“Various aches and pains snuck up on me over the years - first my knees, then my back, then my neck - until before I knew it I had a laundry list of body parts that fell into the category of ‘Oh yeah, that bit is no good.’ My doctor and I tried out diagnoses and treatments like one tries on clothes. Lose weight, take a break from dancing, do physical therapy, don’t look up, exercise more, exercise less, sit in a traction machine, take lots of ibuprofen, try muscle relaxants - over a decade I tried everything to get my body to cooperate, and nothing seemed to give me any appreciable or lasting relief.
Needless to say, when Rachel mentioned that she was a Feldenkrais practitioner and that she could help I met the statement with a healthy dose of skepticism. I just had parts of my body that would always hurt - period. But some optimistic part of my mind talked me into making an appointment, to which I arrived at feeling decided closed-minded. Rachel asked me to tell her about the types of pain I was experiencing, and she watched me walk for a bit. She then spent the next hour gently reminding my knees, ankles, hips, and back that they are all a connected system that can work together to distribute activity and exertion. I was baffled and amazed to feel how the smallest of changes in the angle of weight in my foot and ankle could cause or release pain and tension in my lower back. I left my first appointment almost not knowing how to walk, because I suddenly felt like I had so much range of motion that had previously been limited by pain.
Over the course of several months, Rachel and I worked together to alleviate my laundry list of angry joints and over-taxed muscles. I could look up without neck pain for the first time in 5 years. I could subtly adjust my posture while walking to release my lower back and give a break to the angry connective tissue around my spine and hips. The knee pain that had plagued me for 8 years calmed for weeks at a time. I started spending a little time every day being mindful about how I was sitting and moving, which also helped center my thoughts.
It probably should have occurred to me sooner that Rachel could also help with my anxiety. After all, the severe anxiety attacks that I’ve suffered for 15 years are almost entirely based in physical symptoms. Extreme tension in my chest, neck and jaw, racing heart, tingling extremities, dizziness - almost always at the same time of day, often before I was even fully awake in the morning, culminating with my body deciding the only way to release the tension was to throw up. I mentioned almost in passing to Rachel that I was tense and stressed due to a recent resurgence in the frequency of my anxiety attacks. When she said she could help a light bulb went off in my mind - of course she could help, this is just another example of my body getting into an unhealthy habit of movement.
Rachel not only worked to remind my neck, jaw, throat, and chest how to relax and move naturally, but she walked me through movements and exercises that I could do on my own to help keep those areas relaxed. Though my insidious brain can still sometimes talk me into a full on anxiety attack first thing in the morning, my body no longer defaults to the physical panic state. After 15 years of struggling with physical anxiety symptoms it is a hard pattern to break, but I’ve had more luck controlling and alleviating my anxiety in the last 4 months than I ever have had in a decade and a half.
I really can’t overstate what a positive impact working with Rachel has had on my body. Physical issues that have plagued me for ages are now either entirely resolved or under control through a combination of Feldenkrais and daily mindfulness on my part. If you’re like me and you have pain that you can’t seem to banish, I urge you to set your skepticism aside and see how Rachel Hamstra can help.”
— Lisa, software developer
“Rachel, I [want] to let you know just how much of a difference you made in my life in that one hour. Before, my standard was always knee pain, and sometimes worse pain. Now, 2 months later, my standard is NO knee pain, and sometimes some pain that I can usually correct by being more mindful of how I stand/walk or reminding my legs that they can move to the outside as well as the inside like you showed me at the end of the session.
The day after I saw you, [some friends and I walked from South Lake Union] to Pike Place Market, allll around the market, then to the Aquarium, alll around the aquarium, and then back to [South Lake Union]. Zero pain for what must have been several miles of moseying (and moseying always hurt the most). I was incredibly impressed then, but even more so that I continually notice the impacts - doing things that I know would have hurt before and smiling at the end of the day because my knees behaved like I imagine a normal person’s would.
I can’t possibly thank you enough for how much you’ve improved my daily life.”
— Karen S.
“Rachel, your insights, powers of observation and interventions (both hands-on and suggested homework activities) have made a radical improvement in my daily quality of life. I am able to rejoin favorite physical activities and have strategies to reinforce the new integration I have learned in our sessions. Thank you so much!”
“My neighbor: “I saw you riding your bike this morning. You have such beautiful posture. I didn’t recognize you at first, and I was like, “Who IS that lady?? It was like seeing Mary Poppins on her bicycle!” All thanks to Feldenkrais and you, Rachel Hamstra!”
— Alicia, preschool teacher
“I had a beyond wonderful Feldenkrais session with Rachel today. I’ve been super curious about Feldenkrais for a long time, partly because it is one of the healing arts infused into Nia. Rachel took me through a series of small, gentle movements to help my body learn to walk in a safer and more efficient way to help with my sciatic pain. I could hardly believe the change in movement patterns and ease that I experienced in just one 1-hr session. Not only do I feel more conscious and aware of my body, but Rachel also gave me the tools to practice and maintain what I learned.”
— Irina Minkina, Nia teacher
“When we started, and you asked us about the connection between our arms and torso, I felt like Mr. Potato Head. Now I feel like Gumby!”
