July 21, 2024
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The Feldenkrais Method—Promoting Healing and Mobility at Rinat

The Feldenkrais Method is “a system designed to promote bodily and mental well-being by conscious analysis of neuromuscular activity, via exercises that improve flexibility and coordination and increase ease and range of motion.” According to Teaneck resident Joyce Bendavid, the Feldenkrais method, along with Dr. Sel Levine and an incredibly supportive Teaneck community, saved her life, literally. Four years ago, after coming home from a family vacation, Joyce ended up in the ICU at Holy Name Hospital with septic shock. She was there for five and a half weeks and then in rehab for eleven days after that. Sounds pretty cut and dry, right? Wrong. Surviving septic shock is nothing short of a miracle and Joyce said she is that miracle.

Due to the blood pressure medication that she was given to keep her alive, her extremities were deprived of blood and she needed a partial foot amputation and well as the amputation of all her toes and some of her fingers. “It took the first year to get my strength back, the second year was filled with all of the various therapies—OT, PT, going to Kessler Rehab a few times a week, and hand therapy. All of the traditional therapies were given to me and I was really good about doing my homework because I really wanted to improve my mobility and just to get back to feeling like myself,” Joyce said.

She also felt that the therapists did the best they could for her with what they had. They were very typical models of rehab, and within those models they tried to explore different variations to help her heal better and move better, but there was an end point to what could be done for her. As an occupational therapist herself, Joyce knew what her limits were and how far she could push them.

After her “traditional” therapies, she did Rhythmex exercises, which is something she had done before. The theory behind Rhythmex is to do different exercises to the beat of a metronome. According to Joyce, “These helped me move more freely. You don’t realize what a challenge it is to have to start walking again. The exercises are only for five or ten minutes a day and it was a good mind shift for me. It gave me structure.” Because she isn’t one to sit still, she even worked with first through fourth graders, teaching them the Rhythmex method as well.

As luck would have it, the person who taught her Rhythmex also introduced her to Feldenkrais. Joyce speaks of her first class, “There were about 80 people, all lined up mat to mat, and everyone was walking around barefoot. I was the only one in shoes and I had real anxiety. Once we started the lesson, I knew this was going to be something special.”

Joyce cannot speak highly enough about Feldenkrais, “It gave me my functional walking back. I don’t have any joint pain and I can get up and down with ease. When you can trust your body to do what you want it to, when you want it to, that is what Feldenkrais is all about.” It is a retraining of the brain with new patterns of movement like when you were a child. “No more stiffness, better alignment, better posture; you allow your bones and muscles to be more organized and then the right muscles are doing the right job.”

Joyce felt a difference in herself after the first class and then she became committed to becoming certified herself. You need forty days a year for the official training and she says it was the best thing she could have done for herself.

Joyce gives private lessons, but is offering classes to the public as well. She has an incredible amount of gratitude for the community that helped her and her family during her illness; therefore, all those who take her classes are encouraged to give a donation to Congregation Rinat Yisrael. December classes are being given on the 15th of the month from 11-12 p.m. and from 7-8 p.m. Future dates will be announced in the Rinat weekly bulletin. For more information about Feldenkrais, please contact Joyce at 201-759-4222 or at [email protected].

By Banji Ganchrow

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