Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Feldenkrais and Learning, 1

There is a Feldenkrais lesson that seems to involve bringing the foot to the head. In Yoga you might “stretch,” or “release,” or “loosen the hips.” In Feldenkrais, you loosen the brain.


You fool around.

You experiment.

You pay attention to little variations.

You makes less effort, so that you are in a calm state and highly open to learning.

You take lots of rests. You are resting not from being worn out, but to let your brain take the time to reverberate with what you have been learning and experimenting with, what you have been experiencing. Especially if you have been experiencing some new possibilities in moving, the brain, your brain, is excited and loving the chance to make “sense,” literally, of what you just learned and did.

The brain loves to learn. Your brain, my brain, our brains all love to learn. That’s how we evolved as a species. That’s how we evolved from a helpless babe. That’s how we keep evolving if we are lucky and don’t duck into habits of watching the tube, feeling sorry for ourselves, or angry at others, or however some of us love to waste our lives.

So the Feldenkrais way is the opposite of the no strain, no gain folks; it’s letting ourselves be in a calm and receptive state. In the straining state, huge chunks of our brain are working on how to avoid the pain. Which leaves little left over for learning. Then again, many folk have been conditioned to be good masochists, and off they go to power yoga classes (even if they aren’t called power yoga). They love to get pushed into pain, because they confuse the way that pain makes them notice their bodies with paying real attention to themselves. “I am in pain, therefore I exist.” This seems better than numbness, but the numbness or some sort of mindlessness (witness the chatter at the end of a “hard” yoga class) will return the instant the mindless class is over. They have been taught that it has to hurt to be “good for us.”

Alas, you might get muscles that way, might lose weight, but you will be miles from liking or loving or even knowing yourself.

If the goal in life is to be stronger and tougher, then learning to tolerate pain in a sado/masochist yoga or martial arts or exercise class makes sense. If the goal in life is to improve and function with more awareness and ease and grace, then we need an approach like Feldenkrais, one that allows us to explore, to discover, to rest, to learn. ( Marlie’s yoga classes come close. Of all the others in town, none really are based on learning. They are based on either avoiding doing anything hard, or creating pain and strength.)

Your choice: no pain, no gain, or my version in the Feldenkrais mode: no strain, all gain, big learning in the whole body/brain.


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