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."

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