One of the most common questions I’m asked from new clients after their first Feldenkrais lesson or two is:
“How do I keep this?!”
Even if you practice mindfulness — in whatever form….
And have gained enough wisdom to recognize the impermanence of all things…
You probably still recognize that question sneaking up quietly in the back of your mind when you’re experiencing something that feels wonderful. You want the ‘wonderful-ness’ to last forever.
So after FeldenkraisⓇ lessons, whether a Functional IntegrationⓇ lesson or an Awareness Through MovementⓇ lesson, when you feel:
- less pain
- more ease, lightness and grace
- more power, and potency
- a greater sense of well-being
You want to keep that feeling. Who wouldn’t?
Here’s the thing…
There is something even better than maintaining that particular way of organizing yourself after a lesson.
Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais was very clear that health isn’t so much about the absence of pain or disease. Health and well-being are about:
- Discovering and realizing your un-avowed dreams
- Being able to take a trauma and recover well…. At minimum, to recover the level of functioning you had before experiencing the trauma
What you need to recover well from trauma or injury is to become more adaptable and resiliant.
Adaptability and resilience are not about maintaining a static condition, no matter how lovely that condition may be.
Adaptability and resilience are about having many ways to do anything well — Indeed to live well.
So what you’re after is the ability to return to an organization of ease, lightness, grace, power and potency more quickly, easily and in many ways.
Developing awareness is one of the most significant ways to do this.
As you become more aware of the things you do that do not serve you, while becoming more aware of the things you can do instead, you develop adaptability.
Feldenkrais said it about a gabazillion times in various ways…
You can’t do what you want until you know what you are doing.”
~ Moshe Feldenkrais
Awareness is key!
That being said, I know you’d like more details about how to get the most from your Feldenkrais practice…I know because I still get asked a lot, and I can and will give you some more guidance.
Maggie, Platypuses and The Feldenkrais Method
Maggie started coming to one of my weekly Awareness Through Movement classes after her yoga teacher encouraged her to try them out.
Maggie has also been seeing an Athletic Therapist.
That particular series of classes ended and Maggie emailed me asking some great questions:
So I have a couple questions[…]
First. I’m totally new to this so trying to make sense of the whole methodology and practice.
Just because it’s so different from say going to physio[therapy] or AT [athletic therapy] and getting your exercises and doing them for two weeks to improve a thing.
So I’m trying to understand about [what] this thing is, do people “practice” [F]eldenkrais like you might yoga? Like a couple times a week do a few moves you know?
Do you do the ones that are harder to help teach your body to do them more smoothly? Or do the ones you have managed to be good at to reinforce it?
It seems to a bit of a platypus, not really fitting into any one category which is fine I’m just a bit unclear because it’s so different. (sorry it’s a big question probably too long for email but maybe just some food for thought?
Platypus eh? 😉
The platypus has been featured in the Dreamtime stories of indigenous Australians, who believed the animal was a hybrid of a duck and a water rat. According to one story, the major animal groups, the land animals, water animals and birds, all competed for the platypus to join their respective groups, but the platypus ultimately decided to not join any of them…”
Its true. The Feldenkrais Method is its own method. Its not yoga or exercise or t’ai chi or any such thing….
Getting The Greatest ROI From Your Feldenkrais Lessons
Let’s take a look at some ways you can get the most benefit from your Feldenkrais lessons….
I believe it’s incredibly useful to have a regular Feldenkrais practice (and yes, I’m totally biased! 🙂 )
Not everyone who does Feldenkrais work chooses to do this. But at the very least, what you can do is:
- take short periods of time daily to increase your self-awareness
- practice moving your attention.
Some simple ways to do this while incorporating them right into your everyday life can include some of the activities I talk about in the blog posts:
- Mind Body Connection: Myth of Fact? [Part 1]
- Mind Body Connection: Myth or Fact? [Part 2]
- Part 2 has a free Cheat Sheet you can download with some very simple things you can do every day.
