Welcome to a new series highlighting my interesting, dedicated and fabulous students who are generously willing to share the impact Feldenkrais has had on their lives. People of all ages, occupations and reasons come to discover the rich benefits of the Feldenkrais Method. I hope this will offer a mirror to see the possibilities of this work for you.
Student Profile: Megan Harding
Occupation: Marketing and Graphic Design at Oberlin College; Yoga and Qigong teacher
“I discovered some deep abdominal muscles that I swear I had never before used in my life. It’s like they had never been properly connected to my nervous system!”
Megan Harding, age 52, has lived with chronic pain and chemical sensitivities since 1995. She works full-time in marketing and graphic design. She was certified to teach Yoga in 1997 and is an accomplished qigong teacher, having taught in Kent and Oberlin. Megan recently added Feldenkrais to her health and wellness routine.
What first drew you to begin studying Feldenkrais? A free master class was offered at Oberlin College and I attended. I was impressed by how gentle yet powerful the practice was.
What aspect of Feldenkrais interests you most? The neurological re-patterning that happens with the Feldenkrais method is unlike any other bodywork or healing modality that I have tried. While I have had some success in managing pain through acupuncture, yoga and energy work, the results with Feldenkrais appear to be longer lasting—even permanent. In just three private sessions and attendance at about a dozen group classes, I can actually see my posture changing. And these are patterns and imbalances that I have consciously been working on in yoga for many years.
You teach yoga. Does your practice of yoga relate to that of Feldenkrais? Does one practice influence the other? I like to practice yoga after a Feldenkrais session to see what feels new and different. You can get into patterns of holding and movement in yoga just as you can with any other life activity, especially if you have been practicing for decades. While the ideal is to have each yoga asana be a completely fresh experience, forgetting all that we’ve learned before, we all get into ruts if we (or our teachers) don’t continually challenge our habits and perceptions. Feldenkrais helps me become aware of my unique patterns of holding and movement. Samantha’s gentle guidance helps me to see these without judging myself as “wrong” or “bad.” My interest in yoga is primarily in its therapeutic applications. Because I have had many physical problems myself, I have a deeper understanding of what’s needed to manage or overcome these obstacles. When I teach yoga, I include a lot of body awareness exercises, such as sensing how one side may feel different than the other. This is also a part of the Feldenkrais method.
How do they work together or against each other? I am still learning how the practices complement or contradict one another. One thing that stands out is that yoga often asks you to move or become aware of a body part in isolation—for example, an instruction to lift the side ribs—while Feldenkrais is more interested in how the body moves organically, as a whole. I can see the value in both kinds of awareness. I am beginning to suspect that Feldenkrais has the power to “undo” some of the concepts I’ve previously learned, however, so the two are sometimes in conflict.*
How has Feldenkrais changed the way you live with chronic pain? I would say it’s too early yet to tell… but I am hopeful that releasing chronic patterns of holding will give me more energy and less pain!
What benefits of Feldenkrais have you experienced so far? My entire life I have had a fairly pronounced swayback posture. I have mindfully tried to hold my pelvis in the correct tucked position. What I actually did was layer on an additional pattern of dysfunction. In my second session with Samantha, through contact with one foot only, she was able to release the holding and I became aware of what I was doing with my low back and pelvis. As the session progressed, I discovered some deep abdominal muscles that I swear I had never before used in my life. It’s like they had never been properly connected to my nervous system! I had a surge of energy for about four days and the awareness has continued now, six weeks later. It’s such a relief that I can let go and no longer have to “hold” myself together. And I can see the difference in the mirror. It’s too early to tell what all the benefits of this work will be, but I can’t wait to do more.
Thank you Megan for being the first brave student I have to discuss these sensitive and personal issues to help others recognize the great value of this work! I look forward to continuing our great work together.
*I followed up Megan’s responses with a phone call to clarify some of her answers, finding I wanted her to explain further for both myself and you. For example- her words and description of yoga and feldenkrais in conflict. But actually I have decided to leave them as she initially responded for a few reasons. One, I satisfied my own curiosity while we talked and realized it’s just the beginning of a conversation I feel we will have for years. Two, words can sometimes get us in trouble, as part of this work is continually redefining our assumptions in the how and what of our meaning. I might just be diluting or diverting her reaction. Three, I wanted respect for her initial response and showcasing her struggle and process is important, not the perfectly explained answer. If it brings up any responses for you, please let me know. I want to hear and learn.
Ever your student,