The following first appeared as a September 2019 newsletter for the Feldenkrais Project email list. You can subscribe right here.
I feel great after I do a Feldenkrais lesson, and I bet you do too! The sense of ease, calm, and confidence in my body and movements is wonderful. It’s easy to think that the Feldenkrais Method is about improving our bodies. And if you’ve done the work for a while you know it’s bigger than that, that it has to do with what popular culture calls the mind/body connection. But even this description is limited.
If you’re looking for one word to describe what Feldenkrais is really about, it’s simply learning!
It’s still back-to-school month, so for this newsletter we’re focusing on learning, which is THE Feldenkrais fundamental. The lesson, letter, and comment below each remind us that being kind and curious about ourselves, even when the challenges are significant, creates a natural learning state which leads to spontaneous improvement.
Last month a lot of you wrote back and left comments on our featured lesson, saying how much you enjoyed the rich challenges of Advanced Folding. This month I’ve chosen another challenging lesson with some related themes. It too is based on a Moshe Feldenkrais original, but for this one I designed my own lesson structure, easing students into the lesson’s difficulties to maximize its learning potential.
In a public comment on this lesson, a listener gives us a window into her personal learning and problem-solving process as she explored. It’s a lovely model for all of us when we encounter difficulty in a lesson:
I first did this lesson a week ago. Straight away I was aware of very tight hip flexors, and I had to stop the lesson half way through and then just listen to the rest, as my hip flexors were so fatigued. I did it again the following day, and got through it with micro movements. A few days later I did it again and it felt much easier. The interesting thing is that I have noticed my walking is different in the last few days. My hips and lower back are much freer, although at the same time I am very aware of my hip flexors still being tight. I’ll do this one again to see if I can continue to release these tight hips that I didn’t even know were an issue until I tried to do these moves!
– Jo, listener and donor, commenting on More Precise Hips and Spine
I love this peek into Jo’s ongoing learning process. She could have stumbled into worry and willpower, those favorite culturally-trained pitfalls when we encounter difficulty, but she didn’t. Instead her gentle, patient explorations led to spontaneous improvements and new awareness to explore. Jo is learning, not trying to fix herself or worrying about what she can’t do yet.
Jo’s “micro movements” reminded me of an email question I received:
May I ask if you have a theory as to why your classes are a little different to other practitioners’ ATMs? I feel you keep the focus on the key elements of effortlessness/no strain. You make it clear, better than others, that only the effortless segment of the described movement is “necessary”, and in a non-prescriptive manner you open the way we might be heading. I’m just curious – I’m considering starting the Feldenkrais Practitioner training myself.”
– Chris, Feldenkrais Project listener and donor
I’m always happy to hear of potential new practitioners, since I passionately believe the world needs more Feldenkrais in it – that’s the whole purpose of the Feldenkrais Project, after all! I responded to Chris that I believe the job of a Feldenkrais Practitioner is actually to help each person learn how to learn for themselves, from themselves.
For this kind of skill to grow, it’s helpful to reclaim an almost childlike curiosity about ourselves and our interactions with the world, but this can be difficult. Many times in my own life I have found that worry and willpower override my curiosity. When I’m trying to improve but my attention is on my effort or insecurity, I don’t get very far. Over time (and a lot of ATM lessons) I’ve learned to feel for myself what we were told many times in my Feldenkrais training: curiosity is the fastest route to learning and improvement.
So when I teach I like to convey a relaxed, playful tone of honest curiosity, spreading it over the whole time and space of a class. As Chris noticed, I try to continually prompt an effortless sense, which is necessary for curiosity to flourish. We’re not very curious when we’re trying hard, or suffering.
I also promote curiosity with a steady, gentle cheerleading for self-kindness: in essence “You can choose, right now, to be good for yourself, to move and explore in a way that you truly enjoy.” Being kind to ourselves, respecting our limits, trying something new while staying comfortable…all this naturally leads to curiosity and learning.
Finally, I think it’s important to frequently acknowledge anxieties and insecurities that get in the way of learning. Essentially: “It’s tempting to do too much, to be unkind to yourself, to worry about what you can’t do. In this time and space we’re holding together, let’s see what happens if we let all that go.” Then we can get to that wonderful non-prescriptive part of learning Chris mentions, as each student’s curiosity leads them down their own path.
I’m grateful to our wonderful listener community for reaching out with emails and lesson comments, and giving me a chance to reflect on my intentions as I teach. If you’re interested, I may share more insider details in the future. You can let me know by commenting below!
For now, since learning is always an experiential sport, let’s move on to the lesson!
September’s Featured Lesson:
Back-lying, knees bent, with a floor-seated frame at the beginning and end. Preparing for and clarifying an important primary relationship in the body: arching the spine while flexing the hips.
Do you believe that more people doing more Feldenkrais makes the world a better place? We do! That’s why we give away all our primary lesson content so anyone can study, and simply ask our listeners to donate. Even a few dollars a month really helps us fulfill our vision!
Please support us with a Member-level or Patron-level monthly donation.
Or support us with a Patron-level one-time donation.