In this TEDTalk, The Real Reason for Brains, Daniel Wolpert describes a process that made educational director Aliza Stewart think of how the Feldenkrais Methos cleans up the sensory noise that arises from faulty habits so that our movements become efficient and healthy.
"I was so glad to be continuously reminded to slow down to increase my learning, to slow down if something felt confusing, to slow down if something felt hard, and that only I can prevent myself from injury. I was so blown away with how simple awareness and attention changed the way my body felt almost instantly. I have been carrying these lessons into my life, everyday!"
We could talk at length about why lying down is such a powerful context in Feldenkrais, eventually speaking to all the other orientations we find ourselves in. In meditation this conversation would likely start with sitting, before also finding it’s way to standing, walking, lying down, etc., as possibilities. And yet, what was intended as a potent form for attention (sitting), all too easily becomes a rote and strained effort. The insight is, despite its challenges for modern bodies, nevertheless a profound one. There is much to be learned from sitting freely and balanced. Rather than a “posture” we could take a cue from Feldenkrais and call it a moment of acture. Movement that resided in stillness.
I love learning, so always enjoyed school. I was inspired by teachers, encouraged by classmates, and transported by new ideas. But as I got older I realized I couldn’t learn everything I wanted to know in a classroom. The way school taught things—as if the wisdom were trickling down from a smarter teacher to a less smart student—didn’t seem to work for many things it would be helpful to learn.
A recent New York Times article by Alison Gopnik, What Babies Know About Physics and Foreign Languages, confirmed my suspicion. It points to evidence that in children, learning by observation and experimentation allows for more creativity and spontaneity than learning from instruction.
Feldenkrais and Yoga are generally considered to be two distinct approaches to health and well-being - with different understandings of movement, stillness, intention and process. Recently, however, Yoga students and teachers have been exploring the Feldenkrais Method and, vice versa, Feldenkrais practitioners have become increasingly curious about Yoga. Two such movement artists talk to the Boston Feldenkrais Training about their unique personal and professional experiences of Yoga and Feldenkrais as complementary if diverse practices.
The challenge lies in how to help my students rediscover the early, pre-verbal rhythm, timing and lines of movement that accompany us all into this world and allow us to respond sensitively to sound, especially organized sound. How do I make the idea of “embodied music” real for each performer?
What brought me to Feldenkrais®, a few years before I entered a training, was my own injury, a herniated lumbar disc, although I had experienced back pain and severe back spasms throughout my professional career. Feldenkrais resonated with my vague understanding that what I needed to find was a way to fundamentally change my movement patterns. Feldenkrais led me to a better understanding of how to move with ease, how to find support through my skeleton, and how to discover an incredibly complicated layering of movement patterns. What I didn’t expect was that the process of investigating habitual movements would reveal these trappings of my body to be tied up with habits of my mind.
I started searching for a technique that would support and inspire this practice of improvisation. One that would make my body available to whatever my mind was asking. One that would make my mind sharp enough to follow my body and physical stimulation. Feldenkrais is perfect for this as it deals with the body and the mind, or the body-mind, and the role of attention and awareness through movement, through infinite possibilities as they appear. I am learning so much, becoming more and more available for the work, and play, of improvisation.
Awareness Through Movement® classes, in my opinion, are really the greatest gift. They include movements that have to do with the grammar of movement, starting with those essential things babies do and discover in the first two or three years of life... The way that they learn, nobody’s teaching them... How does the baby learn to do that without any teachers?
Unless, we find a way, at least once a day, to come back to our neutral, to the state of being where we give in to gravity and are able to feel how to let go of all work. That is where the Feldenkrais class comes in. Through doing the movement variations that are the fundamental building blocks of our functioning, we learn to listen closely to the sensations that tell us about excessive effort or the opposite – the cessation of work and the giving in to gravity. We learn to know what no work feels like, so that we can start from zero and do just the amount of work we need for the current project.
That is what I mean by coming back to neutral.