Gill South consults a Feldenkrais practitioner in a bid to reduce her asthma symptoms after exercising.

I've succumbed to the first cold of the year and have dosed myself up on various cold medications plus supplements before going off to see Caryn Truppman, a Pt Chevalier Feldenkrais practitioner. I don't want her to send me away because I'm too sick.

I've come to see Caryn today because I have been wheezing a bit after exercise, a mild exercise-induced asthma, my GP has diagnosed. A few of my friends are getting this at the moment. And while I have been supplied with an inhaler, I would rather find a more natural alternative. I am told Caryn is excellent at helping people with breathing.

The Feldenkrais Method was designed by Moshe Feldenkrais, a physicist, engineer and judo master born in the Ukraine in 1904. His method is all about learning to move in more effective ways, based on principles of physics, engineering, learning and human development. Feldenkrais can improve posture, breathing, flexibility and co-ordination - and can help where physiotherapy fails.


The first thing the practitioner remarks on when she meets me is my eyes - is one eye weaker than the other, she asks. Slightly yes. My eyes are having an effect on the way I "use" my body, she says. My body twists, compressing the diaphragm, to compensate and I don't use my peripheral vision as much as I should, she says.

Caryn works around my body prodding in certain places. The practitioner wins my heart, telling me I have an athletic body. I say "ha!" to all those doubters out there. She works a lot round my ribcage and spine, especially in the lower and upper thoracic areas. I ask her how she would describe what she's doing. It's not manipulation, she says, rather she is having a somatic conversation with my body. She is feeling and listening with her hands. She is working to soften, to improve flexibility and stability.

The idea is that the workload for my body should be shared by more of it. Working on my right side, she shows me how she has lengthened it and increased its flexibility, then she starts on my left side which has some pins and needles in protest at having to do some work.

We do some breathing exercises, very gently, taking segments of breath and putting very little strain on the body. I should only do these when very relaxed, she says. I've been told by my GP that I hyperventilate at times. What Feldenkrais is doing is bringing awareness to constraints like this. I arrive with a very tight neck, probably thanks to this horrible cold, and my head was off to one side, says Caryn. I also had rounded shoulders. Gee, I sound like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I leave, feeling tired but relaxed, really loosened up. No longer am I a 19th century crone.

It's very hard to describe Feldenkrais, a friend of mine and I agree, but there's definitely a place for it for those of us who have gotten into bad habits. I'm going to think about attending some classes where you become more aware of your movement habits while discovering new, better patterns of behaviour. As Caryn says it's about allowing your body to do what it does best, getting bad patterns out of the way. Then the pathways become a lot clearer. Often your nervous system will block out parts that are not working.