When I first began to explore somatic awareness, it was through lessons in the Alexander Technique. Despite the excellent lessons of my extraordinary teachers, I often managed to make the technique a judgment of myself. I imagined that when someone with Alexander training looked at me, they were judging me – seeing how “bad” my posture was, how “terrible” my habits. That wasn’t what my teachers said, or probably even thought. That was all me. I was a projection machine.
I know this now from working with the Feldenkrais Method as a practitioner, because I see people have the same response when I tell them I work with somatic awareness. For example, when I meet someone and explain what I do, they almost inevitably adjust their bodies to “stand up straight” – just mentioning body awareness kicks off a series of adjustments in people. They hear that I work with the body and assume that I am looking at them and judging them for their slouch or habitual head tilt or whatever their idea is.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s not that I don’t see people’s slouches or habitual patterns. It’s just that I don’t judge them. I find them interesting. And if I see a person who is stuck in a pattern, that’s what I see – I see them stuck in a pattern. I don’t want to fix anyone or correct them, either. I don’t see someone with a profound hunch and think, “Ah, let me fix that!” What I look for are ways to help that person with a hunch move better and feel better. The hunch is just information.
Rather than seeing someone and wanting to fix them, when I see a pattern, I try and think how I can help. It’s as if I see someone carrying a heavy box. I don’t tell them to carry the box in a different way or offer them orders for not carrying heavy boxes. When I see someone carrying a metaphorical heavy box, all I want to do is help them carry it for a while. That’s how I see the hands-on aspect of the Feldenkrais Method. If I look at a person, it is not to judge, it is to see all the places they are carrying heavy boxes and try and offer support. The fantastic part of carrying boxes with someone for a while is that the body can make delicious readjustments once it realizes all the boxes it can actually set down.
So if you meet me, you don’t have to fear judgment about your posture. I couldn’t care less about your posture. What I want to know is where you are struggling to keep those boxes aloft and how I can help you put them down for awhile.
– by Emily Davis, GCFP