Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Subtlest Movements

I finally attended my first Feldenkrais class last week. For those who do not know, Feldenkrais is a body movement / awareness technique. Really, it is more of an awareness technique. In many ways, the Feldenkrais method is the antithesis to modern culture, and that is its beauty.

We live in a world where bigger is better. Exercise fanatics say, “no pain, no gain.” Feldenkrais is the opposite – how small can the movement get where you still feel a change? Can you simply imagine a movement and notice?

The answer is yes. And therein lies the power.

The human body is incredible. It holds answers to so many of our ailments and protects us from ourselves. We hold our emotions, fears, and excitements in our body. From it, we derive pleasure and pain and everything in between. Our bodies are our greatest tool for understanding. It is through our senses that we understand the outside world, but we have an additional way of understanding called proprioception.  Proprioception is our understanding of how our body fits together and moves relative to itself.

Proprioception is about understanding ourselves so well we can relate better to others. It is the minutest form of understanding, but when we can understand on that deep of a level, the macro understandings become easier. It is similar to how meditation works – if we can slow down the mind enough, we can understand it better, and then the mind becomes an ally instead of an enemy. But as I explore more and more, I am beginning to understand how important the body is to that process. It is, I think, why yoga became such an important part of my life. It became the way I could meditate most easily. But now, with my body not cooperating, I have had to find ways other than through an asana practice . . . and my understanding has grown exponentially.

More and more, doctors of western medicine are realizing how connected the body and mind are. They tell us that stress can cause ailments like ulcers. I believe it will be a long time before the run-of-the-mill MD writes the word disease as dis-ease, but the tide is turning. My yoga/proprioception exploration has shown me a deeper level. The body and mind are not connected – they are the same thing. There is no separateness between them that needs to be connected.

I have known this for years, but I have never been able to articulate it or to fully understand it. I have read countless books about it, but somehow the Knowing did not come until recently. It was not until I opened my mouth and said it one day that I realized how deeply this went.

And it was then that I also realized how deeply this affects our lives. My experience of body therapies has always been my access point to experience the mind and spirit. The concept of proprioception was, in some ways, another way of accessing qi or prana, the life forces of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Yoga. I have come to understand how important it is for us to move slower in life and as we make change to make it in simple and quiet ways. As we notice the body, we notice the world.

We live in a world where Cross Fit and Bikram Yoga dominate our mentality. There is nothing inherently wrong with either, but the more I come to understand, the more I see how important it is to come at change from a different angle, a simpler angle. This is, perhaps, especially important when dealing with the spirit and emotions. Society tells us it is inappropriate to share our emotions with one another, to express true anger and sadness. Even true happiness is considered out of place in expression. So instead of expressing our emotions, we suppress them. We hide them deep within ourselves, and they try to appear, but we hide them more.

This can lead to a variety of types of dis-ease, and sometimes accessing our true emotional and spiritual state helps bring us back to a place of ease. But it is like taking the cork out of a champagne bottle. We can do it quickly and explode the cork across the room, potentially taking out someone’s eye with it. Or we can be calm and slow about it and open the cork in such a way that we can access the goodness inside calmly and safely.

The first step here is just to notice. Notice how moving your head from side to side moves other parts of your body. Notice how you can feel simply by imagining movements. Notice, notice, and then notice some more. The irony, of course, is that the smaller the movement, the greater the shift. It takes incredible conscious awareness to notice the smallest movements, and that consciousness is what shifts. When we get away from momentum and move toward true awareness, the world comes into focus. That does, of course, require slowing down.

Are you willing to give it a try?


© Rebecca Stahl 2014, all rights reserved.

The post, The Subtlest Movements, first appeared on Is Yoga Legal.


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  2. People who want to restore function after an injury and prevent secondary injuries from unconscious compensations should try Feldenkrais. People in chronic pain can reduce muscular holding and ease movement restrictions that contribute to pain.

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