This post appeared as our June 2022 featured free lessons newsletter. If you’re not already on our mailing list you can join here.
… our nervous system, as well as our body, works to restore equilibrium rather than to keep it.
– Moshe Feldenkrais, The Elusive Obvious
Balancing – or relating skillfully to gravity – is the primary task the human brain evolved for. Take this in for a moment: almost nothing else is possible without first knowing which way is up, then using the support surface to become upright, and finally staying there reliably while we move and act in the world.
Once we’re upright our weight is far from the floor, perched precariously on our two little feet (or our bottoms: sitting requires balancing too). Humans evolved big brains in large part because of the body control required by the demanding physics of our top-heavy shape.
And the dynamic processes of balancing still keep our brains very, very busy. Studies have shown at least 90% of your brain activity is connected to staying upright! But for most people most of the time balancing feels automatic. Our sense of balance is at the core of our habits and literally everything we’ve learned to do, so we rarely think of it until we “lose” it.
When we lose our balance – by which I mean when we feel unstable, or that we may fall – it’s a big neurological event. Protecting ourselves and recovering our balance become all-consuming tasks.
Whether we fall or recover when we lose our balance, at that moment our skills, awareness, and experience make a difference. It’s worth it to train them, since moments of instability surprise us every day. Moshe Feldenkrais put it simply:
Life is not a stable process. Our ability to recover is our greatest quality.
When we lose our balance, if we lack confidence in our ability to recover (or to fall safely) then fear takes over. We become rigid, limiting our options for corrective movements and increasing the chance of injury. We try to stay as far from the floor as possible, raising our center gravity and actually making ourselves even less stable.
And if we’ve had bad falls in the past then our fears – and these symptoms – are all the more powerful, making falls more dangerous.
But we can improve our balance and develop safer responses to life’s unstable moments, and it’s never too late to learn.
Studying the Feldenkrais Method develops these skills and helps us build confidence in our ability to recover. It gently and safely proves to us, through our own felt-sense experience, that getting along with gravity is about sensitivity, suppleness, and coordination, not strength, effort, and fear.
While all Feldenkrais lessons are helpful for balance I’ve linked some focused favorites below.
If you can lie down on the floor you can do these lessons! Through our brain’s miraculous transferable wisdom we can do much of our work to improve balance while lying down.
See you on the mat,
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All our best balance resources are now in this Deep Dive:
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