September 10, 2016

Ines’s 78th Birthday Present


by Eytan Mandel 

Published in The Feldenkrais Journal*. No. 28 (General Issue 2015)

On February 8, 2012, Ines came into my room in extreme pain and agony, unable to breathe. The chiropractic treatment she had gotten earlier made it all even worse. Her story included a left-knee replacement a few years earlier with a recommendation to have the other one replaced as well. She refused to have the surgery as the tibial component of the operated knee had loosened. Changes from the feet to the spine also caused right shoulder pain. To add to all this, her dentist had recently done work that caused pain from her false teeth. And because of that, her jaw and neck hurt.

As usual I asked her to find the most comfortable position lying on the table.

Slowly she turned to her right side and arranged herself with the right palm supporting her right cheek, knees bent one on the other, as comfortable as she could be in the terrible state she was in.

I realized that this Functional Integration lesson could NOT include movement as there was not a single part that did not hurt! So I sat on the table behind her next to her pelvis, and put my right hand on her iliac crest and my left hand on her greater trochanter—touching, sensing, not moving, but definitely supporting.

We were silent, sad, and sore.

I could feel her tremor of pain under my fingertips and I felt sorry for her prolonged suffering. So I offered her the best and only thing I could think of in this dead-end situation—namely, my support.

I had to pay attention to my self-organization. I corrected any parasitic effort that showed up in my shoulders, face, breathing, legs, feet, toes, and, of course, my lower back—taking all into consideration in my side-sitting twisted position.

To an outsider it might look as if nothing was going on. But I did tiny movements in the direction of side flexion, and the person I touched was very much aware under my palms.

I thought of maybe other things I should or could have done, but the only thing I could think about was: “Acceptance.” Having that in mind I kept on doing just that with a small addition of effort substitution.

After 35 minutes in the same position, suddenly Ines took a deep breath, one which involves all and says it all.

She smiled at me and said, “Thank you. I feel much better. Did you know? It is my birthday today. You gave me a present. Now I can go home and celebrate with my family.”

“Mazel-tov,” I said. “See you next week.”

When she left I sat for a few minutes and reflected with amazement on what had just happened. Here was yet another proof of the gentleness, kindness, and greatness of our Method.

* The Feldenkrais Journal is published annually for the members of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America (FGNA)..