35 Days of Favorites: Movement Therapy

About a year and a half ago, I was sitting in the waiting room at my massage therapist’s office, reading one of the many yoga magazines available there.

I came across an article about a strange-sounding therapy – “Feldenkrais”.

What??! The article described what a typical session would look like – lying down on a table while the therapist moves arms, legs, etc, in a smooth motion, “teaching” the brain to move without the old, inefficient habits producing pain and tension.

It sounded very strange, but extremely appealing to me. My massage therapist has often said that it’s people’s habits of movement that bring pain. I’ve had a crooked back since I was a teenager, and had noticed that I walked in a very stiff, jerky, imbalanced kind of way, as a result.

It made sense to me that these constant movements were producing the pain and tension in my body, and I remember closing the magazine sadly, thinking, “That may be just the weird kind of therapy I need, but will never be able to find here in Winnipeg.”

Fast-forward a few months, and I was at a physiotherapy appointment, talking with my therapist about movement and walking patterns.

She said, “There’s a woman here in Winnipeg who gives posture lessons. She watches  you walk around the room, and then she corrects any harmful habits you might have.”

Again, this sounded strange, yet appealing. It took a few months for me to act on this new information, but I finally tracked down this posture teacher, and booked an appointment.


There are no words to describe what actually happens during my appointments with Gisele. This Feldenkrais therapy is so much stranger than posture lessons. And I eventually connected the fact that without realizing it, I was seeing the exact kind of therapist I’d read about in that magazine article. What are the chances?

Gisele herself says it’s really hard to describe just exactly what the Feldenkrais method is.

Wikipedia defines it like this:

Feldenkrais aims to reduce pain or limitations in movement, to improve physical function, and to promote general wellbeing by increasing students’ awareness of themselves and by expanding students’ movement repertoire.(source)

Basically, a typical appointment will go like this:

1) Tell Gisele all my problems.

She listens to what’s been hurting, and bothering me the most. We talk about what’s changed since my last appointment. She gets as excited as I do about even the smallest changes and improvements, which is one of my favorite things about her. She always says, “Yeah, yeah!”, really quick and excited, and she’s always so encouraging.

2) Walk across the room a few times (sometimes backwards!) so she can see how my body is moving.

3) Lie down on her table, or occasionally I’ll sit or kneel, so she can start making adjustments.

She will pick up my arm, and move it for me, until it gets “stuck”, and then I have to concentrate on relaxing as much as possible, until the movement comes freely.

She’ll wiggle each of my toes, or poke me feet a little bit here, and a little bit there.

She’ll lift my leg and move it around, or she’ll have me lie on my stomach, and teach me to lift my head using a different part of my back than I usually use for support.

I never know what to expect, except that by the end of that hour, my pain is gone, and my body has shifted. Sometimes, I’m walking so much smoother or straighter, that I actually feel as though I can’t quite get my balance – everything is completely different in this newly shifted body.

It is strange and wonderful, and I completely love it. I’ve been seeing her for a year now, and while progress can feel a bit slow, I still know that I’m moving completely differently than I was when I first started seeing her.

Sometimes I’ll catch myself while I’m walking down the hall, and just feel this surge of joy go through me because it feels so good to move easily and smoothly. Maybe someday I’ll even be…graceful. Hmm…

Are there any weird and wonderful therapists you’ve come across recently? Have you tried anything new that makes you feel great?

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