Forget Problems and Solutions. Just Get Educated!
Imagine that you've got chronic pain in your knee. In fact, if you're the 1 in 5 who do, you may not have to imagine.
Mainstream thinking would have you visit a doctor... You might get poked and prodded and perhaps take an X-ray of what's going on in the knee. You may or may not find anything of significance there. Perhaps if you've had an injury of some kind you might find a torn ligament or cartilage, which has some kind of surgical solution.
But in many cases, knee pain is diagnosed as some kind of "itis". Bursitis, arthritis, tendonitis etc. These are all forms of inflammation.
A common "solution" in this case is pain relief and anti-inflammatories.
However, that's like putting some tape over the temperature gauge on your car. "Let's just pretend it's not overheating and things will be just fine!"
Obviously though, that's only a short term solution to the "problem". As the car continues to overheat, other symptoms start to arise. The car starts to smell burny, you might see steam coming from under the bonnet, or you might hear a bubbling noise.
In a similar way, if you numb out the knee pain, you might start to find your ankle gets stiff and swollen, your hip hurts and your shoulders freeze up.
This whole approach falls under what I call the "problem/solution" paradigm. It's an extremely common way of looking at the world. But it also has some major limitations.
The biggest one I see is that when I frame my experience as a "problem" it brings my awareness into a very contracted state. This reduces my ability to see the whole picture and act in a clear way. In this state I can spend lots of energy looking at my problems, diagnosing them and creating stories around them.
This is not useful.
In a tricky kinda way, viewing knee pain as a problem to be solved can actually contribute to maintaining that pain.
There Are More Useful Ways Of Looking At Pain
The Feldenkrais method takes another approach. It's about looking at the whole person and entering into a process of exploration.
It's more of an educational worldview.
Instead of looking at the knee pain as a problem to be solved, the question becomes "What might this person learn that would be useful to them?"
The truth is, you are...
- An incredibly complex being with many interconnected systems.
- Extremely intelligent, probably beyond what you're currently aware of.
- Running many processes without even being aware of them - Consider...who beats your heart?
You're not stupid or broken or some problem to be fixed.
The pain you're feeling in your knee is simply some loud and clear feedback about the way that you're currently operating. Additionally, it forms part of a larger pattern or way of being. It's part of your whole self or system.
So if the question is "What might this person learn that would be useful?" The answer might be several things...
- How to use more of the range of motion available in the hip joints.
- How to bear weight clearly through the feet.
- How to flex and extend using all of the spine.
Or perhaps even that their toxic work environment needs to change!
Adding More Movement Options Brings Freedom From Pain
Here's a metaphor to explain why this thinking works so well.
Imagine a skier going down a ski slope. If the skier uses the same pathway down the mountain every day then it begins to get deeper and deeper. Eventually, it forms a rut and becomes difficult to get out of. This becomes the only way that the skier can get down the mountain. And if there's an obstacle, like a forest in the way, the skier might get scratches every time she goes down the hill.
But the skier is not stuck to this rut forever. If she decided one day to explore a different pathway, she might slowly make her way down the mountain forging a new route. Suddenly she has got more options. The next time she goes down the mountain she can choose her well formed pathway, or follow the newly forged path. She now has the ability to operate with more freedom. She can go down a pathway that avoids the forest and is much more enjoyable.
It's the same thing with your body. If you are used to habitually moving your knee through a certain trajectory when you're walking, it forms a rut in your nervous system. If this pathway is the only one you ever practice then eventually, you're going to be limited to just that pathway. And if that pathway happens to go through a "scratchy forest", then of course your knee is going to end up in pain.
The Feldenkrais Method ® is a way of introducing new pathways into your movement. It's like adding a whole lot more tracks onto the ski slope so that you have the freedom to move down the slope in whichever way you feel like.
And it's for this very reason that the Feldenkrais method can help such a wide range of people. Here's a short list...
- Improving the sound of musicians
- Balance issues
- Cerebral Palsy
- Athletic performance
- Creative thinking
- Vision improvement
How can you learn the feldenkrais method?
If you like the sound of what you hear and want to jump on the bandwagon, there are several ways to learn this stuff...
1. Awareness through movement (ATM) group classes
These are guided explorations through specific movement patterns. They are designed to help you learn how to explore your own body for yourself. These are the most cost effective way of learning Feldenkrais. They also help you to really own your learning because you've done the "hard work" yourself. The movements are usually pretty gentle and suitable for most people.
2. Functional integration (FI) 1-to-1
These are one-on-one body work sessions. In this setting, I would likely get you onto a table and begin to have a hands-on "conversation" with you. One-on-one sessions can be really good for working with specific difficulties that you might be struggling with.
3. This website
There are also articles, video's and "exercises" on this website which is an alternative way of learning to use the method. I've done my best to explain what to do and how to do it, so that you can begin to explore yourself and develop an intimate relationship with your own body.
Have a look in the menu for reading material.