Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thursday, August 31: An Amazing Experiment

In the Feldenkrais Method, we can make amazing progress in
our thinking
and in our moving
and in our physical sense of well being
and in our connection to ourselves
by returning to a more exploratory and playful approach.

In the earlier lesson, Feldie Fun #1 we move our eyes one way and our heads the other. This is “hard” and also, if we slow down and don’t try for large movement, or instant perfection, “do-able.” We raise a challenge, which is to say, give ourselves a little stress. We slow down and don’t force and get interested, and by Jove, we can rise to the occasion.

Slight "stress" + awareness + going slower + going less forceful+ going smaller = a chance to change.

This change is called learning.

We learn.

We create new neurons in our brain.

We get the idea that we don’t always have to do things the same old way.

And to top it off: our necks and eyes and whole selves feel better.

And now here’s the amazing experiment I just thought of early this morning in that warm in bed, follow the breathing, let the new and creative emerge time of day.

Have a happy face and feel happy.

Have a worried face and feel worried.

Now try more the differentiation: have a happy face and feel worried and have a worried face and feel happy.

That’s “hard,” too, isn’t it?

Then, of course, go back to happy with happy and worried with worried and see if there is a difference.

This is hella interesting, wouldn’t you say?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wednesday, August 30: Feldenkrais to Enhance and Deepen Yoga, Pilates, Stretching

All these things are sweet, fine, and wonderful to get us out of the insane lives most of us life; vastly sedentary and out of touch with our “bodies” and ourselves as creatures of nature, learning and movement. There is the goal behind all of yoga to get in balance with the whole self, to be present, to balance heart and mind and body. Sometimes this gets forgotten in a push to lose weight, or “get in shape,” and sometimes it doesn’t.

Indeed yoga offers some advantages to Feldenkrais, to be sure. It has a definite structure that you can practice every day. It will give you a way of getting stronger. Pilates will give you a stronger body and some acute awareness of which muscles do what, and will give you the strong “abs” if that’s what you want. It will also help awareness of a mind and body connection, though I do believe yoga has a much deeper history of connection to heart and to over-all human balance. Stretching gets everyone out of their chairs and onto the floor and discovering what their limits are and, hopefully, how to gently and kindly extend those limits.

Still, there often sneaks into all these fine disciplines this idea of “getting in shape.”

“Getting in shape” is pretty interesting as a phrase, isn’t it? Getting in shape for what? Going dancing, living a vital and fun life? That sounds good, doesn’t it?

Getting in shape so you will look better in other people’s eyes is more of the same old slavery to outside approval.

And here’s where Feldenkrais come to the rescue. This system is about learning, not impressing others. This system is about learning, and because of this, it avoids the limitations that come inherent with doing some pose “right,” or using the “right” muscles to get strong, or stretching “more.” Feldenkrais in certain areas (twisting around the spine) can improve flexibility far more than even yoga. In the forward fold department, you can learn how a body, how your body really works, but you won’t undergo any great transformation.

Except you will, if you do Feldenkrais as a wake up method, because no matter what your state of flexibility or inflexibility you will learn vast amounts about how you function as a brain/body whole, you will learn about learning, you will learn about how to deal with stress, you will learn how to venture into the “new” and “unknown,” you will learn, in Moshe’s words: how to


And how will you do this?

By doing what yoga can’t do, stretching can’t do, Pilates can’t do, Tai Chi can’t do, the Alexander Method can’t do: learning as a baby learned. A baby could apply Feldenkrais principles and learn to crawl and walk, for the simple reason that Feldenkrais principles are based on imitating nature, human nature, when it is most rapid and smart in its learning, i.e.


A baby could not take yoga principles and transform itself. Pilates was originally called Controlology. Babies do learn to control more and more or their movements, and any fine dancer has mastered amazing levels of control ( as have those who pursue and excel at yoga or a sport) but it is the discovery of a new and higher level of organization in which the quantum leaps in learning occur.

So this is the Feldenkrais offering. You won’t necessarily get stronger. You might not even get as flexible as you would in yoga and stretching. And yet, you will be involved, over and over in creating situations for quantum leaps of learning.