— an Awareness Through Movement student
“Rachel is an incredible Feldenkrais bodyworker. I’ve done sessions with Rachel and found it to be some of the most profound healing my body, posture and joints have ever received. Highly recommended!”
— Noé Khalfa, yoga teacher and life coach
“I was in a middle of a meditation while on retreat last January when I kept thinking ‘Feldenkrais’ over and over. I’ve had a lot of difficulties in the past with neck and back pain from car accidents. So when I finished my retreat and got back home I knew that I needed to find a Feldenkrais practitioner. I searched on the Eastside where I live and nothing resonated for me so I naturally looked in Seattle. I found Rachel Hamstra’s website, which then led me to M’illumino for three individual sessions. I had heard of Feldenkrais before at my spiritual community but had never experienced it so I had no idea what to expect.
I highly recommend Rachel Hamstra and doing individual sessions with her. Her personality and expertise in the Feldenkrais Method were excellent. With each individual session I had with her I learned something new about my body. I got to practice how to move after each session and continue to practice throughout the week. Rachel offers handy packages where you can save money. The best deal is for six sessions. Her office space is perfect for what she does, and I always felt calm and relaxed after each session was finished. After my second session a friend was waiting for me outside and he exclaimed that I was even walking different and looked like I had so much more energy than just an hour earlier.
I learned how to sit properly in my first session. I exclaimed, how can I be 41 years old and not know how to sit the right way? I learned some tips and tricks to help relax my body, which just helps me in every aspect of life.
I will definitely be back and recommending Rachel Hamstra to all my friends for her excellent Feldenkrais work.”
— K.E., hypnotherapist and success coach
“Hurray for a delightful, un-pretzeling, stiff neck undoing, sciatica thwarting, Feldenkrais session with the lovely Rachel Hamstra! Pain management seems so much more attainable when someone shows you what your body is actually doing, rather than prescribe another pill.”
— Maggie Baskin, preschool teacher
“Rachel’s Feldenkrais practice has changed the way I dance. Chronic back pain has kept me from doing what I love most, but now I have hope! Rachel understands my needs as a dancer, and has helped me be able to move efficiently and pain-free. In just a few weeks, I went from being unable to tie my shoelaces to getting through an entire dance class without pain. I am experiencing better alignment, energy, range of motion, and moods. The subtle changes have made an enormous impact!”
— Erin, modern dancer
“Rachel is exceptional. As a massage therapist I’ve received a lot of bodywork, so I do not say this lightly. Her work is subtle (you sometimes barely feel what she’s doing), but it is very effective.
The first time I received a lesson from her we worked on my feet. I walk a lot, and had always suspected that my gait was off kilter somehow because of the odd wear pattern in all my shoes. Over the course of our first lesson Rachel was able to accurately identify the issue and give my body the information it needed to improve my movement patterns. I bought new shoes soon after that because I was so acutely aware of how the old pattern had thrown my body off balance, and haven’t had issues with shoes wearing asymmetrically since. Every lesson I have had with her has yielded high-quality, lasting results. I feel confident referring my own clients to Rachel because I trust that they will have a similarly wonderful experience.”
— Robin Rose, LMP
“Rachel helped me a great deal to regain mobility after a car accident. Rachel is gentle, but very effective. One session, I came in with neck pain that had persisted despite massage and physical therapy treatments. When I got off Rachel’s table, I couldn’t believe it – the pain was gone and never returned! What I like the most about this work is that every time I come out of a session, I’m standing taller, breathing deeper, and feel a sense of ease and new possibilities.”
“Deeply intuitive, Rachel spotted that I might benefit from a Feldenkrais lesson while I was teaching her dance class. I work as a dancer professionally, and have for over ten years. During our lesson, Rachel was incredibly generous with the information and treatment she provided. I had no experience with Feldenkrais up to that point, but Rachel’s work has really shifted my paradigm about the healing potential of the method. She seemed to know exactly what my body wanted and needed and, always with the highest standards of bodywork ethics, sought my consent to work together to great physical benefit on my part. I would highly recommend a session with Rachel, both for acute injury or for regular body maintenance.”
— N.G., stepdance teacher and performer
“Rachel’s Feldenkrais sessions never cease to amaze me. I walk in with a nondescript pain that appeared out of nowhere and she sits me down, has a little chat with my bones and muscles and then poof! It’s a million times better or even gone all together! And the whole time my brain is like “these little movements couldn’t possibly fix this big horrible pain!” Yeah, well brain, you’re wrong cause you’re not a bone whisperer like Rachel.”
— Maggie, business consultant
“I’ve been working with Rachel for two years. In that time, we’ve retrained my neck and shoulders so that they don’t automatically go into “computer worker hunch” every time I approach a computer. We’ve retrained my legs and feet so I don’t tweak my knee all the time. And we’ve increased my body awareness so not only do I feel more comfortable and at ease, I can flat-out prevent a lot of the tightness and pain that my old patterns of moving used to create.”
— Lori, software engineer
“All of Rachel’s manipulations were extremely gentle, even more gentle than the physical therapy I had originally done at the time of injury. Rather than forcibly moving or massaging, it is more of a guide for how to move, in slow, repetitive motions.”
— T.H., software engineer