming a flexible spring.
I put my palm and light fingers under her shoulder blades only to feel if her breathing moved something in that area. I touched her ribs, laying my hands so that

they would receive the movement of her floating ribs. I kept my hands there while I asked her to look to the right then to the left, turning her body around the axis of the spine. I perceived that there was not much freedom between the back and the ribs. I looked at her and finally had an idea. I would help her become aware of what the movement of her breathing and ribs could bring to the back, the connection between the buoyancy of the knees and the position of the lumbar and pelvic area and how the freedom of the ribs was connected to this area.
So, without ever doing anything that she did not expect, the fine thread that joined us became an ongoing dialogue. As Ruthy Alon taught me and wrote in her book, I lent her my hands and level of awareness so she could broaden and organize her motor patterns. My hands would move and then stop to create connections when I felt it was necessary. Then I would remove my hands to allow her nervous system to assimilate the
changes that had taken place.
Ruthy Alon says that the Functional Integration® is like a light and graceful dance in perpetual attunement with another person.
Thus my hands continued to suggest movements, following the idea of the function I wished to awaken, as far as I could dare, by using the teachings of the great teacher, Feldenkrais, who said, "There are many ways to come home. But there is one that is the easiest and shortest when we need it. Our task is simply to help people find the quick way home. That’s how our body works".
After the third lesson the girl told me "Today I played the viola doing what I wanted. I finally played without my body being an impediment to me".
Our job is to bring to light, in every person, what they already have but do not know how to use. The process is irreversible and once it is put into motion, fortunately it keeps moving.

A back which is less subject to personal history
by Ruthy Alon

"The major change is in the lumbar region. People say that they no longer feel a fragmentation in the lower back; the pelvis is aligned in a more consistent continuation of the spine, suspended from the back, and in the buttocks there is a sensation of their full weight.[...]
At the emotional level it is like erasing from the back the expression of the lessons learned in dealing with survival, reminding a person once again how to be innocent. Now you stand less bent under the load of your personal history, with lessened traces of anxiety in the shoulder, lessened responsibility in the neck, less anger locked in the upper back[...] Now you can feel how your back can be relieved of the armour of struggle.
In this delicate comfort you have the feeling of starting a clean slate that will allow you to choose from the beginning what you would like to be. This beginning point can retrieve for you an early time, a time prior to your adoption of defensive strategies. For some people it is a feeling of tenderness accompanied by vulnerability; for others a feeling of serenity and inner truth.
Then when you begin to walk about your movements seems to sweep through your body in a wave that is more smooth and rounded than usual. The soles of the feet glide over the ground without sound. Some people clearly sense that now their walking is not being blocked sharply in the same spot of the waist."

by Ruthy Alon, Mindful spontaneity.