Ira Feinstein: How were you introduced to the Feldenkrais Method?
Raz Ori: I knew about the method from a very early age because my parents were ATM consumers. My most vivid memory of the Feldenkrais Method is from age twelve. I had back pain from a long car drive, and my mom told me, ""Okay, lie on your back."" She gave me one movement, and I can still recall the kinesthetic experience of feeling the relationships she was pointing me towards. It was mind-blowing in its simplicity.
Ira: How did you progress from that initial experience to becoming a practitioner?
Raz: When I was nineteen, I started seeing a Feldenkrais practitioner regularly to alleviate pain. After a few sessions, I realized I wanted to study the Feldenkrais Method in-depth. I began doing Awareness Through Movement lessons at home and read Dr. Feldenkrais' books. After a year of self-study, I joined a professional training at the age of twenty.
Ira: A bit of embarrassing self-disclosure here. I read all of Moshe's books in my late twenties, but I could only read a page or two at a time without falling asleep. I don't think I was ready for the information and needed to take it piecemeal. I can't imagine picking them up when I was nineteen! Do you remember any of your big ''aha'' moments from that time?
Raz: In one of Dr. Feldenkrais' books, he describes how walking is a self-propelling mechanism when organized correctly. Movement should be light and easy, with minimal to no effort. Reading that helped me recognize how disorganized my walking was. The idea of improving my walking by reducing the effort was really mind-blowing for me.
In retrospect, I think it spoke to me on many levels. Even from childhood, I felt that certain paradigms I was growing up with—to strive towards excellence through effort—never fully resonated with me. And I think that Moshe laying it out as he did in such a practical way, affirmed what I felt was congruent with my inner self.
Ira: How did your personal interest in walking influence you as a Feldenkrais Practitioner?
Raz: I'm very attracted to understanding what enables us to learn new things. And how after we've learned something new, there's a tendency to get fixated on a particular way of doing it— what happens there? Why don't we keep improving that learning? And then, when some pattern of moving (or being) gives us trouble, is it changeable? And if it is changeable, how?
Changing walking patterns is not a simple thing because there's something very automatic about them. We're accustomed to feeling some sort of comfort within our patterns, even if there's a lack of efficiency. The pattern feels like it's the comfort zone. And the brilliance of Dr. Feldenkrais is that he designed lessons to help people intercept those patterns to create a crack within them.
Ira: How does a crack in the walking pattern lead to a change?
Raz: To some extent, that ability to carry yourself with more ease and lightness is something that everyone can tap into, given, of course, their anatomical and physiological limitations. But what usually happens is that, by being troubled by whatever it is that burdens us, we lose access to the literal physical resources that can support us better and help us move with ease. The crack can allow us to once again access those resources.
Ira: Could you give me an example?
Raz: Almost all of us tend to interrupt the flow of walking, causing a lack of smoothness in the transition from one step to the other. This is where intelligent use of our knees is crucial. Many people think of the knee as a hinge that allows the leg to straighten and bend. But in walking, our knees do something more complex than that, because they work in synchronicity with the foot, ankle, and upper carriage, including our spine and torso. Thus, our knees need to act more like a spring that propels the body forward. And that springiness and lightness is something that almost everybody loses in one way or another.
Ira: Whether because of an injury or lifelong patterns, what do you think is the potential for somebody to regain that springiness?
Raz: With age, we naturally lose some of the dynamic responses of our body; some of the speed of our reflexes, and some of our original springiness and lightness. So, being able to not only rehabilitate but to maintain those qualities is important. The Feldenkrais Method has an enormous potential to rehabilitate, reconstruct, and reinforce those movement qualities. That's what it's all about, actually.
All of the lessons are about finding flow, ease, and lightness. But I think we need to put a high level of importance on integrating those qualities that we're able to create inside a Feldenkrais lesson when walking. For my upcoming series, Intelligent Knees for Better Walking, that will be the focus: taking the ease and lightness we find in our knees during a lesson and really incorporating it into our walking.
Because when we walk, we use our entire self. It's not our legs that carry us and propel us. It's not our legs that support us or the knee that creates the forward step. It's a fully coordinated system that's interdependent. We will continuously look for how the knee functions as part of the flow of the movement.
Ira: Who will the series be safe for? If someone's had surgery or is dealing with a chronic issue, will the lessons exacerbate those issues?
Raz: In every lesson, there will be more than one variation of how to do the movement. So, there will be a lot of room for adapting and adjusting the movement to one's personal comfort because every knee is different. I think people will find that the series is reviving for the knee itself and their perceptions of their knees. Because if we have a knee injury or knee pain, we have a very particular perception of that knee related to the pain or the limitation. And, of course, it comes at the expense of finding the flow and the springiness. So being able to connect the knee to the fluidity of the movement will be very rejuvenating and reviving!
Curious? Intelligent Knees for Better Walking starts Thursday, March 2 at 12:00 PM EST. Join us for the first class--for free--or register now for the entire online series. Lifetime access to recordings for all registrants. Find out more at: feldenkraisaccess.com/intelligent-knees
Raz Ori is a Practitioner and Trainer of the Feldenkrais Method®. He is the Co-director of the Michigan Feldenkrais Professional Training Program and has served on the educational staff of training programs in Tel-Aviv, New York, Germany, Italy, and South Korea, teaching with Ruty Bar, David Zemach-Bersin, and Lior Pessach. He graduated in 2001 from the Tel-Aviv Feldenkrais Professional Training Program, and trained for two more years with Yochanan Rywerant, one of Dr. Feldenkrais’ first students. Raz runs The Ramat-Aviv Feldenkrais Center where he teaches Awareness Through Movement classes and gives individual Functional Integration lessons. Raz gained clinical experience working for 15 years at Clalit Integrative Medicine, part of Israel’s largest public health provider. He has also worked at the Sheba Medical Center with disabled war veterans suffering from chronic pain, phantom limb pain, PTSD, and head injuries. Raz is also a certified JKA practitioner working with special needs children. He teaches advanced trainings and conducts online mentoring groups. Raz lives in Tel-Aviv, with his wife and children.