I was a speed walker at international sports events for nine years and had to retire due to degeneration of cartilage in my hip joint. This is the story of how the Feldenkrais Method spared me a hip replacement operation for twenty-one years.
Well, I used to speed walk some things like 50 kilometers a day; that is 32.5 miles. At international activities, like in Holland, I did 200 kilometers, every day 10 hours of speed walking. It seems, it didn’t do me any good as I used up the cartilage in my right hip. That is, I did not give my hip enough time to regenerate and reproduce the cartilage.
So one day, here I was, in a situation where I could hardly walk without pain and in no way could I climb up or down the stairs.
Therefore, I went to the hospital to find out what could be done. They said that an artificial hip joint could be used for about fifteen years. At that time, I was thirty-seven and if I’d get an artificial hip joint, I’ll probably have to go through a lot of operations in my lifetime. They were going to have a bed for me in six week’s time and would do surgery on my right hip.
I went home and was really in great distress.
You see, I was a surgical technician in the Swiss Army Medical Corps and had assisted at hip joint replacement operations in small local hospitals in the mountains. It was like construction work. I was responsible for sterilizing all of these instruments: the power saw, the chisel, the hammer, the drill and so on; all that was used in a hip joint replacement operation. I had told myself, I am never going to have such an operation done on me. And here I was, confronted with just such an operation myself.
I told my girlfriend about it and she said, “Why don’t you try the Feldenkrais Method; a method that was invented by the physicist and engineer Moshe Feldenkrais?” I asked her to tell me more about him and his method.
Moshe was born in 1904 in Lithuania. When he was seventeen, he immigrated to Palestine where he studied physics and engineering. Later he became a professor for solid body physics at the Sorbonne, University of Paris when he discovered his Method.
Moshe was also a bit crazy concerning sports. He was a soccer player and he played soccer quite viciously. In addition, he was the first European to have a black belt in both Judo and Jujitsu, which he also taught. Because of how he played his sports, soccer, and these martial arts, he damaged his knees.
Moshe went from one doctor to another asking them what they could do. They said, “Well, we can operate.” And as an engineer, Moshe was interested in the success rate of such an operation. The doctors said 50 percent.
Moshe said, “I beg your pardon.”
They said, “Fifty percent your knees will either heal or 50 percent they’ll stay immobile!”
He refused! Perhaps he thought, “If I would have to build a bridge and it would be only 50 percent safe—who would want to use it?”
However, one day, a doctor that said to him, “I can’t heal you. However, you may be able to heal yourself. Go home and think about what you can do.”
Moshe went home and there he got his idea!
Probably, he asked himself, “If I would construct a machine and call it Mannequin, how would Mannequin have to move to have the least consumption of the joints and vertebrae?” Of course, Mannequin would have to move according to the laws of physics, the laws of levers and the so-called moment of momentum (twisting) and the martial arts.
It follows; Moshe tried such exercises on himself. As a martial artist he knew how to move. And yet, to his surprise, he found out after awhile that his knees had started to heal. And it was not just his knees, his whole well being started to get better. Even his powers of concentration and his memory expanded.
Thus, he realized that there must be something going on in his brain. He went on to studying neuro-physiology and then, on the three pillars: martial arts, physics and neuro-physiology, he founded the Feldenkrais Method.
As destiny had foreseen, my first experience with the Feldenkrais Method was a course in Zürich, Switzerland, an extended four-day weekend.
While I was lying on the floor doing these movement applications, the course leader, Edward, asked us what our intention for this course was. I said, “Well, I’d like to be able to walk up and down the stairs without any pain.”
After the four days, Edward invited me into the staircase and said, “Here are the stairs. How about climbing up the stairs?”
I said, “In no way. I’d have too much pain.”
He said, “Okay. Then walk down the stairs.”
I thought, “Well, these four days must have had an effect on me—let’s give it a shot!”
So, I held the banisters on my right side with both hands, put my left foot on the first step and distributed all my weight on my hands and left leg. Only then did I put my right foot next to my left foot. Then I moved my hands a bit more down the banister and repeated this action, until I was halfway down the stairs.
When I was halfway down, Edward said, “Very good, please come up.”
I said, “Edward, I told you, I cannot do that. I’ll have too much pain.”
He said, “Okay. Are you going to stay there the rest of your life?”
“Well, what are going to do?”
I said, “Well, I’ll go down the rest of the stairs and come up with the elevator.”
Edward laughed and said, “I didn’t mean that! Just imagine, while you were going down the stairs, I took a film of you and now I am projecting this film onto the wall. Now I’m projecting it backwards. What are you doing?”
I said, “I’m walking up the stairs backwards.”
He said, “Yes. Do it!”
He had so much intention in his voice that I simply walked up the stairs backwards—just holding the banisters in my right hand to guide myself up the stairs.
I walked up the stairs without any pain!
Edward then said, “This will be one of your daily exercises. You will walk up three stories backwards each day.”
I nodded my head in thought and said, “Very well.”
The next day I went to work and waited in the staircase until it was empty. Only then did I dare to walk up to my office on the third floor—backwards.
I did that for about seven months. Until one day, being absent of mind, when I was on top of the third story, I realized that I had walked up the stairs forward.
And from that day forth, I walked up the stairs forward, totally free of pain.