Another activity you can do to grow your awareness and learn to have mobile attention is to do a daily scan of yourself. You can access a 10 minute guided process by requesting it here, totally free: Overcome Nagging Pain and Injury: 3 Keys to Powerful, Flowing Movement Without Pain.
Don’t be fooled by the title. This little eBook and the guided process that’s included are worthwhile for everyone whether experiencing pain or not.
But to get the greatest benefit from your experience doing Feldenkrais lessons you have to continue your learning day to day. And it can be a lot easier that you might think.
Here are some guidelines…
When you’re not feeling great and you can remember experiencing something especially beneficial from a lesson:
- Remember any and all sensations of well-being you had as a result of the lesson as vividly as you can several times over the day and especially as you drift off to sleep (posture, carraige of yourself, breathing, movements and so forth).
For example, lately I’ve become aware of a particular self-limiting habit I have of holding my shoulders/chest just a tiny bit narrower than they are when I’m at ease. So all I do is check in often (very often, probably 20 times as I write the draft of this blog post). It only takes a fraction of a second and as I release that tension, I ‘invite’ the feeling I’ve discovered that gives me a greater sense of potency — longer spine, clearer contact with my supporting surface, wider eyes, and freer breathing.
Its super easy and it only takes a second.
Granted I’ve had about 20 years of practicing this, so I recognize that this sort of thing might not come easily to you yet. Practice and it will get easier, quicker and more accessible.
- If remembering isn’t enough to evoke a shift in your organization, then actually do a part of the lesson (even just 5-10 minutes can be enough) to help your system re-discover a new, more coherent and harmonious way of organizing yourself for movement.
Which part should you do? The part that was most meaningful for you — that really stood out and/or gave you a deeper insight or “aha” moment. If you can’t remember such a part of the lesson, do whatever you can remember.
It is totally okay if you do things in a different order than they were taught. If you can remember the order, great! But its not the end of the world if the order is different 😉 .
Remember, its about HOW you do the movements, not that you do the movements! Explore mindfully. I’ve said it many times: Drop directly into your sensations without going through the filter of your thinking mind. And constantly explore moving with quality — ease, lightness, breathing, effortlessness.
The frequency with which you do this depends on your own learning process. If the alternate pattern/organization you like so much is something you have trouble evoking by just remembering and imagining, then do it more often.
And here is what NOT to do:
Do not try to correct yourself!
Do not try to fix yourself!
Trying to fix and correct yourself usually just results in exchanging one self-limiting habit for another.
You’ll know you’re trying to correct or fix yourself when you get very attached to the outcome of your explorations.
Instead, sense what you are actually doing while doing those snippets of lessons.
So much of what we need to do to move and feel better is stop interfering with our natural intelligence/natural movement. In other words, its so very often not about striving to DO something. More often than not its about learning to STOP DOING the things that limit your ability to move with ease and grace and quality.
When you are feeling pretty great and want to grow your movement repertoire, develop yourself and your abilities, and become more adaptable, then challenge yourself!
- Do a portion (or the whole) of a lesson that you found particularly unclear or challenging.
Find ways of making the movements easier and lighter. Moving with less and less effort is crucial.
Again, its not that you can do the movement, its HOW you do the movement that matters.
Look for constantly increasing effortlessness and move in ways that feel more and more aesthetically pleasing to you.
I go into more detail about the importance of effortless effort in the eBook: Overcome Nagging Pain and Injury: 3 Keys to Powerful, Flowing Movement Without Pain.
You can also imagine doing the movements just as you would love to feel yourself doing them. Working in your imagination and thinking through movement is an incredible way to develop your awareness, improve your thinking abilities while improving your movement repertoire.
Whether you are feeling great or not:
- Do your best to have a regular Awareness Through Movement practice.
If you can manage it, doing at least one lesson a week will make a significant difference in your sense of well-being.
And, even if you don’t give yourself the space and time to have a regular Awareness Through Movement practice, you can still…
- do intensives (Awareness Through Movement workshops, ‘challenges’, retreats)
- shorter weekly series of lessons once or twice a year
- a home audio program of Awareness Through Movement lessons as often as you can manage
AND very importantly….
