When we think of pain management after an automobile accident, we often think of hardcore chemical painkillers, hands-on massage, manipulative physio and bone-crunching chiropractic sessions. But Ralph Hadden takes the opposite tack. He has mastered a very subtle form of movement therapy that gently reminds the body of its prior capabilities.

Amid the busy hustle and bustle of the CBD, Ralph’s classes provide a haven for those suffering from severe pain and those just wanting to take some time out for themselves.

There are two forms of Feldenkrais. Here Ralph is taking a class through ATM or Awareness Through Movement. During these floor-based classes, students become aware of their holding patterns. Where is the unnecessary tension held in their bodies? They let the old tensions and patterns go and learn to move more efficiently.

Awareness Through Movement

When a part of the body is injured, the nervous system orders a host of extra muscles around the injured area to take action and provide support. Unfortunately for most people, these muscles continue their involvement in the movement of the injured area, well after the injury has disappeared. The result may be an altered centre of balance which throws other areas of the body out, and also much unnecessary tension which inhibits the range of movement.

Ralph is asking these students to find the easiest way to move their hands above their heads and their legs downwards at the same time. Very gently and easily and with the least amount of effort.

Once one side of the body has been reprogrammed, not much time needs to spent on the other side. In fact visualization and a little bit of movement may be all that’s needed to bring the second side of the body up to speed.

Ralph asks his students to imagine which movements occur in life that involve the upward movement of the arm and the downward movement of the feet. The students are instructed to stand and pretend as if they are reaching upwards for something. Ralph tells them to notice that they are placing pressure downwards on their feet while reaching up at the same time. The Penny drops. Hopefully their floor work has help them to discover the most efficient way of completing this everyday task.

A couple of months ago, one of Ralph’s students had a motorcycle accident.
In short, a vehicle stopped in front of him and he flew over the top of the car landing head first on the road. Miraculously, he was released from hospital a few hours later with no major injuries. But since that day, he has experienced severe back and shoulder pain. He comes to Feldenkrais classes every Tuesday morning with Ralph, and finds it one of the only effective means he has of controlling the pain. Ralph also works one on one with people in FI or Functional Integration sessions.

Functional Integration

First of all he will watch the way a person walks and holds themselves. Interestingly, emotions and psychology impact on the holding patterns a person establishes for themselves just as profoundly as physical injury. Ralph helps people release the negative emotions attached to such holding patterns and tells the body it is safe and secure enough to resume its prior status.

In a one-on-one session, Ralph will move the clients limbs with his own hands, gradually reprogramming the bodies memory with new information for pain free and efficient movement. Prior to becoming a Feldenkrais practitioner, Ralph was a massage therapist for years.

While he advocates that massage is beneficial for everyone on a regular basis, he also warns that the body may cling too tightly to its holding patterns if it is roughly or intensely manipulated, feeling the need to tense up muscles in an effort to protect a formerly injured area. The body perceives no threat from the subtle Feldenktais movements and is more ready to let go and trust. Less is more in this case.

From a recipients perspective, it is nice to close the eyes and let the body go in a one-on-one session, marveling at the end just how effective this unobtrusive hands-on healing method is. Traumas such as car accidents, surgery, back pain and emotional shock can all be healed effectively with Feldenkrais. Feldenkrais reminds us that we are not just physical creatures, we are an awesome integration of the body, mind and spirit, the condition of each element impacting profoundly on the rest.

Ralph Hadden is a Feldenkrais practitioner and veteran body and movement therapist, teacher and trainer of teachers since 1976. www.ralphhadden.com