You will be involved in learning how to extend and increase your repertoire of actions and understandings as you undo your habits of “trying harder” or “pushing through.”

Sometimes “spiritual” systems set up conditions to create quantum shifts (going for hours being harangued and not allowed to go to the bathroom, staying up all night meditating, fasting for a number of days, week long silent retreats). Notice that all these systems deprive us of our habitual routines. So with Feldenkrais, but in short, everyday doses: we find, learn, play with, dance in and out of the habitual, but we do this in each and every lesson, in a way you could do every day, every hour if you wished to live a truly awake and aware life.

This is my focus, creating WakeUp Feldenkrais, a system to wake up our lives, to transcend the habitual slaveries, to come to an ongoing happiness, peace, enthusiasm for life, good and even super health, and a connection to the Earth that is natural, kind, and healing, for the Earth and for us.

And as a bonus,
here's a quote from another Feldenkrais Practitioner (Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner = GCFP)

From Erin Harper, GCFP:
"I was a Pilates instructor and professional dancer when I started the
Feldenkrais training program with Frank Wildman. My first segment with him was on
the topic of Brain as Core Strength. What a perfect introduction for a Pilates
instructor! My world was turned upside down. This series of Awareness Through
Movement lessons and discussions was revolutionary for me; I never thought of
core strength the same way again. I learned that moving using your core ia a
lot more complex than muscular approaches I had worked with in the past (or,
should I say, a lot simpler!) After the segment, all body systems (not just
muscular)  worked in a way that heightened a completely new awareness of 'core.' I
didn't have to do strengthening repetitions or abdominal exercises to feel my
core and keep it in shape. I was functioning with more power, ease, and
flexibility than I ever had before as a dancer and Pilates Instructor...most
liberating was a physical feeling of connection throught the central part of my body
that didn't feel like I needed to 'do' anything to have this. This is not
about exercise and getting in shape. The work goes much deeper than that and
therefore is much more effective. To play, creatively, with the whole self through
the nervous system is a lot more fun and rewarding."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday, August 29: Feldie Fun, #1

Here’s a fun Feldenkrais lesson, and my wish is for you to have it be a learning experience that calms and deepens and smartens and loosens and happifies you. To do this, please go about this lesson in the following manner:

• Take your time. Do each section slowly. Do the movements slowly so that you can notice your breathing and a sense of pleasure and curiosity as you move.

• Allow your attention to expand, so you are aware of not just the part of yourself that you are moving, but notice as well the effects this movement is having on other parts of you.

• Go for the moment. Notice the now, and forsake, as much as possible, any image of “how it’s supposed to be.”

• Go for less than full range. Stick with 80% or so and keep things really tuned to comfort and awareness rather than achievement.

• Go for less than full effort. Feldenkrais can be combined with strength building work later, and will make that work far more efficient and totally free of injury, and for now: the softer the effort, the better.

• This is about flexibility and learning in your brain.

Okay: here we go. Probably your best bet is to read one section at a time. Close your eyes and imagine doing it. Read the section again, and see if you got it right. If you didn’t, imagine doing it again, and when you’ve got it clear, do the movements in reality. Do each movement a “number of times,” which could mean anything from 6 times to 30 if you are really enjoying this and want to explore.

1. Sit at the forward edge of your chair, in a relaxed and upright position. Gently turn your head from side to side and notice how this feels in your neck, how it feels in the rest of you and how far you are turning. Do not, do not, do not “try” to turn far. Just make it natural and comfortable.

2. Take a rest between each section. Close your eyes and let your brain and self sink in and learn and relax and integrate.

3. Sitting in the same starting position: turn your head from facing forward to turning to the left and then back. Do this a number of times. Then go to half of what your comfortable range is. At this place, move your eyes right and left a number of times. Make sure your are releasing extra tension and following your breathing.

4. Rest.

5. Turn half way to the left. Notice where you are looking. Go slow with this, it isn’t so easy. Move your nose a little to the right (i.e. your head turns a little to the right, toward the front) and your eyes a little to the left. Less is fine. Slow is fine. Breathing is important. And go back the other way, nose a little to the left of this starting place and eyes a little to the right. Go slow. Go small. Breathe.

