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Learning the Gentle Way

Updated: May 8, 2023

“I have found the Feldenkrais Method® to be a gentle discipline with immediate physical benefits.”

--- Georgia de Araujo

Photo by Youssef on Unsplash

When a life situation creates a desire or a need to find a new way, how do you organize yourself--physically, emotionally, mentally—for stepping into the unknown?

My first month of 2022 has not resembled what I envisioned. Due to several mishaps and challenges over the holidays, I found myself flat on my family room floor for a couple of weeks with a low back issue. Though I knew that the prognosis for recovery was good, it took a while to improve and feel well enough to begin resuming my daily activities.

The last thing I wanted to do was delay the work that I had planned, but that is exactly what the present moment demanded. This low back pain was something new, so I had some uncertainty about how to use my time. I felt vulnerable and impatient, but mostly I just felt a great deal of pain.

Lying on my side, watching the snow gently fall through the front window, sensing my spine move with each breathing cycle, I moved my attention to an inner calm to balance the temporary chaos I felt in my body. Focusing on breath, I found relief and gratitude for knowing how to access optimism and hope the embodied way.

How do you learn? How do you approach change?

When learning feels like healing, gentle presence—with yourself and with others-- is a powerful container for important things to reveal themselves. Mistakes are inevitable when we are moving through the unknown, however the chance that they will be harsh and difficult to overcome is much smaller when we proceed gently. Although I used some trial and error in trying to stay safely active during my down time, I was able to avoid worse damage to myself. And the time and space that came with this healing period helped me reflect and learn more about why the injury happened in the first place.

I was certainly frustrated. But I spent my energy on the here and now, knowing that being harsh with myself about overlooking the signs of pending trouble would only make my pain worse. Instead, I allowed myself the compassion I needed for doing my best in a challenging situation even though it resulted in back pain. The lessons for me within this experience will bear fruit in the future. Inhabiting my body, in my pain, with gentle attention was the best way to attend to myself, setting up the most optimistic future. *

Make Movement Small, Slow and Gentle Until You Sense Change Happening

Gentle movement is supportive, safe and helps facilitate curiosity. It is the element that helps you arrive in the quiet place where learning, improvement, and healing happens. A type of kindness, gentleness allows us to learn or realize something personally significant. When we experience gentleness, we can exist in a state of wakeful rest. Gently, in the present moment, there is space for us to notice details or habits that we might ordinarily skip over.

Learning gentleness is individualized and personal. Consider how gentleness has been modeled for you in your life. Reflect on who modeled it and the circumstances in which you witnessed or experienced gentleness. Consider if gentleness is something that you can readily give and receive. How could your life be enhanced if you hone the ability to access this superpower when it is needed?

Photo by Linus Mimietz on Unsplash

In Awareness Through Movement® lessons, what begins as a gentle exploration of how to feel more ease and pleasure leads to action that feels more connected, more coordinated, and more efficient, such as I described in an earlier piece about my decision to buy a road bike and begin cycling. That is a powerful feeling!

When we learn to pay gentle attention to ourselves, we can:

· Observe what we do and gain clarity about how we move through life

· Discover what movements are possible—even in difficult circumstances

· Self-soothe when we need to do so

· Be more present and spontaneous

· Cultivate a more patient and empathic way of seeing

· Access an inner resource for our own resiliency

· Apply new modes of action in other parts of our lives

I often remind my students that my class is a learning space, and their experiences there are part of resilience-deepening for daily life. Kind and gentle self-attention is a new practice for many. The result can be surprising. Your back might rest better on the floor. You might find it easier to turn your body an equal amount to either side. Something about walking seems lighter, more fluid and connected. Feeling less tension than usual, your shoulders are down, giving you the sensation of a longer and freer neck. Your feet feel connected with the floor. You might decide to go dancing after class!

Improvements that we feel in the physical dimension affect every dimension of our being. During our life, we can continue to find ways to rejuvenate, to revitalize, to learn, and to grow. Engaging in processes that deepen our self-knowledge empower us to live the life we wish to live. This sense of empowerment is what it means to practice mindful movement for mindful living.

*I wish to note that the Feldenkrais Method is a learning modality and should not be a substitute for medical treatment. My physical therapist's support and expertise is critical to my healing.

Mary Rudd teaches and works with individuals both in person and online from Danville, Ky. Check out her website:


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