- Bring the principles you learn about learning and movement to your everyday life.
Weave your growing self-awareness into your day-to-day activities.
Use whatever other practice you may have as a place to practice what you learn from your Feldenkrais experience whether that be yoga, running, quilting, playing a musical instrument….
I’ve written above about how I’m using my own awareness as I write this blog post…
I use my growing self-awareness when I’m out doing cycling workouts…
One of my clients uses the principles he’s learned by doing Feldenkrais lessons in his work tutoring high school students in english…
My colleague uses the principles of the Feldenkrais Method in his profession as a concert clarinetist, and with his clarinet pupils…
And I’ve written about how I used the method to help me begin to write for the public here on my blog: How to Change Self Limiting Beliefs and Live Your Dreams Using the Feldenkrais Method.
The bottom line is this…
Having a Feldenkrais practice is an awesome and useful practice to have.
And how you choose to engage in the practice is something you need to learn and explore for yourself.
Use the guidelines above as a starting point to find what best suites your needs and interests. And adapt as you go along.
If you’re reading this blog post, I know you have everything you need to take ownership of your learning, growth and development.
Maggie certainly does, as she’s asking questions….
Experiment. Play. Try thing out. You’ll find your way!
And keep asking questions. And be curious — especially about yourself.
Tell me how you are bringing the Feldenkrais Method into your everyday life outside of formal lessons.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and experiences!
That’s what the comments section below is for 😉
And — you can always email me, I’d love to hear form you.
Barb Houston says
This website you have created is awesome and so inspiring.
Love it and will keep visiting this site
Regards and Thanks
Gisele St. Hilaire says
I’m so glad you’re finding it useful. Liking, sharing or commenting lets me know what is most useful to you, so I invite you to keep doing so whenever moved to. It helps me become more useful yet as we go along…
Linda Whitford says
Thank you Gisele. Your new website and blog are really helpful! The blog provides other “parts” to the sum of the whole which helps me to get more out of my practice and reminds me to be aware of thoughts which are self limiting.
I also want to congratulate you on becoming as clear and engaging in your writing as you are in person! Linda Whitford
Gisele St. Hilaire says
It’s a process isn’t’ it!
I find it so helpful to hear things “again for the first time”. I’m so glad you’re finding the website helpful. That’s what this is all about!
And thank you for your kind words about my writing. That too is a process! It’s been quite the journey, and I’m happily working and learning and playing with it all the timed (with some struggle thrown in here and there for good measure 😉 ).
Great clear text, you did a great job!
I am a bit of a bookworm, and i would like to know if you could point to a resource where I could
learn the name and function of each muscle and joint and bone in this functional interlinked context
as I believe it would facilitate me to develop a mental model of my body,
sort of like, guiding me internal awareness,
i feel this muscle, when I move it it should also be affecting this other muscle, can i feel it?
Trying to observe the whole body at once is overwhelming and
I cannot remember what I felt like a minute ago making it really hard to notice how the ay i am now is different from the way I was..
I need some help, getting stated in construction this this mental model of my body functioning.
Again, great text and thanks in advance.
Gisele St. Hilaire says
That’s a tough one as they way your describing what you’re trying to do isn’t quite the way I teach the work. And so, besides two of Moshe Feldenkrais’ books:
Awareness Through Movement
The Elusive Obvious
Maybe you’d find Mabel Todd’s book, The Thinking Body helpful.
If you do pick one of these up, let me know your thoughts.
In the meantime, one of the best things to do, in my humble opinion, is do a lot of ATM™ lessons if you haven’t already. It takes time to learn how to direct your attention well, explore your patterns of movement and ways of expanding your repertoire of novel movement patterns all the while clarifying and expanding your self image. It just takes time, like learning anything.
If you have already done a lot of ATM lessons, let me know and perhaps you can ask a more specific question that I can be more helpful with.
Keep me posted!