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Make Time for Freedom of Mind and Body

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

by Mary Rudd, GCFP

"I think the most important part of participating in classes is just making that time for myself. I have always worked such long hours and have not really paid much attention to ways to replenish and take care in the ways that we explore in class."

--Student who joined in 2022

We recently noticed that two prominent clocks in our house had stopped working within three days of each other. We had used these clocks daily for at least 20 years, and it struck us as funny and strange to confront the need to change these steady, reliable tools after so many years. Interesting timing in more ways than one, we thought.

We are in a life chapter of shedding the old and embracing the new. We have new hobbies, new interests, and new projects going on at our house. Some would say that it is that “time” for us, as true empty nesters, to take a close look at how we want to direct our attention and spend our time. Evidently, it was time to consider new ways of monitoring the time in our home.

That set us on a path of learning about modern alarm clock options. Why is a clock that helps us wake up referred to as an “alarm”? Thankfully, there are options that help us greet the day with softer, more “natural” sounds than a loud buzzer or blaring radio station or annoying phone tone. We found clocks that include sleep meditations and other “calming” tools. Like most other aspects of this human life, technology is evolving to ostensibly assist us with the quality of our sleep, which includes how we prepare for sleep during our going-to-bed ritual and how we wake up.

I probably do not have to tell anyone reading this that technology has also presented us with seemingly endless ways to distract ourselves from the present moment, shaping us in ways that we barely comprehend. Social media platforms and recreational applications that include social interaction do not take lunch breaks, nor do they “close shop” for the evening.

What used to be a natural rhythm of slowing down in the later hours of the day is something that many of us must relearn or at least do with intention. Most of the better advice that I have seen about getting better sleep includes the same basic premise:

Slow yourself down. Reduce the “noise”, both external and internal. Sense your breath and bring your attention to the calm that you can access through your body.

Specific approaches to sleep improvement abound, and you can find what works for you among the options. In my classes, I teach students to notice the quality of their rest and the idea of resting as if there is no time limit. How deeply can a person rest when they suspend the idea of time? My students experience their own possibilities within that question, noticing how it impacts them when they get up from the floor and walk around near the end of the lesson. Many express surprise that they can rest so deeply in such a short amount of time. Sometimes this rest invigorates us for more activity, and sometimes it signals a need for sleep. Several people have told me that they got the best sleep they have had in years following their first Feldenkrais Method® experiences.

It is very common to hear people new to my work say that they did not realize how much tension they have been holding until they engaged in a class or Functional Integration session. We might ask why is this the case? I think that it is a combination of habituation and distraction. Many of us can override sensations of strain and discomfort when we feel an urgency to complete tasks and achieve. Taking time to balance that speed of life with restful, playful action includes tuning in to what your body needs. Listening to your body means listening to your lived experience-- a natural communication and wisdom which is accessible if we make time for it.

What captures my curiosity as a Feldenkrais teacher is the temporary freedom for our mind when we engage in this method. For a “moment in time”, we are not as bound to others’ expectations or to completing any pressurized task, and that means we can really listen to ourselves as we move.

Mindful movement is not necessarily always sleep-inducing; many times, it is rejuvenating and freeing, as described in this article about tapping into your innate vitality. Many Feldenkrais lessons progress from small micro-movements to larger, more dynamic action. When you take classes or commit to regular appointments, you will experience a range of approaches to feeling better in your body as you experiment with things like your breathing habits, how you use your eyes in movement, how supple you can make your chest and spine.

In class, sometimes we listen for rhythm in our movement. Is there a cadence to the way that you walk? Does one foot strike the floor heavier than the other? Can you change the pattern when you want to? Imagine how learning to sense yourself so clearly that you can change something that you are doing in a moment and immediately feel relief from a more open transmission of force through your body.

Other times we notice how and when we can shift speeds, becoming more agile in real time as we explore. We can learn a great deal in a small amount of time, and that taste of change is refreshing to most and freeing for some. Some have said they have escaped tiny prisons in these classes.

A woman once stood up from a lesson in my class and said, “That is a crazy fast hour!” How ironic that a class about moving slowly to listen to oneself goes by so quickly for many people.

I recall sitting up after a Functional Integration session from a Feldenkrais trainer and going out for a walk. When I returned to the teacher, I surprised myself when I tried to express the difference that I felt: “It feels like I am not an age! I am just me, purely myself with no notion of an age.” How strange and wonderful--the expansion of my self-image and my sense of potential was truly life-giving.! Now, that is an insight into the unconscious role that time can play in our lives and conditioning.

Perhaps time does not stop for anyone, but maybe we can have a different relationship with time as we learn to listen to our body and cultivate an inner knowing of how to be present on our own terms. In any stage of life.

Here is part of a lesson that you can try on your own. Notice how it feels to you to simply move for the purpose of feeling pleasure and ease, and to allow yourself to only do what is very comfortable.

You can do this lesson in bed before going to sleep or sitting in a chair for a quiet break.

1. Quiet yourself, bringing your attention to your breathing. Just notice your breath as you become still and quiet.

2. Notice your contact with the bed and find where you can let some parts of yourself sink more into the surface that is supporting you. As you breathe, notice the sensations in your throat and jaw, and as you exhale, let the lower jaw come down, as if to hang comfortably apart from the upper part of the mouth.

3. With your lower jaw resting in a comfortable position, begin to move it a little to the right and back to center. Do it slowly, just doing what is comfortable. After a few times, do the same to the left. Observe whether your eyes are calm and notice if they move with the jaw.

4. Now do the same with your eyes. Keeping them relaxed, move them as if to look to the right, then back to the middle. You can do this with your eyes closed. Just do what is very easy and comfortable. Continue to the left then rest.

5. With resting eyes, open your mouth and bring your lower jaw forward, away from your throat, and move it to the right and to the left, slowly and smoothly. Do this several times, noticing your breathing.

6. Rest. When you are ready, just allow your mouth to open so that your lower jaw is in a comfortable position, as in the beginning. Slowly move your jaw to the right and then to the left and notice if it is smoother, easier. Rest and repeat until you fall asleep.


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