The New Year is often a time we think of restarting, of making better habits. And as those of you who come to classes regularly know, Feldenkrais is a practice, like tai chi, or yoga, where coming regularly over time is what makes a difference.
It’s a time outside the cut and thrust of normal life, to give you time to listen inwardly and explore your movements. The exploration, the experimentation is what allows you to hook into your organic learning, to turn on your brain’s learning switch. And whilst one of the by-products of many lessons is a sense of restoration and relaxation, Feldenkrais is about learning. Learning how to move better, know yourself better, feel better, perform better, and be more of yourself.
The Easy Way
Feldenkrais is about looking for the efficient or easy movement pathway. Not because we’re lazy, but because doing that allows for more effectiveness in our actions. When we don’t use as much effort in doing something, we have energy left. We can become more able to move around without fear of hurting ourselves, or indeed limiting ourselves because of discomfort. One of our innate abilities as a human, is our ability to adapt and learn. No matter what building blocks we’ve been given, we can all learn to improve, and evolve. As movers, as people.
Gaps in the Self Image
One of my clients, some time ago, came to me complaining of difficulties with her violin set-up. She was in discomfort when she played, some of which was technical, but the main reason was that she didn’t feel how she was put together. There were massive gaps in her self-image. Even though she wanted to feel differently, or do things differently, so it didn’t hurt, she didn’t have the information building blocks to do this. She couldn’t sense large parts of herself.
So in order to improve the way she was doing what she was doing, we had to improve her self-image: literally the image of herself in the brain. Fill in the gaps, or join the dots, whichever way you’d like to think about it.
Join your dots?
Which areas of yourself are clearer than others? Next time you’re lying down, take a moment to find out.
Start at one leg, and notice the contact with the heel and the surface beneath it. Slowly slide your attention up the leg to the next point of contact with the floor. What’s the shape of the contact. Notice where you can sense how it feels, or where it’s more hazy- where do you have more or less information?
What about spaces? Can you feel the space behind the ankle, the knee, or follow up the back of the thigh in your mind’s eye? Which parts of the back of the pelvis on this side can you feel touching the floor? Where is that easy for you to feel? Compare this first leg and hip with the second? Is one different to the other? If so, where, and how? Is it easier to feel one side than the other? As if it’s more present in your brain perhaps?
Move your attention to the base of your spine, and sense how much of the whole of the back of the pelvis is in touch with the floor. Slowly observe the contact moving upwards towards your head. Where are the contours of your back you can feel? And where are the gaps, or less clear areas, where it’s harder to feel yourself? which shoulder blade is closer to the floor than the other? Which is closer to one ear than the other?
What about the back of your head on the floor? If you gently, easily roll it- does it roll more easily to one side than the other? Don’t strain, or push – just move in a way that’s looking for ease, looking for clarity, not effort or power.
What did you discover?
I find it fascinating. I have had people who when they started couldn’t sense their ankles, or knees, some couldn’t sense their pelvis, or collarbones, and other large swathes of their back are quite unknown. Everyone is different, whilst we all have the same structure, we all have such different life, health and movement histories that it’s always interesting.
How can you feel more of yourself? Know more of yourself, not only to find where you could improve what self-image is there, but also to feel and know what is already good. What are your strengths? Your areas of ease?
Of course if you can sense your entire self in 3D, in detail, in motion, maybe you don’t need Feldenkrais, but for the rest of us, I think it’s a brilliant way of self-improvement, and self-development. After all, we can learn for as long as we live!
So, join us for some sessions, give yourself time for your brain to learn something new. If you’re new to this work, I recommend coming for 8 weeks to see if it’s something for you. That’s the amount of time it takes for the brain to create habits, or clear connections in the brain during mindfulness activities.
Moshe Feldenkrais wanted to people to live their unavowed dreams, and thought his method a way to do this. Getting to know them better sounds like a good way to start 2022 to me, I hope you agree!