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New class promotes ‘Awareness Through Movement’

Signal Mountain resident Allyson Ford is helping people reach their full potential through movement with her Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement class being offered at MACC Thursdays beginning Feb. 7 until April 25 from 9:30-10:30 a.m.

“It’s a mixed approach of mind and body work that has some significant founding in the martial arts,” said Ford of the Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement Method, which is intended for all ages and physical abilities. “I’m teaching people how to move and function and do better in life.”

Awareness Through Movement classes involve structured movement explorations taught through verbal instruction.

“Participants in Feldenkrais ATM lessons are guided to gently move through a series of movements designed to direct attention to the finer details of the movements and to drop unnecessary muscle tension or habitual movement patterns,” she said. “Successfully completing the movements is not the goal. Of course there is much to be gained by doing the movements, but participants with various limitations often find equal benefit by thinking through the movements.”

The movements are intended to improve posture, flexibility, coordination and attention by teaching people to abandon habitual patterns and develop new alternatives.

“Because it is a method rather than a protocol, it lends itself to lots of exploration,” said Ford. “Participants at any place in their life can find it useful for improving their quality of life and learning to live more fully.”

She became personally interested in the Feldenkrais Method, which was created by Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1940s, in 2004. She started out studying brain functions and ways somatic experiences affect people’s decision making and lifestyles.

“If one feels anxious or scared about something, it can limit their choices,” said Ford. “As we develop a growing awareness of our body, people may discover things [anxiety, fear, etc.] inside they can soften through exercise.”

She said she was drawn to the Feldenkrais Method for its strong foundation built upon the principles of neuroplasticity, which refers to changes in neural pathways or synapses caused by changes in environment, behavior or neural processes, or resulting from injury.

ATM can benefit a variety of people, from those in the business world looking to find greater freedom in their day-to-day tasks to students looking to improve their focus and awareness, said Ford. For example, the movements can help dancers and athletes improve their art or game or people looking to gently regain flexibility, she said.

“Students tend to find new or gentler freedom in their movement,” said Ford. “They feel over time that it is easier and more graceful to move through their day-to-day activities, as they are no longer held back by as many not useful habitual movements, and they find that over time the body and mind have freedom to focus on life in a new way.”

Over the past three years, she has taught the method to people of all ages and physical abilities, from musicians at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Department of Music to dancers at VanCura Ballet Conservancy, as well as actors and adults living with degenerative processes such as multiple sclerosis.

“The teacher is responsible for everyone getting a similar experience at their own comfort level,” Ford said. “Anybody would benefit.”

Students can enroll in the class at any time. Tuition for three months (Feb. 7-April 25) is $85, or $57 for two months (March 7-April 25). Month-to-month enrollment is also available for $32 a month.

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