A Ten-Minute Introduction to the Magic of Feldenkrais
Feldenkrais lessons use carefully constructed sequences
of unusual movements to focus your awareness on how you organize
movement. The lessons are better viewed as mental exercises
for the body rather than physical exercises in the usual sense.
Improving the quality of your movements is the paramount goal.
Pain, effort, and hurrying are all counter-productive, and
will reduce or even reverse the benefits of doing the lessons.
The following guidelines are offered to improve both your
enjoyment and your safety; please read and follow them!
Health Caution: These lessons demand about the same level
of fitness, range of motion, and stamina as a beginning yoga
class. Some instructions may be ambiguous despite diligent
efforts to the contrary, and be subject to harmful misinterpretation.
So use your intelligence! You should experience no pain or
discomfort whatsoever when doing the lessons correctly! If
you have any medical problem or condition which might be aggravated
by movement or exercise, consult a medical professional before
doing these lessons!
1. Prepare a comfortable space. Lessons are usually done on
a carpet or on one or two folded blankets on the floor. You
want a rather firm padded surface that somewhat softens the
feeling of your bones against the floor, but which still allows
you to feel clearly your contact with the floor. You should
have enough room to slide your arms and legs in any direction
without hitting anything.
2. Repeat each movement slowly and mindfully. The movements
in these lessons are not physical exercises, to be repeated
rapidly or unconsciously. Repeat each movement slowly, generally
no faster than one cycle of movement per normal cycle of relaxed
breath. Feel your movements. Feel how your intention becomes
action. If you take a rocket from point A to point B, you
can't learn much on the way. But if you walk or crawl, you'll
learn to make a wealth of new distinctions. Learning is the
key to change.
3. Don't strain. Although the movements in these lessons are
not difficult, there will be some movements you cannot do
easily at first. You may be tempted to try harder, to substitute
strength and effort for skill and subtlety. Gently resist
the familiar temptation to work harder. Rather, search mindfully
for ways to make the movements easier, lighter, and more enjoyable.
This is very important.
4. Look for the pleasant sensations. During and after each
lesson, you will notice various pleasant changes as your body
reorganizes. These may include feelings of relaxation or of
letting go, of lightness, or spaciousness, or connectedness;
of feeling warmer, or taller, or more whole in some sense;
or any other pleasing sensation. Every new and enjoyable experience
becomes an arrow pointing toward a more potent future. Your
body wants to feel good! These little distinctions will inevitably
and unconsciously lead you to change your life to be more
comfortable physically, emotionally, and socially.
5. Observe differences. After each lesson, stand up carefully,
bringing any changes in your organization into standing. Then
walk around, observing the new feelings. Allow unfamiliar
sensations to be present for awhile... Notice how the lesson
has changed your familiar experience of yourself. These moments
of observation after the lesson are an important part of helping
your nervous system to integrate what it has learned.
1) Take a moment to become aware of your body. You are probably
sitting down in front of your computer. If you're like most
of us, you are probably carrying a lot of extra tension as
you sit here. Are you comfortable? How are you holding yourself?
Notice what you are doing with your feet...with your back...with
your shoulders...with your head and eyes...with your breath...
2) Now stand up and give yourself some room. Stand with your
feet parallel to each other, a few inches apart. Again, notice
how you feel-- feet, back, shoulders, head and eyes. Now hold
your right hand softly at arm's length in front of you, with
the palm facing you and the fingers pointing left. Turn to
the right, following your hand with your head and eyes, so
your right arm reaches to the right and behind you. Don't
strain. Repeat a couple of times. Remember how far you turn
comfortably. Then let your arm down and rest.
3) Now do the same movement, except this time leave your eyes
looking forward. Your hand reaches to the right and toward
the back as before, your shoulders and face turn right (but
probably not so far as before), while your eyes keep looking
forward. Repeat that slowly and gently five or ten times.
Exhale as you turn right.
4) Repeat the original movement., turning right and following
your hand with your head and eyes. Can you turn farther with
the same effort, or the same distance with less effort? Let
your arm down and rest.
5) Now do the same movement, but this time keep both your
head and your eyes looking forward while your body turns right
and your arm reaches back. Repeat five or ten times. Then
go back to the original movement. Notice the improvement.
6) Do the original movement, but this time stop when you are
turned to the right as far as is comfortable. Your arm is
reaching to the right and back, and you are looking at your
right hand. From that position, slowly turn your head and
eyes right and left a number of times. Each time you come
back to the right, you may notice an improvement....then stop
that movement, keep your nose pointing toward your right hand,
and slowly move your eyes right and left several times. Then
come back to the center, let your arm down and rest.
7) Do the original movement again. Notice how much the movement
Now, repeat the original movement several times, and this
time let your weight shift onto your right foot and let your
left heel come off the floor as you turn to the right, and
back onto both feet as you come back to center. Repeat that
a number of times, slowly. This may allow you to turn quite
8) Now repeat the basic original movement, not allowing the
left heel to lift. And notice how much farther you can turn
than when you started!
9) What about turning the other way? Go ahead and lift your
left hand in front of you, and do the movement to the left.
Notice how far you turn easily. Then imagine doing the movements
to this side that you did to the right. Don't actually do
them, only imagine them, or visualize them. Go slowly, just
as if you were actually moving. After each instruction, actually
do the basic movement once, and notice the improvement. Many
people experience more improvement from imaginary movements
than from actual ones.
So you can see for yourself how these lessons work. Each one
takes you through a carefully designed sequence of movements,
gradually integrating your experience in earlier movements
into later ones. Each movement builds on previous learning,
involving more and more of your body into a smooth, integrated
Ed Brucia is currently working as an Exercise Physiologist
at Peak Performance Fitness (www.peakptfit.com).
Ed is also a certified Health and Fitness Instructor (ACSM)
and certified EMT.
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