What has kept Ann going during nearly thirty years of trying to come to terms with the restrictions imposed on her by MS is her keen interest in literature, music, and other arts - and a devoted husband who helps her get around. She writes poetry and paints and keeps exploring new methods and techniques that might bring her relief.
There are times when I don’t see her in my practice for a while, but in the end she always comes back to the Feldenkrais Method and to working with the medium of air which she finds particularly helpful in keeping her mobile (mentally and physically).
Ann has been in a wheel chair for years but even now still manages to walk around her home with the help of a frame.
I risked the experiment of using an air support-system for Ann when she arrived one day in a bad temper. She had “not slept a wink all night” and kept talking about being fed up with her predicament. I could think of only one way to help her stop talking: Get her to kneel down and lie with her front over a softly supportive table constructed out of two EGG balls held together in a loop. And indeed that worked wonders. Ann calmed down and began to listen inside. She soon remarked that the pain region round her coccyx was beginning to feel better as her stiff back started to undulate a little when I mobilised first her pelvis and then the shoulder-girdle and head.
When she came off the air device she felt refreshed and rejuvenated and enjoyed doing an elegant yoga-cat exercise, letting her back alternately arch and round and sensing the pelvis pivot around the femur heads. Walking felt much, much easier after that lesson and we decided that working with air was a definite bonus for her.
After Ann broke her ankle in a bad fall it looked as if she might never walk again. For a time we had to return to the regular Feldenkrais table combined with small air cushions. The air bed simply did not feel secure enough to either of us. But after several months Ann made an astonishing recovery, her badly bent legs began to straighten and to carry her body again. At that moment Ann was ready to get back on the air-table once more.
It was Josiah who was able to put into words what this device can mean for somebody suffering from MS was. His conviction of its particular merits was eventually translated into the video/DVD documentary “Supported by Air” (See Resources)
The medium shows you a ‘quality of give’ you don’t yet have
In the process of learning to deal as intelligently as possible with Multiple Sclerosis Josiah developed a rare sensitivity and perception which shows in his extremely skilled self-organisation. Thanks to intense work on himself, involving study of neurology and a number of holistic mind-body approaches including the Feldenkrais Method, few people would notice that he is afflicted with this condition. I found his comments about receiving Functional Integration while lying on an air-table particularly clear and enlightening:
“You really notice from the beginning where the movement is not going through; and when the movement does go through, you really feel that! You don’t get that so clearly on the normal table... On the balls I can actually sense in a way I don’t normally experience on the table where things are sticking in some movements with which I am having difficulties.
If the rest of the body is not willing to move with the movement, the blockage sends the force [from a gentle ‘push’ or ‘pull’] into the balls and it gets dissipated. And then later on where the force travels up the body it is like the balls are resonating the actual movement of the body...
What I often get on the table is a cloudy feeling. I don’t have any clarity about where the force stops.
The medium shows you a quality of give you don’t yet have. One of the things that were interesting in terms of the neurological aspect – and very fascinating to me – was the degree to which you can sense your lower back – in particular because the lower back has only a very small number of sensors. Just neurologically it’s actually quite difficult to tell where the hell your back is in space anyway...I get very clear images about where my back is – the whole of my back, but also my lower back in relation to the rest of my back because the yielding surface moulds my back. As soon as you are beginning to move any part of the back the supporting surface actually comes in against some other part of the back, so you can really feel that undulation in movement, the unfolding of movement.
You are also getting a clear sense of dimensionality. When you are on the regular table it’s a flat surface, so when somebody is putting force through you are not getting the three-dimensional movement effectively. Well you get a degree of it... When you are working on a surface which will give below you, you can do much more in three dimensions. So effectively the balls are doing the same job as the table but they are also able to do more than the table”.
After one particular experiment I asked Josiah to compare how the push from the soles of his feet placed on a very large firm roller (both at the beginning and at the end of the lesson) had gone through his body the second time, he exclaimed:
“Oh, totally different. It was much more effective than any other FI I have ever had because the contrast is extremely marked – exceptionally clear! You can really feel the difference in the transmission of energy. One of the things here is you are taking away more resistance but you are still keeping support – and it’s firm support too...
However Josiah also pointed out that whoever employs such a mobile support system needs to know exactly what they are doing:
"My feeling of getting on the thing, and having seen it constructed a few times now, is that there is an art in putting it together correctly and using it with confidence. I mean this could be an utter nightmare if it wasn’t actually well constructed and well used!”
Increased mobility and security for people with Multiple Sclerosis