Body Song


If your voice is your instrument, your whole self is your orchestra. If each part plays in tune, listening and responding, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole….Nothing new here but the fact that Feldenkrais is not exercise, but a learning process, suggests another harmony to play.

SOUNDING OUT

The vessel of my voice
Reverberates with the knocks of life,
Leaving internal marks
Long forgotten by the conscious mind
And yet their impact lies dormant,
Interweaved in the fabric of my being.
I repeat these patterns,
stuck in my habits,
Until I come to my senses,
Move,
Connect,
unlock,
release
And my entire self is sound

Using the Feldenkrais Method with Voice

When Moshe Feldenkrais was told that there was a 50:50 chance of ending up in a wheelchair, following surgery for an injured knee, which was unacceptable to him! (this was in the 1940’s) With his background as an engineer, nuclear physicist and martial arts expert, he began researching the human sciences and movement disciplines in order to discover how to help himself. This grew into his Method which began as a one on one, hands-on approach ( Functional Integration/ FI) where he gave individuals the experience of movements they could not generate themselves. He developed this into verbally guided lessons for group classes ( Awareness Through Movement/ ATM), as he wanted to reach a greater number of people. He researched for over 20 years, assembling a vast repertoire of movements and developing his ideas. (he never did need that operation)

The key to his work lies in the names he adopted to describe his lessons. He was a pioneer of mind-body education and encouraged the integration of the whole system, including thinking, feeling, moving. He recognised the importance of movement in how we come to know ourselves and with an extraordinary sensitivity and understanding of human complexity, guided individuals to re-connect. He talked about evoking the intelligence of a self-organising system rather than teaching.

The importance of the attitude and kinaesthetic attention, expanding into a wider sense of self in awareness, is inherent to the process. An enhanced self-image arises from these discoveries.

Ahead of his time in terms of understanding the plasticity of the brain, his beliefs are now being upheld by neuroscience. New system theories are being presented, such as Co-ordination Dynamics, which present ideas voiced by Feldenkrais.

Applications to Voice ( Lifelong reflection on mind, body and song)

If your voice is your instrument, your whole self is your orchestra. If each part plays in tune, listening and responding, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole….Nothing new here but the fact that Feldenkrais is not exercise, but a learning process, suggests another harmony to play.

Feldenkrais has a number of lessons which focus on breathing, the jaw, the mouth and pharynx and yet it is never his intention for us to isolate these structures from function. Once we accept that we are a functional unity, all lessons are valuable in helping to make connections, to release un-necessary tensions and effort, to allow us to fully inhabit ourselves, and to gain embodied wisdom.

It makes sense to me that to gain mastery in voice, we need our perceptions to be highly sensitive, and every lesson enhances this skill.

The Mindful approach creates a space from which you can accept, respect, nurture self, growing in maturity. Feedback is highlighted and this practice pays attention to how we begin and proceed with an action…in this case in producing sound.

Because the method invites exploration and no set rules of right and wrong, each individual develops their own references and the trust of knowing self. Whilst we all benefit from external feedback, relying on and truly hearing our inner voice for validation and guidance is a valuable resource too.

The improved image and understanding of the skeleton as a support, releases muscles to work as intended…. indeed poor “posture”..(Feldenkrais did not approve of this term) could be described as muscles doing the job of bones. We become truly grounded. This frees up energy.

Every lesson is an opportunity to re-fresh your view, to realise our ever-changing starting point, and the potential to change.

Principles

Awareness: be in the here and now and Present. This is a powerful tool for each of us to reach our highest potential. We need a contemplative mind to achieve compassionate action.

Stay with an Open mind and gentle attitude: be curious and playful…life is about discovering the right questions rather than finding the right answers. Once we fix the goal(s), and focus on it alone we lost sight of the learnings and possibilities along the way. Judgements and criticism shut us down.

Adopt a non-dualistic approach: Embrace all rather than seek right from wrong. Each person is an individual with their own personal history and needs and changing circumstances may require a flexibility of approach. Discover what works for you.

Organic Learning is not imitation and requires each individual to respect and honour their own experience, and to have fun. No model is given in group classes.

Slow and small : at least to start. Tune into subtlety and as you become more sensitive, your brain turns every new sensation into useful information.

Reduce Effort: work within your comfort zone…pain is a distraction and working with pulling, pushing, struggle, results only in learning how to move with effort. You are more likely to learn if you are comfortable and finding easier ways of moving and being.

Pause and Rest: you need time to assimilate and integrate what you are learning and it is important to learn to rest. Taking yourself to the limit physically, mentally, emotionally is not profitable. Knowing when to stop reduces potential injury.

Variety: approach the same aspect in many different ways and give some novelty to the action to grab the brain’s attention. Repetition is required but Quality is more important than quantity.

Differentiate: tune into the differences and bring attention to the changes you sense. It is through perception of differences that our brains create new information and lasting changes.

Imagination : this is a powerful tool. However an associated, kinaesthetic imagination is required, not seeing yourself doing but experiencing movement through your mind. Your brain carries out the actions and thus you are rehearsing. This can be particularly useful when an activity is painful or difficult. Feldenkrais used this increasingly as he developed his work.

Space to reflect on your learnings.

Consider your experiences before rushing off to the next

Knowing and knowing that you know……………………………………..

References

G. Bateson: Mind and Nature. New York: EP Dutton, 1979

Nicholas Bernstein: The Coordination and Regulation of Movements. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1967
Kelso JAS: Dynamic Patterns: The Self-Organisation of Brain and Behaviour. Cambridge, MA:MIT Press 1995

Norman Doidge M.D : The Brain That Changes Itself. Viking 2007

Daniel Stern M.D : Forms of Vitality: Exploring Dynamic Experience in Psychology, the Arts, Psychotherapy and Development. Oxford 2010

Alan Fogel: The Psychophysiology of Self-Awareness. WW Norton Company 2009

Bones, Breath and Gesture: Practices of Embodiment. North Atlantic Books 1995

Carl Ginsburg: The Intelligence of Moving Bodies. AWAREing Press, 2010

Embodied Wisdom: The Collective Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais, Somatic Resources and North Atlantic Books, 2010

SM Nelson and E. Blades-Zeller: Singing with Your Whole Self, Scarecrow Press, 2002

UK website: www.feldenkrais.co.uk     | USA website: www.feldenkrais.com

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