Awareness Through Movement (ATM)

Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class demonstration with man on the floor
Awareness Through Movement (ATM)

Have you heard the term Awareness Through Movement®? These are classes that are offered in groups and part of the Feldenkrais Method®. They feature slow movements with intentional focus on what you’re doing, how you are doing it, as well as how it feels.

The movements you do should not feel like exercise. Lessons begin with small, comfortable movements done gently. From there you may gradually expand into movements that are larger or more robust, but all the while reducing effort. You are guided to focus on how the parts of your body respond habitually and to discover new ways to respond.

Because of the unique movement lesson construction, you understand how the parts of your body are connected, not only bone-to-bone, but also your mind to body. As you repeat movements, you are coached to discover nuances that can make the difference between trying too hard, injury, or pure enjoyment.

As your attention is drawn toward the reliability of your skeleton, pressure against the ground, and ease of breath, you feel a gradual reduction of tension throughout your musculature. This release of unnecessary tension in the muscles, frees your brain to reorganize or upgrade the movement more efficiently and pleasingly.

It’s through this retraining of the nervous system that neuromuscular retraining happens, creating new pathways in the brain that allow you to retrain yourself to move with less pain, more strength, and to tap into a happier life experience. At Future Life Now, we have seen the power in our motto of Move better, Feel better, Live better.

What Happens in an Awareness Through Movement Class

Whether you are taking an in-person Awareness Through Movement class or an online class, expect there to be a small group of people – although larger online classes are available, if you prefer. While your attention should be on yourself and your movements, there’s often a powerful connection when you do ATM with others and you can benefit from the group synergy.

A Feldenkrais teacher will lead you through a sequence of movements. You may be asked to sit or lie on the floor, stand, or sit in a chair so it’s a good idea to have a chair that doesn’t roll with a firm seat and back nearby and a yoga mat for the floor. If using a yoga mat, placing something like a towel or sheet on top can be helpful because we often use sliding movements where friction isn’t helpful. If you are unable to lie on the floor, a firm bed can work for many lessons. Or, sometimes, the teacher will be able to give adaptions for sitting. The movements are structured so you can concentrate on the sensations involved, how you’re moving, what you’re feeling – both physically and emotionally.

You may discover that by making one small adjustment in the way you sit you suddenly have more comfort or flexibility, or you may find something that feels more uncomfortable. The goal is to increase your awareness of movements and positions you automatically use and then to mold and adapt them to improve your flexibility, coordination, and comfort.

You can also expect:

  • You can find small class environments where the teacher is able to observe all the students, this is usually less than 25 people. Or you can find large online class environments with hundreds.
  • A big advantage of the small class environment is the Feldenkrais teacher can see each person (see below for optimal online set-up).
  • You won’t be sweating, but you will be moving so flexible clothing is helpful.
  • You will be reminded to take care of yourself – to move slower and smaller. Following these suggestions is essential to staying injury free. We even encourage doing movement in your imagination for ideal learning.
  • The Awareness Through Movement teacher will not be modeling movement for you. Instead you will be interpreting the instructions the best that you can and finding ways to do them that work for YOU.
  • This is a nonjudgmental approach. We are not looking for model movement. Everyone can explore using this approach regardless of your past injuries or structural limitations, but if you are concerned at all, please let your teacher know ahead of time about your situation so they can provide you with any needed extra support or ideas unique to you.
  • Some people feel tired after their class while others feel energized. There can also be a wide range of emotional responses. For this reason, we recommend that you go easy with yourself for the next few hours.
  • In the hours and days after a lesson, the learning often continues. This might manifest as unfolding ease or, sometimes, you may become aware of places you hold tension that you really didn’t know about. Also, some new aches and discomforts might be noticed, these usually go away quickly. If they don’t, it’s a sign to do even less, to go even slower at the next session.

Here are some tips to getting the most out of an online lesson:

  • Have your camera turned on with adequate lighting.
  • Be sure that you are front lit and not back lit. Backlighting means the teacher won’t be able to see you.
  • Have a place where you can walk, stand, and lie on the floor.
  • Your mat should be about 7 feet away from the camera and, if possible, provide a side view of your body when you are lying down.
  • As mentioned before, a yoga mat isn’t ideal but can work well if you put a towel or sheet over the top of it. If that isn’t enough padding for your comfort, place a folded blanket or a length of soft foam underneath to make it more comfortable.
  • Have a small stack of hand towels nearby and a couple of pillows. This can be used to support your arms or head or in other was, as needed.
  • Have room to the left, right, above, and below you if possible. Some lessons involve arms overhead on the floor or rolling to one side or the other.

NOTE: Don’t let this list intimidate you. These are ideas arrangements. If you have a tiny space, no mat and y our camera doesn’t even always work, sign in anyway! You will still get benefit. You will still improve. At least that is our experience over and over again.

Benefits of an Awareness Through Movement Class

The interesting thing about these classes is that while you’re participating with other people, each person will have a unique experience. Being completely engaged, mentally and physically, is what creates this personalized journey.  Knowing that, you can still expect to see some general benefits from the Feldenkrais Method, including:

  • Enhanced body awareness
  • Options for more efficient movement
  • Sounder sleep habits
  • Improved flexibility
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Better proprioception (awareness of where you are in space as well as better control of your joints)
  • A quieter mind
  • Improved balance
  • More dynamic posture
  • Increased curiosity about how to do most anything so that you may find your problem-solving skills improving quite a lot

What we want most for you is to discover that through awareness of what you do and gaining tools for how you can move in ways that work for you, you can enhance your life in every domain. If you’re interested in trying an Awareness Through Movement class or learning more about how to move better, feel better, and live better – connect with us. We’d love to help you get started on this journey.

Picture of Cynthia Allen
Cynthia Allen
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