A Fantastical Feldenkrais Workshop & Appointment Mania

Dear Audy,

Do you ever feel like your life is a never ending string of appointments? Practitioner after doctor after dentist, again and again as the weeks roll by. I feel like I have been in an appointment swirl for the past couple of weeks! I keep trying to remind myself that it’s all good, these appointments are good things and are steps that I need to take in my healing journey, however it’s hard not to want to curl up in a ball in the corner when it all starts to feel a bit too overwhelming. Hiya, Audy, sorry I haven’t been around much lately.

20100513 Girl on Beach by Robin UD
(click photo for source)

Sometimes it can be hard to remember to stop and take a few deep breaths.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I attended my first Feldenkrais workshop with Tahnee Woolf. You can check out her website and subscribe to her newsletter here. I cannot praise that day enough. The day long work shop that I attended was focused at relieving lower back pain and included several practical components, broken up with some education about chronic pain and the Feldenkrais method. Even though my body is super sensitive to just about everything, I was able to participate in all of the activities of the day, just as long as I kept my movements small and didn’t push myself into any sort of pain. Tahnee’s program included a lot of education regarding pain management that was both interesting and inspiring. Experiences that she was able to share from her own journey out of chronic pain helped me to believe that I, too, could make dramatic changes in my condition by committing fully to my recovery and not waiting for a magical doctor to save me.

Feldenkrais is rather difficult to explain, it gets its funny name from the person who developed the practice, Moshe Feldenkrais. Basically, it is a kind of brain retraining in which you use specific, gentle movements to help awaken natural ways of moving and being that make life easier. One of the most excellent things about Feldenkrais is that you can benefit from it even if you are unable to move at all, simply imagining the movements helps to trigger the reactions in your nervous system and your brain will remember and learn from what you are thinking. Your brain is pretty clever, it can learn movements without your body even carrying them out, just by you imagining how you would move, if moving didn’t hurt. Of course, you can’t expect your brain to go making any changes if you don’t give it the room to do so and have faith that your body knows how to heal itself.

Brain retraining of any kind is never easy. It requires you to open your mind to new knowledge and new experiences. It requires you to accept that things you have always known as ‘truths’ might just not be so. For example, we have often been told that ‘good’ posture to to be held upright, stomach tensed, shoulders back, head and jaw stiff and straight. Feldenkrais teaches your spine that it can actually just line up, one vertebra on top of the other and comfortably support your head and shoulders with no real need for effort from your muscles. They are free to relax and a relaxed body is a happy body. A lot of us are using our muscles to do what our skeleton can do with a fraction of the effort. So much of the pain that is felt by chronic pain sufferers is due to unnecessary muscle tension. The more of this we can let go, the better we will feel.

It is kind of frustrating that Feldenkrais is considered an ‘alternative’ therapy and is therefore not covered by any sort of insurance, or considered a first point of call for a person suffering chronic pain. Most medical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies and so all doctors know to do is try and solve pain using drugs. From my own experiences, I think a pain patient has to go through this maze of medicine and doctors for a while before they come to the realisation that they must be their own doctor. From the time we are born, in hospitals mostly, we trust that if we get sick, the doctor will fix us. The reality of chronic illness is hard to accept, firstly, that the doctor can’t make you better and secondly, that you do have the power to make your own life better. I have been suffering from CRPS for three and a half years and it’s taken all of that time and about a billion doctors and stories from other patients to get me to these realisations.

I am still in pain, but I am making progress and I am doing it without taking stronger medication. I am understanding why I flare when I do and so my pain feels less random and more controllable. I have found that guided meditation can be an amazing tool to get myself out of pain and let anxiety go. It takes practice, like anything else, but if you can find a body relaxation track that resonates well with you (you can listen to samples on iTunes) it can be a wonderful release. I have found that relaxing using a guided meditation track before working through a Feldenkrais audio track helps to get me in tune with my body and face my pain, rather than ignore it. Pain is a little bit like a bully, it gets less scary and seems quite a bit smaller when you are able to look it straight in the eye.

For now, I shall continue plugging along. I still have a few appointments filling up the next few weeks, I have to make a third trip to the dentist for a final filling (I had one today and it was much less painful than I had expected!) and get some blood tests done to check vitamin levels, amongst other things. I’m working with a Behavioural Neurotherapy Clinic that I have visited in the past to help promote the natural anti-inflammation response in my body using nutrition supplements and diet changes. Basically, I am trying to encourage my body to do naturally what pain killers attempt to make it do artificially. Along with the extras, I’ll be keeping up my regular doctor and one on one Feldenkrais appointments. I’m going to be a busy little bee for a while, but it’s all with the goal of getting myself healthy enough to be independent and hopefully, one day, pain free.

Love & Patient Progress,

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