“Movement is Life. Life is a process. Improve the process and you will improve your Life.”
Feldenkrais Method instructor Joelle Claret will lead a free, two-hour workshop on Saturday, May 12, at 2 p.m. in the Topanga Library. She invites those interested or simply curious to drop in and begin exploring how to “unfold their whole innate potential.”
Born in the lush country of Venezuela to French parents, Claret always harbored a love for movement. She started ballet at age four and began practicing yoga at fifteen. In Paris, she studied modern dance, jazz, acting, and the methods of G.I. Gurdjieff, a mystic, philosopher, spiritual teacher, and composer.
Claret found relief from childhood anxiety and a compromised digestive system by participating in other sports as well, such as horseback riding, snow and waterskiing, Tai-Chi, and Qigong. Being in nature was a priority.
The birth of her first baby in 1976, which took 36 hours to deliver, triggered a curiosity about the impact of birth trauma on mothers and babies. Years later, while assisting a training session in rebirthing, a healing modality to release trauma, she decided to become a doula.
Claret completed her doula training in 1995 and began exploring ways to prepare the body for birth using her knowledge of movement from her intense background in dance and sports.
At a weekend workshop, Claret first heard about Moshe Feldenkrais, a physicist, engineer, and Judo master, who developed the Feldenkrais Method. The Feldenkrais Method is an educational system that uses movement to create self-awareness. It is a unique approach to human development with more than a thousand gentle movement sequences, many of which are drawn from martial arts, yoga, and science. The Feldenkrais Method guides self-exploration and discovery and recognizes the mind and body not as separate functions, but as a unified whole.
Claret tried a two-week training program and “it was life changing.” She experienced expansion throughout her entire body, and she recalls that her chest actually increased by three inches.
Recognized for her doula work, Claret was invited to a four-year Feldenkrais training program in Santa Fe, NM, with other “Movement Educators.” On a leap of faith, she left her home in Venezuela, her friends, and most of her possessions behind, moved to America, and began studying.
Two years into the program, however, disaster struck in the form of a car accident. Movement-loving Joelle Claret fractured her neck underneath the second vertebrae at the base of her skull and lost one of the tendons that supports the neck. Doctors told her that without surgery to fuse two of the vertebrae together, she could become paralyzed. Despite the high risks, Claret decided against the surgery and turned instead to non-traditional methods. In addition to working with an acupuncturist and “body talk” specialist, she became a case study for the Feldenkrais program in Santa Fe.
Throughout the seven long months it took for the bones in her neck to heal, Claret practiced what the Feldenkrais Method calls “invisible movements.” These movements enabled her to rehabilitate her neck without the customary physical therapy rigmarole. The most amazing thing, she recollects, was that after months of rehab, she went out dancing Salsa with her friends to celebrate and realized she was dancing better than ever.
Because of the work she had done with Feldenkrais exploring the neck and spine, Claret saw improvements in her pelvis, which made her dancing even better than it had been before the injury.
Feldenkrais’ biography is an anthology of incredible experiences, from becoming one of Europe’s first Judo masters, to studying with Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientists.
Born in 1904, in Slavuta, Ukraine, Feldenkrais moved to Palestine when he was fourteen. He studied to become a physicist and worked for some time with scientist Marie Curie, who discovered radium and conducted groundbreaking research on radioactivity. In Paris, he also met Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, and studied with him until he achieved sixth dan black belt. Feldenkrais then helped Kano create one of the oldest Judo clubs in Europe.
Feldenkrais had a scientific mind, which he combined with a kinesthetic knowledge of movement drawn from martial arts. Because he had previously injured both of his knees, Feldenkrais figured out how to function and move with the disability. He had learned how to use gravity to his advantage from Judo, and he had a mind accustomed to conducting research and detailed analysis. He was able to adjust his movements and lifestyle so well that people started approaching him for help. His influence grew, and his ideas spread as he worked on people with a wide range of limitations. Soon he was teaching the newly developed Feldenkrais Method.
Although not everyone will have such a dramatic experience, Claret remembers clients telling her that they “feel much more grounded after a session and much lighter when walking and moving around.”
She states that the most important quality when practicing Feldenkrais, “is curiosity and the ability to listen. Only then can we, as Feldenkrais said, “Make the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy elegant.”
The Feldenkrais Method has helped her in so many aspects of her life from childhood anxiety to a broken neck, and it can also be structured to improve movement awareness in sports and the arts.
Claret’s work is especially useful for Yoga teachers, dancers, and doulas. It is grounding, calming, and centering, in a way that can also help people cope with stress, anxiety, eating disorders, ADD, and ADHD.
The free two-hour workshop, Saturday, May 12, 2-4 p.m., will take place at the Topanga Library, located at 122 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA. 90290. Wear comfortable clothes, bring a mat, towel, and water.
For more information: (310) 455-3480; colapublib.org. To contact Joelle Claret: firstname.lastname@example.org; (310) 905-0125. For more information regarding her personal practice or biography, visit her Facebook pages: From Pregnancy to Ecstasy or Movewise.
By Isabela Lisco