The Feldenkrais Method is named after the Israeli scientist, educator, and martial artist Moshe Feldenkrais, who explored new relationships between the mind and body to improve his own physical movement and functioning. In this episode, Darren and Kristin speak with Chrish Kresge about developing a refined awareness of yourself through simple movement practices, the differences between ATM (Awareness Through Movement) and FI (Functional Integration), what a practitioner does during a session, and the benefits of Feldenkrais work for both clients and practitioners.
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0:01:25.2 Darren Buford: I'm Darren Buford.
0:01:26.3 Kristin Coverly: And I'm Kristin Coverly.
0:01:27.8 DB: And welcome to The ABMP podcast, a podcast where we speak with a massage and bodywork profession. Our guest today is Chrish Kresge. Chrish has been teaching the Feldenkrais Method across the world for over 22 years. She works with people of all ages and abilities using movement as the primary tool for improving function, self-awareness, posture, voice and wellness. She is passionate about using her diverse skills and background to help people find their optimal selves and innate dignity. Chrish recently co-edited a book about The Feldenkrais Method: Learning Through Movement. She maintains an active private practice and teaches five group Feldenkrais classes per week in her studio in Northwest Washington, DC. Learn more at chrishkresge.com. Hello, Chrish and hello, Kristin?
0:02:18.5 Chrish Kresge: Hello. Hello Darren and Hello, Kristin. So lovely to be with you.
0:02:23.4 KC: Hello, we're so excited to have you here. And listeners, I am even more excited to say not only can you learn more about Chrish and what she does on today's podcast, but she is also one of our tips from the pros presenters at the upcoming ABMP CE Summit. She's doing a self-care presentation, titled Feldenkrais techniques for self-care between sessions, I've seen it and it's fantastic. So I hope you can join us at the ABMP CE Summit, Tuesday and Wednesday, October 26th and 27th, 6 CE hours, 22 presenters. The event is free for ABMP members and just $99 for non-members. Learn more and register to see Chrish and all the other fantastic presentations at abmp.com/summit. Chrish, let's start with the first big picture question, what is Feldenkrais?
0:03:15.5 CK: The Feldenkrais Method, as it's called, it is a method of neuromuscular re-education, basically. It's about learning, becoming more aware of ourselves and performing functionally, much more highly than we know that we're capable of. It's named after the distinguished Israeli scientist and educator and martial artist, Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais, who lived from 1904 to 1984, and he got his doctorate in physics at the Sorbonne in Paris, and he was also the first European to earn a black belt in judo and is actually credited with introducing judo to the west. However, he suffered a very serious knee injury while he was playing soccer in Palestine, and he was faced actually with only a 50% chance for recovery and the possibility of being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Very smart, very stubborn, very resourceful and unsatisfied with that prognosis and the treatments available at the time, no knee replacements then of course, he embarked on exploring this relationship between mind and body to improve his own physical movement and functioning, and during a period of 40 years, he developed an ingenious method for moving more smoothly, restoring function, and in fact, reducing pain.
0:04:36.6 CK: He shared the knowledge among a select group of students in Israel originally and then eventually worldwide, where he had two training programs in North America. He was ahead of his time. He began exploring the ability of the brain to process and change long held habits of moving and thinking already in the 1950s, when one of the most important current theories in neuroscience was only just anticipated by him. The neuroscientist Norman Doidge, author of The Brain's Way of Healing said about him. Moshé Feldenkrais was one of the first neuroplasticians. His insights have been re-affirmed by the neuroscientist Michael Merzenich, who showed that long-term neuroplastic change occurs most readily when a person pays close attention while learning.
0:05:24.6 CK: Now, take note of that because it's really important that this idea of being aware and paying attention while we learn something new, the method offers unique and profound ways to examine your own habitual and limiting ways of acting often and ways that you don't know that you are doing the same thing over again, which is causing the degradation of your joints and muscles and making pain. So I wanna explain to you, when we attend to ourselves in movement, we can discover how to improve the quality of any action in life, and in the method we actually don't fix, we connect. And I wanna give you just a very brief example of how quickly you are able to change a habit. So would you please interlace your hands on your lap, just interlace your hands in a very simple way, and notice which of your two thumbs is on top. How are you breathing right now?
0:06:24.7 CK: Now, change over the interlacing so that the other thumb is on top, in other words, change over all the digits by one notch, and notice how that feels. It feels a little strange. A little non-habitual. Our hands have a large representation on the motor and sensory cortexes of our brain, as I'm sure most of you know, and when you make a small change in your hands, it gets the brain's attention and shifts your state. Now, please interlace your hands habitually again, the way you initially did and go slowly back and forth, habitual, non-habitual, while breathing. Habitual, non-habitual. Now, speed it up a little bit between habitual and non-habitual interlacing, but don't try too hard, just sense the difference until at some point, you won't be able to quite recall, which is the habitual and which is the non-habitual, something has changed in your brain's map and you've just learned a new habit, and you've changed the habit that you've had all your life. This doesn't mean that this is a permanent change, but that you can actually in such a short moment of time, make a shift in how you embody yourselves habitually and non-habitually.
