PODCAST -E17 - From Cognitive Neuroscience to the Feldenkrais Method ft. Dr. Zhiwei Li

September 8, 2023
In this episode of the Red Beard Embodiment Podcast, host Alex Greene sits down with Dr. Zhiwei Li to discuss the power of embodiment practices, trauma healing, and the human nervous system through the lens of the Feldenkrais Method. Dr. Li, a cognitive neuroscientist, shares her insights on the connection between the brain and Feldenkrais Method. They also explore the concept of human dignity and the importance of regaining spontaneity and choice in our actions.

This podcast episode with Dr. Zhiwei Li provides a fascinating exploration of the Feldenkrais Method and how it can lead to profound shifts in awareness, functioning, and personal growth. Host Alex Green interviews Dr. Li, a cognitive neuroscientist and Feldenkrais practitioner, about her journey into somatic education and insights gained from practicing and teaching this method. Their discussion offers an insightful look at the philosophy, techniques, and transformative potential of Feldenkrais.

Understanding the Feldenkrais Method

The Feldenkrais Method is a form of somatic education that encourages self-awareness and mindfulness through movement. The method involves slowing down movements and focusing on physical sensations, which is intended to teach individuals more about their bodies from an awareness perspective. This practice is not only about learning but also about creating neural changes from a neuroplastic perspective. The goal of the Feldenkrais Method is to improve efficiency, ease, and functioning in a human body.

The Feldenkrais Method consists of two parts: "Awareness Through Movement" lessons and a hands-on component called "Functional Integration". The former involves formal lessons where individuals learn to slow down and attune their awareness to the body's inherent sense while performing different movements or somatic explorations. The latter involves a Feldenkrais practitioner using touch and movement cues, not through massage or typical bodywork, but to refine the awareness of the body and the nervous system in a hands-on method.

This podcast episode features a fascinating discussion between Alex Green, the host, and Jo Lee, his classmate and friend, about the Feldenkrais method. They explore how this somatic movement practice can help people find grounding, meaning, and connection in an ever-changing world.

Discovering Tightness and Pain:

Dr. Li shares how Feldenkrais helped her become aware of tightness in her body that she didn't even realize was there before. She also noticed her chronic lower back pain went away after practicing the method for a while.

Black Box Experiences:

Dr. Li talks about a "black box" experience where after a Feldenkrais pelvic lesson, she could suddenly breathe into her pelvis in a whole new way. This mysterious and unfamiliar sensation made her want to understand the mechanisms behind how the method works.

Variety of Feldenkrais Lessons:

Alex and Dr. Li discuss the huge variety of Feldenkrais lessons, ranging from subtle movements of the lips to full body rolling patterns. The lessons are precisely sequenced but students often don't know the reasons behind the sequence. Repetition and teaching help grasp the intended learnings.

Functional Movement and Efficiency:

Dr. Li explains how Feldenkrais uses slow, step-by-step functional lessons like baby rolling to teach efficient, effortless movement. By moving through challenges smoothly, the method builds whole-body coordination.

The Power of Gentle Touch:

Dr. Li  talks about how Feldenkrais understood the power of gentle touch, using neuroscience principles before they were proven. Soft touch enhances sensitivity and allows organic whole-body responses to emerge, as Moshe Feldenkrais saw with his client Nora.

In conclusion, Alex and Dr. Li's conversation highlights how the Feldenkrais method opens up new possibilities for moving, sensing, learning and connecting. By cultivating subtle awareness and ease, it can help people find greater meaning, dignity and spontaneity in life.

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