Hands up. How many of you’ve had physical problems after pregnancy?
Not everybody bounces back after having a baby, and that was definitely the case for me.
After a tricky nine months, I was over the moon to give birth to a healthy baby boy. But the unwelcome maternity “side effects” were really taxing – severe anemia, painful hips and an umbilical hernia.
For over a year after giving birth, I felt about 90 years old.
Where doesn’t it hurt?
Since I became a mum, I’ve met many other women with maternity-related problems: carpal tunnel syndrome, backaches, painful feet, weakened stomach muscles and a variety of pelvic problems.
But it can be really hard to find the time (or work up the energy) to sort out these issues, and I found physiotherapy slow and expensive.
So what options are out there?
Some time after I’d finally had the repair surgery on my hernia, I met Stella. We bumped into each other at a business-networking event and she told me about a method she teaches, called Feldenkrais. I’d never heard of it before, so Stella invited me to try out a class.
My first experience with Feldenkreiss
During my first Feldenkrais lesson, Stella talked us through one movement, first using the right leg and then, towards the latter part of the 60-minute class, the left one.
The instruction was gentle, and being used to aerobics and spinning classes, I found it suspiciously slow – until we stood up at the end. I was gobsmacked to find that during one class, my alignment and posture had become noticeably more natural and easy, and my feet felt more rooted to the ground.
So what exactly is Feldenkrais?
Feldenkrais was invented by a Ukrainian engineer and physicist called Moshe Feldenkrais. His method is perhaps best described as a way of re-educating the body. There are two different ways to do this, either in a group class, or during one-to-one sessions.
The point of Feldenkrais is to teach people how to move “more efficiently”. Through guided movements, we slowly become aware of subconscious tensions or ways in which we hold back or restrain our bodies or limbs. This in turn re-trains the nervous system and leads to better ways of coordinating our muscles during everyday tasks and movements like picking up a child, unscrewing a light bulb or driving the car – or during sports and fitness training.
What about relaxation and exercise?
Relaxation can be a byproduct of Feldenkrais, and the method combines perfectly with any other physical activity. But Stella reiterates that the principle of Feldenkrais is “efficient movement”.
When we move “inefficiently”, our muscles are not coordinating well and our bodies become physically stressed. Therefore the main purpose of Feldenkrais is not to exercise or relax us, but to find new ways to move. This in turn changes old tension patterns and relieves pain, which can be relaxing and help when practicing sport.
Having said all this, for me, the Feldenkreis class, apart from having an immediate and obvious effect on my posture, was a deeply relaxing experience.
Who can benefit?
Feldenkrais is a method that anybody can use to his or her advantage, and it also works really well alongside any kind of sport of fitness activity.
In fact, many musicians, golfers and other expert professionals use Feldekrais to help them with their work.
New mothers can also gain much from the method, before, during and after pregnancy – just think about making labour, breastfeeding and lifting a child that much easier and efficient, and you’ll quickly see the point.
Stella Marcos is a qualified Feldenkrais practitioner.
She first studied the method for four years, and now has more than ten years of experience teaching.
Because Stella comes from a dance background, and has experienced a health issue herself recently, she understands Feldenkrais not only as an instructor, but as someone who benefits from the method personally and professionally.
When I asked Stella what she might tell people who are new to the method, she gave me a quote by Moshe Feldenkrais, “…make the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy elegant.”
Want to know more?
You can find out more about Feldenkrais classes in Fuengirola in southern Spain, by visiting the Centro Menadel website or Facebook page. Stella Marcos is the person in charge of body techniques, Feldenkrais and Pilates, and gives classes both in English and in Spanish.
For more information about the Feldenkrais method in Europe, visit the EU Accreditation Board website EuroTAB. In the UK, you’ll find information on the Feldenkrais Guild’s UK site and elsewhere in the world, on Feldenkrais.com.