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I Tried It: Feldenkrais

Derrik Chinn, 33, La Cachonda in Tijuana

You Try It!

Rancho La Puerta
$300 for four hours of classes (Saturdays); $3,250 for one week

I’m out at Rancho La Puerta, a 3,000-acre spa-hotel that’s more than twice the size of Balboa Park, just south of the Mexico border on the outskirts of Tecate, where boulders, cows, and vineyards abound. I’m a mere 40 miles from central San Diego. But like most of the other people here—be it for a week, half-week, or just the day—I feel worlds away.

Simplifying the international commute comes as part of the package; staff members meet guests on the U.S. side of the border, walk into Mexico together, and chauffeur them back to the property, a five-minute car ride down the road.

Among the roster of some 75 classes offered daily is a crash course on the Feldenkrais Method, a somatic educational system developed by Israeli doctor Moshé Feldenkrais in the 1970s that’s described as an “internal journey to rediscover balance, flexibility, and coordination.”

I’m a fairly active 30-something who exercises as regularly as possible. Weights and cardio, mostly, with the occasional yoga or swim session. I’ve never heard of Feldenkrais, but my stiff, 30-something neck, lower back, and hamstrings—ever-reminiscent of our more agile days—are already signing me up.

Our instructor is Donna, a lanky woman with an aikido background who’s been practicing Feldenkrais for 19 years. She says it’s ultimately given her the ability to engage more fully in the world, and enhanced her creativity in how she habitually moves her body.

That’s pretty deep. Nevertheless, my neck, back, and hamstrings are now buckled up and ready for blastoff.

Taking shoes off in the middle of the room, I notice I’m the youngest of my nine classmates, who range from their 40s to 80s. And I’m the only man. But Donna assures me the beauty of Feldenkrais is that the same class can benefit anyone and everyone, be it a paraplegic or an Olympic medalist.

The session lasts an hour, enough time to take us through 10 basic movements. We observe how our bones connect with the floor, and notice how much effort it takes to lift our pelvises with our feet and knees together. We rest. Then we do the same, now with our feet and knees apart. Then we rest again, comparing how we feel while lying still before and after each move. We clasp our hands and point to the ceiling, drawing circles and lines in the air and noticing the movement of our shoulder blades. Then we clasp our hands again, but now with the opposite index finger on top, and do the same. Then we rest and observe again.

After an hour on the floor praying to the rafters and resting, I feel relaxed, sure. Almost as if I were sinking into the floor. But I haven’t broken a sweat. I haven’t exerted myself whatsoever. I actually feel as though I’ve done very little, and that’s exactly the idea, Donna says: to strain the body less by making each movement as efficient as possible. And, also, lots and lots of rests.

“Take a rest before you need a rest,” she says. “That way you never need a rest.”

And that’s when I realize I’ve been a Feldenkraiser all my life.

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