Presenting people with new possibilities for everyday movements is also the goal of Feldenkrais group classes, known as "Awareness Through Movement." For about the price of a drop-in yoga class, students are instructed to perform carefully planned movement experiences while sitting or lying on the floor. Although each lesson centers on a particular joint or area, noticeable benefits are often felt throughout the body as well as in the mind, thanks to the human body's highly sophisticated system of neuromuscular linkages. "Not only does your body feel better, but your sense of who you are in the world may shift," says Cottrell. In other words, although you may come into class simply expecting to improve your physical being, you might find yourself leaving with a stronger, more confident sense of self.
The fact that the movements of Feldenkrais can serve as a conduit to a deeper connection to yourself is one of the ways in which it's similar to yoga. "When asked what you get from yoga, you could answer, 'Better circulation, increased flexibility, and pain relief,' but what yoga really does is change your life," says Vukson. "The practice of yoga isn't always pleasant, but it does make your life more authentic." Feldenkrais does this too. "It is simply the use of movement to discover possibilities," says Cottrell. "It's learning how to be aware."
The active healing techniques of both Ortho-Bionomy and Feldenkrais may seem a bit foreign if your idea of satisfying bodywork involves simply lying semiconscious while a skilled practitioner kneads your body into a looser, more relaxed state. However, if you are interested in playing a part in freeing your body of its restrictions or pains while deepening your sense of self-awareness in a way that can enhance your yoga practice, then you might want to give these two bodywork modalities a try.
Linda Knittel is a nutritional anthropologist and freelance writer in Portland. She is the author of The Soy Sensation (McGraw Hill, 2001).