6. Rest.

7. Try turning to the left now with your eyes go the same way as your head and notice if there is a difference.

8. Rest.

9. Now turn again halfway to the left and put your hands each hugging the opposite ribs or armpit. So your right hand is across your chest holding your left ribs or armpit and your left hand is holding your right ribs or armpit. Turn the ribs and shoulders right and left, while keeping your head looking in this halfway to the left position.

10. Rest.

11. Go again, half left, and put the hands again to your opposite armpit. This time do what’s called “differentiation” again. Move your head to the right toward the front) and your shoulders to the left and then your head to the left and your shoulders to the right (toward the front.)

12. Rest.

13. Go halfway left again. And this time, move your knees right and left while keeping head and torso in this halfway direction.

14. Rest.

15. Now, go halfway, and differentiate one more time: your knees to the right (toward the front) and your head to the left, and your knees to the left and your head and torso to the right.

16. Rest.

17. Go again to halfway, and do the eye and head differentiation one more time. Head to the right, eyes to the left; Head to the left, eyes to the right.

18. Rest.

19. Rest some more and imagine all the parts you have done. And notice if you have been noticing your whole self, your ribs, your pelvis, your breathing, your spine and so on, as you do the movements. If not, okay, you can do it again, many times, slower.

20. Simply turn to the right and left with your head and your self. See if one way is easier than the other. See if you have improved ease and awareness and understanding of your neck, or your whole self and of learning itself.

This looks like a lot, but a lot of the numbers are rests. Resting is a chance for the brain and Self to integrate. It is crucial to all real learning.

Tuesday: August 29: Who was Moshe Feldenkrais?

A longer, and yet still short, biography, written by Mark Reese, can be found at the Feldenkrais Guild website,

Another, and excellent introduction of Moshe Feldenkrais comes from
Norman Doidge,
Like this:
Norman Doidge on Moshe Feldenkrais 

I never met Feldenkrais, and I have only stories from books and people who studied with and knew him, and my own concoction and possibly fabrication from those stories.

Doesn’t matter
He invented a system I love to learn and to use, with my own learning and development and waking to the present and with anyone else who wishes to move easier, or heal quicker, or learn faster, or even be happier.


Yes indeed, this can result in your being happier.If you start rolling around again, the way you did when you were a kid, you’ll be happier. If you start to walk with a spring in your step instead of a painful shuffle, you’ll be happier. If you can discover ways of not getting into pain that used to be a constant companion, then you’ll be happier. If you discover new ways of thinking and feeling than your old familiar unsuccessful ways, you'll be happier. If you start to venture out and do some of the dreams and actions you've been waiting around to do for years, you'll be happier.

None of which says much about who Moshe was, and that’s fine. To hear him talk on tapes, or to read his lectures that were spoken is to appreciate the value of wandering toward the goal, discovering along the way.

This is who he was: a discoverer. A curious person who got in a jam, and when the official way out was not acceptable ( the famous 50/50 chance of walking again if his knees were operated on way back in the days when knee operations weren’t a secondary fad to the hip replacement fad), decided to find his own way out of the jam.

He studied anatomy. He studied learning systems. His wife was a pediatrician. My story is that he studied and thought about childhood development a lot. He studied himself, and learned that not only did he need to reorganize himself physically to help his knees, but he needed to reorganize the way he’d been playing soccer, which was to go about winning with such ferocity, that harming himself was considered a normal price to pay. He learned that learning requires slowing down, and that it requires going about things in new and unknown ways.

This is almost the definition of learning: to be pushed into the unknown and make it at least slightly known. The core chunk to learning is noticing differences, but when those differences show us a world we didn’t know before, or options we hadn’t realized previously, then real, deep human learning takes place.

Moshe Feldenkrais is famous for his huge curiosity and so the study of Ericksonian hypnosis and Gurdjieff philosophy/psychology and good old fashioned Eastern acupuncture were part of his exploration, as well as all things medical and scientific about learning or movement ( there wasn’t much when he was coming up with his theories and practices).

