04 September 2022 - Personal stories
Kat Hesse, Feldenkrais Practitioner

Feldenkrais for Healthy Digestion

Nervous stomach

I’ve been suffering with a “nervous stomach” ever since I can remember. Any changes – good or bad – left me constipated or bloated for a day or two. Exams, holidays, meeting new people, public speaking, even teaching a new group of people would immediately challenge my digestive system. So I was amazed when I started my Feldenkrais training together with 50 other students and found that my digestive system was calmly doing its job. And not just that: Feldenkrais relieved the bloated stomach that I had developed during peri-menopause. From day 1 of the training my stomach was as flat as if I had been working out in a gym non-stop. How could that be? After all, Feldenkrais can hardly be described as a tums-and-bums workout….

A mindful form of movement

The Feldenkrais Method is a very mindful method of movement. There is a strong focus on experiencing the body and movement in the present moment. Many people find that tension melts away and breathing deepens during a Feldenkrais session. Our nervous system calms down but at the same time we are alert, exploring new movement possibilities, learning in a calm environment. Actually, I would describe it as the perfect environment for our digestive system which needs calmness but not sluggishness.

As a medical herbalist I had, of course, been fully aware of the connection between the nervous system and digestive issues and yet I hadn’t been able to tackle my own digestive issues with herbs, diet, meditation or other mindful movement and breathing practices fully. I’m not suggesting to ditch these. Chronic digestive issues benefit from a combination of all of these but Feldenkrais seemed to be the missing link for resolving my own issue and since then I have found this to be the case for many of my clients.

A holistic approach to digestive issues

Digestive issues are on the rise. Many digestive issues are difficult to resolve purely with mainstream medicine, especially if they target only the symptoms, not the cause. Chronic digestive issues are often linked to stress, unresolved emotions and lifestyle, including poor dietary habits and lack of movement although there can also be other physical causes, such as hormonal changes (as a post-menopausal woman I could write a book about hormones and digestive issues!). So digestive issues benefit from a holistic approach that supports our nervous system and also improves the physical structures of digestion, such as the intestines, liver, gallbladder etc. Movement such as Feldenkrais can help us release physical restrictions in the fascia and improves healthy flow of lymph and blood, both of which are vital for healthy digestion. Feldenkrais offers movement explorations for all the parts involved in ingestion and digestion, from the mouth to the anus, so a Feldenkrais practice can be tailored to individuals and their symptoms.

This is important. Digestive issues vary in every person. Feldenkrais acknowledges that we are all different. Instead of offering fixed solutions to a problem, Feldenkrais offers movement that deepens our personal awareness and invites us to explore our personal habits and patterns of moving, behaving, thinking and feeling. At the same time, it invites us to find our individual solution towards more comfort and ease. The awareness aspect of Feldenkrais incidentally can also help to us with compulsive disorders, including eating disorders, although anyone affected by these might benefit from additional counselling.

So, personally and for my clients with digestive disorders, I have found the Feldenkrais Method to be a useful therapeutic addition for restoring digestive health for a wide range of chronic digestive disorders. In my experience, Feldenkrais can be tailored to support specific symptoms such as nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, reflux and bloating. And you might even find your stomach looking so good that you want to wear a crop top….