Back in the mid-1970’s, Moshe Feldenkrais met Ida Rolf. They became fast friends who passionately discussed their work. Rolf had developed a deep tissue technique to rehabilitate joint structure that would improve function. Feldenkrais’s method took the opposite approach. It focused on functional movements that would optimize human structure. Rolf once called her work Structural Integration. Inspired by Rolf, Feldenkrais would name the “hands on” part of his method: Functional Integration®.
Around the same time, during the San Francisco training, Feldenkrais wrote ∫f(x)dx=F(x) on a chalkboard. He proudly told the class this equation and his method are one and the same. He never did explain this concept in the training, but let’s figure it out.
We are not going to go into a deep dive about Functional Integration; in fact, we will over simplify it and apply it to a movement lesson. Let’s think of the first half of the equation, ∫f(x)dx as differentiating a function and the second half, (F(x)) as integrating a function. Our movement lesson will have a differentiating component and then a part that integrates the differentiation into the function. A simple standing and turning lesson will help us embody the concept of functional integration.
Establishing a Baseline
Simply, turn to the right and then to the left. Just do what is easy. Which direction is nicer for you? Turn in the easy direction, notice how far you can see behind you. Remember this spot for the end of the lesson.
Differentiating the Turning Movement
Turn just a little bit in the easy direction (less than you did before). Stay turned in the direction while turning your head forward and back to the side. Your body stays quiet while your head turns forward and back. You are differentiating your head from the rest of you. Continue a few times, then go back to the center and rest.
Turn to the same side, stay there, slide your shoulder blades and arms in the opposite direction. If you turn to the right, your shoulder blades slide to the left and come back while the rest of you stays quiet. Now your shoulder blades and arms are differentiating from your head, torso, pelvis and legs. After 3-5 movements, return all of you back to center and rest for a moment.
Turn to the same side, stay there, now turn your pelvis in the opposite direction and return. Your head and shoulders stay relatively quiet while your lower half turns in the opposite direction and returns. Notice how your upper half is differentiating from your lower half. After a few times, let it go and rest.
Integrating the Differentiation
Turn to the easy direction for a few movements. Are you able to turn more with the same amount of ease? What have you learned from the differentiated movements that have integrated into better turning? Turn to the other side. Has that also improved? You may notice how the integration also occurs from one side to the other. Other types of movement may also improve? Is it easier for you to look up and down? Many Feldenkrais students are happily surprised when the integration manifests in a wide variety of movements and functions.
Putting It All Together
Integration is just putting it all together. The variety and differentiation of movements in Feldenkrais lessons result in new learning. All this new learning integrates within us to improve not only our function (actions), but also our structure (posture). This is part of the amazing natural intelligence that works quietly behind the scenes. One does not have to always micromanage movement with the conscious mind, just do a Feldenkrais lesson with awareness and trust that you will naturally put it all together as needed. Learn more about Functional Integration® and the Feldenkrais Method® here at www.s3nse.org.