0:07:44.7 DB: Chrish, how does the movement work actually work? Can you take us through that?
0:07:50.2 CK: So, we learn to develop better functional support from our body and to move with greater agility by developing a more refined awareness of ourselves through very simple, actually mostly simple movement practices, and it opens a doorway to improve the entire quality of our life. A major goal of the Feldenkrais method is to enable the person to include body parts perhaps never before considered in their image of movement and to experience how the whole body cooperates in any motion, in this way, people can learn new patterns of movement designed to expand their body awareness and to enhance neuromuscular self-image or what I like to call our sense of self, so smooth, more efficient, better coordinated and effortless movement. Feldenkrais famously said, "We act in accordance with our self-image," we learn how our brain uses movement and awareness to create possibilities for new neural pathways by moving and moving with a sense of paying attention to everything we're doing, so it's listening, sensing, feeling and thinking all in one.
0:09:03.7 DB: Chrish, can you take us through a session? And let me ask another question, what's the difference between Awareness Through Movement, ATM, and the one-on-one hands-on sessions in which are called Functional Integration or FI?
0:09:17.2 CK: Oh yes, yes, excellent question. Yeah, so there are two modalities where we teach Feldenkrais, and one of them is the group classes, where we have a group, either we do it on Zoom, more likely on Zoom now or in a studio, and we teach our students exploratory movement sequences to give them, more understanding and awareness of themselves. We all learn from our own inner experience, no one demonstrates what you are to learn. So in each class, we craft movement directions and sequences that encourage you to quiet your mind, engage your senses and make distinctions between what is easy, what's difficult and what's unavailable, but of course, we always improve in every single class. Also, we help a person pay attention to how they maintain habits of movement in their daily life. Each class, we have a new aspect of functioning and it's studied to enhance our movement repertoire, move with less pain, translating intention into action with ease and getting rid of unnecessary, interfering, maybe even habits which don't serve us at all, such as cross-motivation. Changes occur in our brain to organize control of the body. Slow is really important in our world. Slow gets the brain's attention. Fast, we can only do what we already know.
0:10:44.2 CK: So that's the group classes and they're anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes, 45 minutes, sometimes even an hour, and of course, classes can be huge, up to 100, 200 people, and maybe sometimes just a dozen. So the more intensive aspect of the work is called FI or Functional Integration. They're one-on-one private lessons, and it's tailored to really to meet the needs of each individual. It involves mostly gentle hands-on educational guidance, which is done with the student fully clothed. It's a much more intensive aspect than the group classes, but they complement each other very well, and the practitioner communicates opportunities for change in another person's organization through touch and specific guided movements. It is not invasive, and it's not painful. We learn as practitioners to detect minute resistances in movement patterns, which can represent physical, emotional or even psychological limitations. We also teach individualized exploratory movements to help our clients and students find freedom from compulsive imprisoning patterns, and of course, pain. We call them lessons because it's all about learning and they take place on a low flat table.
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0:12:42.9 DB: Now, let's get back to the podcast. Chrish, can you describe the work that the practitioner does during a session?
0:12:49.0 CK: Yes. In an individual session, we begin by conducting an interview to establish what the person is wishing to improve, or if they have any pain, what function is associated with it. And we do spend a little bit of time in the beginning, particularly if it's a first lesson, so that we can ascertain where is the person getting in the way of themselves and they don't know that they are. We'll ask the person to walk, to stand, and then invite them to lie on a low table. And we often will sit down on a stool, not always, but often, and begin to explore hands-on. Again, as I said earlier, gentle touch, but also verbal guidance. And an important part is being fully present, we are actually modeling being present for our client. We often begin by perhaps rolling their head a little bit left and right to see if there's any sense that something is working a little bit against themselves, and we use our observational skills.
0:13:49.3 CK: We never correct, we never force. Feldenkrais famously said, "To correct is incorrect," he would say. I can hear his voice now. We use a lot of guidance, and we address function rather than fixing, we connect rather than try to fix. We help a person become aware of habits that maybe no longer serve them. And so during the course of about 35 or 40 minutes, we do these different explorations, make new suggestions, find where the force travels through the skeleton. So if we push through a foot, we might sense maybe it's getting stuck in the knee, maybe in the hip joint. Ideally, it should travel through the leg through the highest point of the hip joint along the spine and out of the top of the head. So when the person takes a step, they can feel they're coming away from the ground rather than falling into the ground.
0:14:42.8 KC: Chrish, can you tell us a little bit more about the benefits of Feldenkrais Method work for both clients and practitioners?
