Why Consider the Feldenkrais Method for Relieving Stress & Anxiety

access news May 15, 2021

Ira Feinstein, Managing Director

The grooves of my anxiety were set at a young age. It was 1987. I was nine years old. My 41-year-old father went to work one morning and never came home. A fatal heart attack. This, alone, would've been traumatic enough if not for my 40-year-old mother's breast cancer diagnosis a year earlier. I spent the next two years until her death waiting to be an orphan. I lived in a state of high alert, always looking for signs that her death was imminent. Every time she failed to greet me at the door after school or was late coming home, I feared the worst. I can still remember the adrenaline pumping through my body and the freezingness of the fear. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't see. The only thing that was real was the sound of my heart thumping erratically in my chest and the refrain, "She's dead, she's dead, she's dead," playing on a loop in my mind. 

Even into my early twenties, despite years of therapy and anti-depression medicine, the same wash of fear and paralysis would overtake me whenever anything went "wrong." When my cat didn't come home for diner or my car needed to go to the shop--every day, to-be-expected life experiences--I couldn't handle them. Each unhappy surprise sent me back to that nine year-old-child: his heart beating wildly in his chest, unable to breathe, unable to see, unable to move. I survived by keeping my life small: small part-time job, small apartment, friends I wasn't attached to, girlfriends I knew I would leave. Whenever I tried to venture out and make my life bigger, the black hole of my anxiety kept me from making significant long-term changes. 

It was devastating to be so imprisoned by the past that I couldn't move towards my dreamed of future. So, I tried new ways to deal with my anxiety: cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness techniques. With practice, I became adept at paying attention to the present moment and breathing myself out of the cycle. By my late twenties, I thought that being able to soothe myself after I'd entered an anxious state was the best I'd be able to do. It was huge progress, but as I watched those around me take big risks to create the lives they wanted for themselves, I felt left behind. I couldn't help but wonder what my life might look like if de-escalating my anxiety was no longer my full-time job.

When I started taking Feldenkrais lessons at 28, I was looking to ease repetitive stress pain—not my anxiety. But something unexpected happened as my injury healed: the new neural pathways, or "grooves," that I created with each lesson started to bypass the anxious pathways. One day, almost as if out of nowhere, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I'd had to consciously navigate myself out of an anxious state. I'd stopped thinking the worst every time something unexpected happened. Instead, I found myself being able to wait calmly in moments of great unknowing. These changes didn't occur instantaneously, but gradually, week after week, lesson after lesson, I became someone who could deal with life's stresses without also having to navigate the pain of my past. I became someone who could take risks that my anxious self thought unimaginable.

Whether you are a person, like me, who has lived with crippling anxiety, or you're simply looking for a new way to deal with everyday stresses, try this free intro lesson to explore how David Zemach-Bersin's on-demand program, Reducing Your Body Pattern of Stress & Anxiety might benefit you.


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