Feldenkrais at the BKA Summer School

Andrea Hallam talks about Feldenkrais
Andrea will be leading two practical sessions on Feldenkrais at the BKA Summer School 2016.

I always have trouble saying what Feldenkrais “is” (I wish I could put it shortly and succinctly!).

Basically, it’s using movement as a tool to heighten awareness. Its effects are potentially far-reaching and profound, as written about so beautifully by Norman Doidge in his new book. (Feldenkrais people say that it’s the best writing on Feldenkrais there is).

Would it be OK if I tell you about my encounter with it…something of what the Feldenkrais Method is to me personally?

I originally came to Feldenkrais through a back problem. After months of physiotherapy and expert care at one of the best clinics in NYC, the experts admitted there was nothing more they could do and recommended Feldenkrais “because it addresses the nervous system”. Long story short, after the very first lesson, when I didn’t have the faintest clue about what it was, if I was “doing it right”, I felt immense relief. I continued and the more I did, the better I felt, especially my back which had become a kind of obsession by then.

I soon noticed another very welcome and surprising effect…it improved my violin playing immensely!! I felt a visceral, physical pleasure and ease that I had never known. I also became much more creative in my practice, coming up with all sorts of new ideas no teacher had ever taught me. As long as I did a Feldenkrais lesson before I played, I was (still am) guaranteed to have a rewarding, creative, productive practice session. It just became so fun!

Last season the manager of the contemporary music group I play with in Israel offered me a solo on viola by the Argentinian composer Matalon. I immediately agreed. When the score arrived I nearly had a heart attack! It was BY FAR the most technically difficult piece I had ever taken on- 40 minutes of unbroken, solo, virtuosic writing, on VIOLA! (I’ve played a lot of the major violin and chamber music repertoire and this was another story). It also included extra-musical, coordination demands such as co-ordinating the music with a silent documentary film by Luis Bunuel with subtitle cues in French and using a foot pedal for electronic effects.

If it wasn’t for Feldenkrais I have no idea how I would have done it!

Feldenkrais gave me a way of working, of “organic learning”, that helped me every step of the way. I promised myself I would feel no stress, keep everything easy. If I detected the slightest change in quality in my work (stress) I would take a different approach. I found innovative ways to build it up gradually and in the end, the performance was a great success- all with minimum stress! It was definitely a first for me and showed me what’s possible.

I still do a Feldenkrais lesson every day if I can. It has such a spurring effect on my work and everything I do, including parenting. I’ve definitely learned more about violin playing from Feldenkrais than any of my teachers, great though they were. There’s just no substitute for feeling it yourself and that kind of integration that’s only possible through this kind of learning, which is in common with Kodály’s method. “Listen” is the key verb used throughout an ATM. It’s another way to train listening.

Here is a link to a TED talk by a fellow student, Dorit, from my training, with some footage of our teacher, Eilat Almagor working with a toddler. I find it a cute and inspiring presentation:

A Feldenkrais Lesson for the Beginner Scientist: Professor Dorit Aharonov at TEDxJaffa

As many of us spend a great deal of time sitting, either as professional musicians, working at a computer or travelling, I think these lessons can be directly relevant to everybody.