I have a confession to make: I flunked yoga in college. I know. Yoga. As in the one-credit easy-A class college seniors across America take during their last semester to keep their GPAs up and stress levels down.
Not that I blame my yoga teacher for this, but it was 99.7 percent his fault. I was a delightful student, thank you very much. I did a somewhat decent downward dog on a fairly regular basis. My plank was relatively straight and plank-like. But Mr. Cheeseman (actual name) had to be all, “excuse me, you only held your plank for 29.9 seconds instead of 30. You wiggled your pinky finger. You exhaled instead of inhaled. Twice.”
You know what, Cheeseman? One, it is creepy that you noticed the intricacies of my breathing when there were about a hundred people in the class. Two, you should have been thrilled that I even showed up and was rarely hung over, even though class was on Friday mornings. I also once had the opportunity to leave during meditation when I opened my eyes and saw Token Hot Yoga Guy sneaking out. He winked at me, a sign which I interpreted as an invitation to join him in The Great Yoga Rebellion of 2011, but I DIDN’T. So really, I should’ve gotten an “A+,” not a series of disappointed looks and a “strong recommendation” to do some extra credit. Not that I’m still bitter, but I’m not a fan, Cheeseman. You wrecked yoga and also cheese. You don’t deserve to be named after something so amazing.
So, after college I decided to take a little yoga break. I turned to other venues: spin class! But no, spin class was not going to work out. I somehow managed to fall off the stationary bike, earning a bruise that took up basically my entire leg and earned me the prestigious title of “The Only Person I’ve Ever Seen Fall Off That Thing in my 20 Years of Teaching Spinning.”
I did not return to spin class.
Luckily, I recently discovered a form of exercise that, like yoga, allows me to stretch out, relax, and enjoy some nice deep breathing. Unlike yoga, in Feldenkreis class it doesn’t matter if you do the movements correctly; you can do them however you want. Of course, you probably shouldn’t start doing cartwheels when the teacher asks you to move your head back and forth. And sometimes, I move my head back and forth for 29.5 seconds instead of the recommended 30 just because I can. I am such a rebel.
Feldenkreis was created by Moshe Feldenkreis, an Israeli physicist, in the 1950s. The exercise aims to improve functioning by increasing awareness through movement. The method believes that by noticing what you’re doing, you can change the way you move in order to use less energy, prevent injury, and experience a stronger mind-body connection.
I like the Feldenkreis method because it isn’t so focused on the end result. If you are one of the lucky ones who can touch your toes, a hearty Mazel Tov to you, but the Feldenkreis method wants you to stop and think about the journey both you and your body take during the process of trying to touch your toes. What happens in your shoulders when you try to touch your toes? In your neck? Does your breathing change? How can you make this movement less work for yourself? It’s fascinating that a lot of movements you think involve only a few specific body parts actually involve many more. And it’s truly amazing what you discover about how you do things when you simply stop to notice what you’re doing.
The classes are relaxing, rejuvenating, and I always leave feeling awesome (as opposed to majorly crabby and/or in need of major medical attention … silly spin class). There are dozens of certified instructors throughout the city, but if you’re able to go to Chicago Athletic Clubs, Gerry offers classes throughout the week in Lakeview, Lincoln Park and Evanston. He is a lovely man who will notice you’re breathing the exact right amount (no creepiness here) and will also not ruin cheese. Enjoy!