He helped thousands of people, from children with cerebral palsy to professional athletes and musicians.

He wrote a few books:, Awareness Through Movement,..... Elusive Obvious,......The Potent Self,...... The Body and Mature Behavior,........Higher Judo. , all of which can be purchased via The Feldenkrais Guild, or at Feldenkrais Resources, in Berkeley.

So, he lived from 1904 to 1984. He walked from Poland to Palestine with some friends when he was a young man, fourteen. There, he made his living as a laborer and went to night school, and began to tutor other students. He developed an interest in Judo. He went to Paris, "he began working as a research assistant under Frederic Joliot-Curie at the Radium Institute, while studying for his Ingeniur-Docteur degree at the Sorbonne." More facts you can get from Mark’s article. He understood from observation and studying Gurdjieff that a, if not the, central human dilemma is a kind of sleep, or unawareness to our lives as we are living them, which led to an inability to change and hence an inability to actualize our dreams and deep wishes. His so-called bodywork, was really soul work, in this way: to free our minds from the idea that we have to always do and be what we’ve always done and who we’ve been is the underlying aim of his work.

He transformed and re-invented himself and he invites the same from us.

Perhaps after reading this,
you might enjoy my one word, two word, up to six word
stabs at conveying the system Moshe invented.

As well as one sentence, two sentence attempts.
This gallant effort takes place at:
What is the Feldie Method and More


Monday, August 28, 2006

Monday, August 28: Feldenkrais as Learning

One way to look at people is either being “okay” or broken. If they are “okay” leave well enough alone. If they are “broken,” take ‘em in for fixing. Fix ‘em with drugs or fix ‘em with the chiropractor popping this or that back into place, or even fix ‘em with the massage to soothe out the tension.

The way I like to look at this, at us, at myself, at people is that we are all amazing bundles of stuck places/ habits and on the other hand we are full of potentials and possibilities. A child with cerebral palsy is stuck in different ways than a star tennis player and both have potentialities to improve. And for both, this improvement will feel wonderful. And a so-called "small" improvement can snowball out into changing a whole life.

And when I talk about improvement, I’m taking about improving at all sorts of levels.
• Improving abilities in co-ordination and flexibility.

• Improving in awareness of ourselves in the moment

• Improving abilities to experiment and improvise

• Improving our understanding of ourselves

• Improving our feelings about ourselves

• Improving abilities to solve problems

• Improving in breathing

• Improving in balance

• Improving in health

• Improving our creativity

• Improving our learning.

Learning is at the core of what the Feldenkrais Method is all about. We don’t “fix” a sore shoulder. We learn how our shoulder and neck and back and spine and breath and brain and feet and arms all work together and don’t’ work together. We discover our habitual patterns. We explore, learn and delight in many options from our habitual patterns. This is brain and body and whole self learning.

As a child learns to crawl, not doing "body work," nor doing "brain work," nor "fixing" themselves, nor "coming into balance," so Feldenkrais lessons and explorations are an opportunity for the whole self to evolve to a higher, more complex, more satisfying level. "Improvement" often, rightfully so, has a bad reputation, being one-sided and usually involving forcing one part of ourselves with another. This is real improvement, because it is based in the delightful activity which human beings delight in when they get back to it: learning.

So we don't have Feldenkrais "treatments" when we do one on one work. We have "lessons." The group "lessons" are different than many "lessons," because there is not a "right way" to do something that is getting crammed down the students system. Opportunities to learn are being presented. Slow, aware, mindful exploratory activity is the core, whether in group or private lessons. If learning takes place, the lesson is successful.

We move toward freedom.

We move towards being able to be a larger person, to live a more full life, to connect with the world in a more fluid and graceful way.

As Feldenkrais said, “We aren’t interested in flexible bodies, we are interested in flexible minds.”

This is what the method is about: learning how we are and who we are and discovering ways of being softer and smarter and kinder ( and more pleasurable as well as more potent) in our actions with ourselves and in the world.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday, August 27: The Joy of Feldenkrais® work

The Joy of Feldenkrais Work

Or should I call it Feldenkrais play?