0:14:49.2 CK: It's an approach to improving people's ability to learn and to function through simulating this exploratory style of learning natural to infants and babies and young children. And it is the overwhelming need for learning actually in human development and our capacity for life-long learning. Again, Feldenkrais said, "Regardless of our age and condition, there is no limit to our capacity to improve," so that when anybody comes, no matter what their condition, we know we can always make an improvement. Much as you can in massage, we look at it in a different way, but it's certainly we have complete optimism that we know this person will leave our studio, will leave our space in a much better condition. Now, practitioners of course benefit from this. Other kinds of practitioners can benefit, and which is why we've now started having these instead of four-year trainings and 800 hours, we do two-year trainings and 200 hours. And I'm really excited about this for other practitioners, that they can learn about the principles and how to teach Feldenkrais, and they don't have to go through an entire four-year training. It's something new that we're actually doing, so I'm kind of excited about it.
0:16:03.8 DB: Oh, that's great. Chrish, do you find that practitioners and clients find Feldenkrais on its own or through other modalities?
0:16:11.4 CK: About half-and-half. Massage therapists, other kinds of modalities such as Pilates and also occupational and physical therapists often recommend Feldenkrais. They realize that it's complementary to what they're already doing. And of course now with COVID, it's actually been an incredible boom for us Feldenkrais practitioners, because we can teach online on Zoom both group classes and also individual work, because we use our skills of observation on this big screen, [chuckle] and we can really help people that way. And it does complement other types of bodywork. Often bodyworkers of all kinds feel really tight and strained after a day of sessions, often from body mechanics that could use a little tweaking and from leaning in with their heads and upper body to get closer to their client. Multiple sessions are also really physically taxing on the body, even with stellar body mechanics. I often also find that having your weight on one foot during a whole session can really destroy some of the self-organization that it's important for us all to have. Practitioners of other modalities, such as massage, who are unfamiliar with Feldenkrais can experience it to understand how it could enhance their own work in manual therapy or their movement education.
0:17:35.6 KC: Chrish, I'm really curious, as a massage therapist, if I were also to learn and train in the Feldenkrais Method, how would someone blend both of those modalities in a session? Can I incorporate some of the Feldenkrais Method work into my hands-on session, or would you recommend that they be sort of separate times to work with clients? How might that look?
0:17:55.3 CK: That is such an excellent question, Kristin. And of course, absolutely, whatever you learn in Feldenkrais, you can apply, and many, many, many people do it. And so for example think about being more aware of your breathing, more aware of how you're standing or how you're sitting, how you use your own skeletal support. But also some of the techniques that we teach our clients, you can use verbal direction as you're moving and as you're contacting the person. So I think absolutely. I know of two massage therapists that are my clients, and they come, and they say, "You can't believe how this has helped my work with my clients, and they appreciate it." And she doesn't necessarily say it's Feldenkrais, I'd like her to, but it's really helped. So yeah, I think so. If we're sitting and giving a lesson to a person on the table, we will always make sure that our pelvis, our power center, the biggest bone with the biggest muscles in the body is as close to the place that we're working.
0:18:58.4 CK: So for example, if I'm holding a head, I wanna make sure that this head that I'm holding is very close to my pelvis, as close as I can comfortably have it, so that any movement that I make will be translated via this power of my pelvis and the person will feel it right down to their feet. And it's so easy for all of us to over-use our shoulders and hands and forget about this amazing resource of the pelvis. And speaking of resources, I just wanna give a shout out to your Five-Minute Muscles because those beautiful illustrations have helped me so much and I've shared them, I've shared them with colleagues, because they are beautiful illustrations and it's just enough that we know, yes, these are muscles you need to know about, these are resources that you as a practitioner, no matter what your modality is, you need to know about the muscles. So thank you really so much for having this resource for members, and I love my ABMP membership.
0:20:00.6 DB: Oh, excellent, what a terrific plug for one of our benefits. Listeners, if you're not an ABMP member, go to abmp.com/more to learn about Five-Minute Muscles and the other apps that we offer our members. I wanna thank our guest today, Chrish Kresge. To find out more information about Chrish, visit chrishkresge.com. And Chrish I believe you have some contact info where people can contact you directly, is that correct?
0:20:27.0 CK: Sure, yeah, so you can reach me at email@example.com. Easy enough, it's the word firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you wanna write to me, I can send you a PDF of some more self-care tips, as well as maybe a couple of full length Feldenkrais lessons that you could listen to. So I would love to hear from you, email@example.com. And of course, I wanna thank all of you so much at ABMP for giving me this opportunity to talk about The Feldenkrais Method.
0:20:57.4 DB: Oh, thank you so much. Thank you, Chrish and thank you, Kristin, today.
0:21:00.6 KC: Thanks so much for that great content and information and looking forward to sharing more of what you have to offer at the ABMP CE Summit.
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