This particularly subtle and effective version of the Feldenkrais approach to body-mind learning has been developed over the course of many years.
Largely thanks to some of my pupils and clients who came to me with very special needs: for instance. having to cope with neurological impairment; battling with severe depression and anxiety; facing up to life-threatening illness etc.
And also thanks to the encouragement gained from learning that Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais from time to time suggested that the possible advantages of using a highly supportive medium should be explored. He envisaged. for instance, working with somebody floating in highly saline water such as the Dead Sea.
Having experimented and researched since 1994 (in my private practice, regular classes and workshops, as well as in seminars for colleagues), I am now absolutely sure that the medium of air captured in inflatable balls of varying shapes and sizes can be used as a viable alternative to strongly saline water. The Air-Table, for instance, which is easily constructed from big oval balls held together in a loop, can be used with extraordinary advantage for both client and practitioner.
This table has proved very useful for relieving everyday strain and stress; providing insomniacs with a few hours refreshing sleep; and quite generally "returning people to themselves", (Several of my clients found the device so helpful that they now have their own air-divan at home).
Clients with conditions like multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, cerebral palsy, stroke, and other forms of brain injury benefit particularly from lying on a gently yielding surface that supplies their nervous system with subtle feedback even during the most minimal movements.
'Professional' acknowledgement from one of my most highly valued colleagues, martial artist and Feldenkrais Trainer Jeff Haller, came recently after he had looked at the video DVD documentary "Supported by Air" (See Resources):
"I wantto tell you I am impressed and believe you have done original work. Moshe used to talk about the best medium to give Functional Integration in would create the feeling of uniform contact and support for the whole self. You come close to it with the air beds .....
Advantages of 'working with air':
• Minimising effort while maximising awareness (in both the teacher/practitioner and the "pupil")
• Offering a sense of space
• Inviting yielding and letting go
• Increasing clarity and perception
• Enhancing enjoyment
Feldenkrais on air thus provides new options for teachers/practitioners interested in broadening their repertoire of her/his present self - image and repertoire of choices
Feldenkrais on air thus provides new options for teachers/practitioners interested in broadening their repertoire of professional strategies and learning-tools: Creative use of inflated balls triggers, facilitates, and enhances learning at the interface of ATM and FI. An ATM becomes a kind of Self-FI with an air bubble acting as a gentle teacher or "dance"-partner, allowing the movements to become "rounder", more pleasant, and fluid.
We usually tell our students that the floor is their best teacher. When we add a kind of 'assistant-teacher' in the form of a softly responsive ball, the students will experience much more quickly what we mean when we talk about effortlessness, gentleness, ease, playfulness, fluidity, gracefulness, softness, uniformity, and moving in less mechanical and more organic ways.
The reason is simple. When a part of the body is supported by a gently rolling ball its weight is effectively taken care of. Maybe less obvious but equally important: a mobile air bubble smoothly carrying an arm or a leg in a chosen direction seems to have an extraordinary capacity for modelling the kind of tonus characteristic of a well-organised body whose parts co-operate in effortless harmony.
Just minimally inflated, a small "Slow Motion Ball" or "Overball" (trade names used in the UK) can act as a gentle substitute hand, drawing the pupils' attention to parts of themselves that have been missing in their kinesthetic self-image and therefore did not really participate in their movements. Larger balls with only a minimal amount of air in them can greatly ease movement for those who may otherwise hardly be able to move at all.
A FI resembles an A TM with the recipient experiencing more active participation in the proprioceptive-kinesthetic dialogue when the practitioner employs one or several air balloons as learning tool/s, reliable assistants, or additional pair/s of gently supportive hands.
A small round Overball can be invaluable as a substitute hand (this time more or less fully inflated), especially in places where touch might be unacceptable to a client (for instance in the area of the pubic bone and between a woman's breasts). Hypersensitive people (such as women suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome) often respond much better to the soft contact of a yielding air-bubble than to a hand. Using this instead of direct physical contact in such cases can therefore be much more effective since even the gentlest hand might be experienced as too intrusive, too demanding. leading to anxious questions such as "What does she want of me?"
Amazing results can be achieved in the Artificial Floor Fl if an overball is used as a substitute for the usual wooden board. Both the lightness and the way the ball contacts the entire sole of the foot (including the arch) allow the person's nervous system to receive the information it is given in a much more open, non-protective way. When he showed students one of the Raissa videos at Amherst (June 29,1981) Feldenkrais explained that a polystyrene board may be preferable to a heavier wooden board because it allows the practitioner to be more sensitive and more delicate: "Her brain would find that she has a hostile floor [when the contact lacks delicacy] with a body that can't cope with it." An inflated ball adds another dimension to the experience of the substitute floor's non-hostility.
Clients who ask to be given "exercises" for doing at home benefit greatly from using the small round balls as learning aids - mainly to insure that they do such exercises slowly and safely. For instance, they might be asked to pay attention to the way the space between arm and chest changes while practising gentle side-bending. A ball rolling up and down along the side of the ribcage and the inside of the upper arm will ensure that this movement is done without effort and with enhanced awareness.
A powerful means of communicating with the nervous system