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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 24 - 30, 2003

Features

Feldenkrais Method
is in the bones

Technique is gentler way
of working with yourself


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

Feldenkrais instructor John Vladimiroff of Hailey asks his students to imagine their bodies with the skeleton removed.

"You would be a puddle of flesh, a heap on the floor," he said during a recent class.

No, Vladimiroff is not a mad scientist or preparing for Halloween as the image and the Old World name might suggest.

Feldenkrais instructor John Vladimiroff practices "functional integration" to help student Lindy Logan gain better understanding of her body and movements. Express photo by Matt Furber

The skeleton is central to a form of instruction that is geared toward helping people function differently with their bodies. It is not as well know as yoga, which focuses on perfecting specific poses in an effort to achieve among other goals better physical alignment. It works on what your body does between poses, said Vladimiroff, who in addition to being a guild certified Feldenkrais instructor is also an occupational therapist.

Feldenkrais is an educational model for helping people. It is not a therapeutic "treatment" like acupuncture or massage.

"We teach people things, we donít fix them," he said.

Moshe Feldenkrais, founder of the Feldenkrais Method, developed thousands of exercises but espoused no right or wrong way of doing them, Vladimiroff said. "They help people identify habitual (and new) ways of doing things."

The Feldenkrais Method enables people to include in their functioning, movements and parts of the body typically unconsidered, forgotten or excluded from habitual actions.

The exercises allow people to learn how their whole body cooperates in any movement.

It can help with pain relief, but it is more about breaking out of familiar patterns, Vladimiroff said. "Some people want to sweat and feel pain when they work out. Feldenkrais is a gentler way of working with yourself."

"We have certain ways of getting out of bed," said Feldenkrais student Lindy Logan. "Especially as we get older, learning to do it differently helps make it easier."

"Feldenkrais is a fun way to work with stroke patients," Vladimiroff said. The goal is to return stroke victims to good movements."

The teaching method incorporates thousands of exercises that are complementary to any activity from aerobics to yoga.

In Loganís case, she was suffering from trouble due to the repetitive movement of mountain biking. Vladimiroff chose some exercises that would help her to release her hips and shoulders.

"Feldenkrais is anti-stretching," he said. "But, we do work with people who have difficulty with certain yoga poses, (for example). We help them find different ways to get into them."

Feldenkrais also incorporates aspects of psychology, said fellow practitioner Wanda Cole. "Mental patterns are reflected in physical patterns. I think about options in life and giving people easier and better ways of doing things."

Logan said if she is biking or skiing she is a lot more aware of how her skeleton is working.

"With telemark skiing I am getting that rotation," she said. "Feldenkrais gets you into the mental pattern to try different things."

Vladimiroff explained that there is another way to run 26 miles so a runner has more energy at the end.

"It can be beneficial to everyone," he said.

If a person laces their fingers a certain way with the right thumb on top, lacing them another way with the left thumb on top informs the person of a new way to carry themselves.

"If something feels different, itís not wrong," Vladimiroff said. The exercise opens people to options to their compulsions. Changing physical habits can expand to other aspects of life as well.

As a facilitator Vladimiroff offers learners ways to get to a new levels of familiarity with themselves to achieve a desired movement, posture or balance. The goal is to get deeper into the form of the movement.

"Move different," he said, doing the limbo under a low-hanging tree branch, rather than walk around it on his way to lunch. "There are patterns we live with we donít know about. People look to Feldenkrais to discover themselves."

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.