For those who equate fitness with huffing, puffing, and straining, think again.
“Feldenkrais is just the opposite. You use less effort,” certified Longmont-based instructor Al Wadleigh said. “It’s learning to feel what feels good.”
Through a series of gentle, organized movements on an exercise mat, the method aims to raise body awareness and replace restrictive or painful ways of moving with more efficient, comfortable patterns, according to Feldenkrais Method materials.
The subtle movements — from the gentle leg and arm extensions to leg lifts — address classic imbalances caused by injury, chronic illness, or poor ergonomics, Wadleigh said.
For instance, classic problems stem from prolonged computer use when people tend to over tilt their pelvis and sit on the small of their back versus on their so-called sit bones.
“Then, muscles have to do the work of the skeleton,” he said. Wadleigh aims to help participants tune into these imbalances and correct them through the method’s focus on improved body awareness and alignment.
Some participants new to one class he offers weekly at the Longmont Senior Center initially struggled with the method’s no-force philosophy.
“My habit is to try harder, to do it more — good old German upbringing,” said Elizabeth Reinersmann from her mat after class. “Never mind that it hurts. (It was) no pain, no gain, and all that nonsense.”
But when she settled into the hour-long group session, she discovered that less can be more in fitness.
As she became more aware of her body, she started to focus more on the method’s catchphrase: Functional Integration.
That refers to the muscles, skeleton, mind, and even emotions, Wadleigh said.
The late Moshe Feldenkrais, who had a doctorate in physics from the Sorbonne in Paris, developed the method in England during the 1940s to relearn how to walk after he sustained serious knee injuries.
Today, the Feldenkrais Method is used to treat chronic pain; occupational stress and repetitive strain; back, neck, shoulder, and joint pain; stiffness; balance and coordination problems; and poor posture.
“I tend to look down, and (Wadleigh) emphasizes straightening up and feeling tall, which for someone 5 feet, 2 inches is good,” Senior Center class participant Gloria Peterson said.