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Interview: Patrick Douce    
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Rather than how to hold your body, I teach how to unhold it.

Bangkok Metro Magazinelife energies explored
By Philip Cornwel-Smith

I lie my aching back along the bedside, and Patrick Douce plays my spine like a piano. The hands of this Feldenkrais practitioner impart intense heat as they press lightly. Energy tingles, twitches flicker, then relaxation floods over like a hot bath. After an hour I arise with improved balance and looseness, the pain gone or going.

I tell this to a friend with swollen toes. "Your joints look dislocated," muses Douce. One session and his feet look longer. They are longer! Inflamation's reduced and distance walking becomes an option. How'd he do that?

"People have always healed through touch," he demures. "The difference is my teacher made it a science. Rather than say a healer's special, he said you can teach people how to heal themselves or others with the hands or with movement. It's not innate magic."

Douce is a direct pupil of Moshe Feldenkrais, a Russian Jew educated in France, who based his theories on Judo learned from its inventor, Kano. He was also the Curies' assistant when they won the Nobel Prize for Physics. That's quite a lineage Douce extended in 1973 when he met Feldenkrais.

"I'd figured out there had to be somebody who studied natural movement and that led me to Esalen, an institute in Big Sur, California, that's specialized in alternative approaches since the 1960s," Douce recalls. "I knew what I was looking for, which is unusual. Only it isn't unusual in that most people have problems; tension in their neck, pain in their el bow. Some think there's nothing they can do or else have surgery. Others look for alternatives. But what I'm doing isn't alternative, because the tradition I work in is old. Modern medicine is more of an alternative."

Herbalism's also ancient and Douce a chemist like Feldenkrais has long extracted essences non-commercially. In Bali, the hands-on healing tradition Jamu uses herbs, so for me to get involved makes sense.

But he's not challenging doctors. "We need to work with doctors. Many alternative practitioners take on the power of the gods and tell you what to do. I give more possibilities from which you can choose. My classes make people aware of their body and explain it in terms of theory."

"Most people have no skeletal awareness," he observes. "Yet when it's not holding you up correctly the soft tissue wears out and you get pain. A broken wrist might heal, but the force knocked all the bones out of joint. A foot hurting has something to do with the hip, the shoulder, the breath, the whole body. So I don't start with the problem; I start with everything else. I enable it to heal through you. And as touch is through clothing it's not invasive."

In group sessions, participants work on each other to overcome barriers and misperceptions. "It's not a matter of posture," he posits. "Posture=Post. Most people think you sit straight like a post, whereas Feldenkrais talked about acture: how to move. Rather than how to hold your body, I teach how to un hold it, how to get flexibility. Most of these movements people did as children, but our parents had good POSTure, so we learnt to become stiff."

"I begin with everyday movements: tension in your jaw, effort climbing stairs. People think, 'Oh, it's supposed to be a burden; I have to be strong.' There are fundamental differences in how to conceive of the body, which coincides with eastern martial arts. Judo involves rolling, getting a relationship with the floor, and cultures that sit more on the floor have better posture and movement. I'm not getting rid of chairs, but I use movements from energy systems known as martial arts [especially silat, a Chinese Indonesian system with lineage to the Shaolin and Tibetan monasteries]."

Feldenkrais didn't incorporate energy, but it's integral to Douce. "A Tibetan Rimpoche said: 'What are you doing? You're working with your own life force. Watch it; you're going to have trouble.' And I went 'Well, I'll have to get better at it, as I have to do it.' So I came to Indonesia and by mixing in silat I'm able to protect myself and use my energy more efficiently."

Success is still dependent, however, on open-mindedness. "Our mind set affects healing," reports Douce. "I work with many injured people and the ones that think they'll get well are the ones that do. I can work with serious conditions like whiplash, and I also with the non-acute, who just want to be better. And those with no pain at all, like athletes who want that extra 10%."

But ultimately Douce is only a conduit. "My approach is to give people things they can use immediately, to empower them. How many stiff necks in Bangkok? Could I do it all? So I've worked out how to pass it on."

Bangkok Metro Magazine December 2001
Copyright 2001 City Media Group Company


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