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Gentle moves make subtle difference

It's not exercise, it's not yoga, it's Feldenkrais — gentle movement that can help relieve pain, improve posture or cure a golf slice.

"Feldenkrais--Awareness Through Movement" is one of the new classes offered by District 833 Community Education and taught by Maggie Vogel-Martin.

Vogel-Martin, a research scientist at 3M and a Forest Lake resident, found the Feldenkrais method while looking for relief from three bulged discs and one ruptured disc which led to no feeling from the knee down on one leg. Doctors recommended surgery.

"I didn't want surgery and went looking for an alternative," she said recently. She found Feldenkrais and after three one-on-one sessions with a practitioner began to have feeling in her leg.

"I was on the road to recovery," she said. Eventually, she recovered fully, decided to learn more about the method, took the training in New York City and now trains part-time at her home and through School District 833 Community Education.

What makes Feldenkrais successful is participants find easy movement paths, Vogel-Martin said. "We practice moves, we go slowly, rest often and give the nervous system time to learn new paths. If something hurts, we stop. It's not about pain.

Silke Siepmann, a Denmark Township resident, has worked with Vogel-Martin for six months. Siepmann grew up in Germany where Feldenkrais training is very popular she said.

"This isn't exercise, but it improves your ability to move, your posture, balance and flexibility," she said. "We all have muscular patterns that can be improved or changed. The amazing thing is that it doesn't take away, it only augments a yoga program or chiropractic adjustments. It doesn't contradict other therapies."

Every session Vogel-Martin teaches focuses on a different part of the body.

St. Paul Park resident Jim Kurtz has been working with Vogel-Martin since last spring.

"I've had diabetes for 50 years," he said. "Feldenkrais is the best training I've ever taken. It has helped with circulation issues. The changes are subtle but they help me relax. I plan to keep doing it."

The method was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais, a physicist, mathematician and mechanical engineer, Vogel-Martin said. "This isn't smoke and mirrors. He had serious injuries and was told he had a 50-50 chance to walk again. The method was his personal discovery of how the physical body works."

Students take what they can from class, she said. She teaches the basic class and also a six-week program for golfers.

"One student told me she had a horrible swing but after working through Feldenkrais her slice was gone," Vogel-Martin said. "Golfers with neck or knee problems who still want to play can use the Feldenkrais to adapt their game.

"My father is a terrific golfer," she said. "He didn't need help with his swing but Feldenkrais kept him from aching the next day--golf became easier for him."

If you go

Community Education offers the following programs:

• Feldenkrais-Awareness Through Movement from 6-7 p.m. Wednesdays, April 6-May 25, at East Ridge High School. The fee is $79; Course No. AD31471.

• The same class will also be taught from 9:45-10:45 a.m. Saturdays, April 9-May 21, at the Program Center in Cottage Grove. The fee is $69; Course No. AD31742.

• Six Weeks to a Better Golf Swing-Using the Feldenkrais Method is scheduled from 6:30-7:15 p.m. Thursdays, April 14-May 19 at the Royal Oaks Elementary School gym, Woodbury. The fee is $59; Course No. AD31473.