Or should I call it Feldenkrais exploration?

Or should I call it Feldenkrais waking up to awareness?

Or should I call it the Feldenkrais Method®?

What the hey, we’re off to a good start, because one of the central principles of the Feldenkrais work/ play/ method is that to be free we need at least three options in anything we do. Anat Baniel has expanded this out to the obvious realization that having three options is necessary for emotional and intellectual freedom as well. If you can only feel one way about, say, the word “America,” you are probably a very stuck and /or boring person. If we can only think one way about the idea of “becoming more healthy,” once again we are probably stuck and boring and not living in a fertile place.

So, we sit on a chair. What are three ways of sitting on that chair?
  • Belly a little out and spine a bit arched, that’s one.

  • The normal, with belly back and a bit slumped, that’s two.

  • Belly out, head upright.

  • Belly in, head tilted forward.

  • And so on.

  • Now: doing all the above with following our breathing vs. not following our breathing and we have many options.

  • What’s this mean?

    It means awareness is fun, and awareness brings about a feeling that we can explore and enjoy our life more. And the other way around: exploring and enjoying our life, even something so common as sitting in a chair, can lead to awareness.

    Recall the title of one of Moshe Feldenkrais’ books: The Elusive Obvious. To sit in a chair is so obvious that we forget the elusive: we habitually sit in the chair in certain ways and we can mess/ play/ explore out into all sorts of different ways of sitting in this chair.

    So how would this work in the emotional realm? You can visit for many, many essays on how to cultivate happiness in a variety of circumstances. Let’s just give this as a starting example. You are in a relationship. The person that you thought was going to stay with you forever and ever leaves you.
  • The standard way to feel about this is: bad, poor me, how awful.

  • Then, another way is: to hell with the "bad" ex-partner.

  • And yet, and yet: there are lots of options. We have lots of options. So when the person who isn't "supposed" to leave us just does that, what options emotionally could we have as free and wise and open human beings?

    Well, for starters:
    • gratitude for the good times
    • sadness for the loss
    • amazement at the changes in life
    • curiosity about all our reactions
    • relief for the bad times that won’t be any more
    • love for the person for being honest with us
    • excitement about what is next in life
    • fear about what is next in life
    • curiosity about what is next in life
    • reflection about what we did wrong in this relationship
    • excitement about doing it better next time
    • excitement about having some time out of a relationship
    • bliss about being alive.

    And so on. See how wonderful life becomes when we give ourself options?

    In yoga, you can take the pose and make it a prison. Or you can take the pose and use it as a chance to explore all the different and subtle variations you can create within this asana. And what does asana mean? Seat. And we’ve already talking about the joys of exploring different ways of sitting. So in yoga, sit into triangle or down dog or cobra and change the angle of your pelvis, or head, or the rotation of your spine or the placement of your feet. Relax. Explore. Enjoy.

    Is that work? Yes, in that you don’t just plug along like a donkey always doing something the same way. Is it play? Yes, because you are trying out new combinations. Is it waking up? If you are aware and present as you do this, yes, and that is one of the most wonderful places to be, isn’t it, the waking up and knowing we are alive now place?

    Okay, and what about options in the thinking realm? Well, we started this essay with that, didn’t we? Call it Feldie play, or call it Feldie work, or call it Feldie exploration or call it The Feldenkrais Method. See how just changing the word picture gives our thinking and imagination another piece of the Big Picture. And what is the Big Picture?

    • We are alive.

    • We are humans.

    • We learned a lot to change from babies to walking and talking adults.

    • We learned a lot of habits, about which we are not aware, such as how we sit in a chair, or come up out of a chair, or move our bodies when we dance or make love.

    • By coming into awareness and trying variation and exploration we can continue learning and improve almost anything.

    • This can keep an ongoing opening to becoming more healthy and happy and wise and enthusiastic human beings.

    And that’s a nice start for our first posting in this blog. has hundreds of essays about not only Feldenkrais, but happiness, health, ecology and waking up to the present.