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No Strain, Great Gain: Learning through Pleasure and Ease

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

Recall a time when you learned how to do something that was so engaging and exciting that you absorbed the experience easily and felt good about it. Perhaps you learned how to do something active like snow ski or fly fishing. Maybe your grandparent taught you how to bake bread. Or perhaps it was an ongoing learning situation that you thought was just an act of play, such as playing catch with a friend or goofing around on a piano to learn the sounds of notes. Little were you aware that the basics of playing catch would prepare you for a new level of skill when you tried out for the team. Or when you took your first music lesson, you might have picked up on the scales more readily than you would have had you not played with notes beforehand. In all of these examples, you were simply moving yourself in activity....engaging your mind, your feelings, your sensations. You were learning.

When we are learning something new, it is useful to make the process as pleasurable as possible. If we can envision that any kind of improvement that we seek is a lot about learning, then we can also seek learning that will feel supportive, kind, engaging, and practical.

When my students express something to me about their posture, their language almost always contains a heavy load of judgment. Somewhere along the way, a person in their life tried to correct their posture; they were likely told to sit up straight or to stop slumping. Sometimes students have been diagnosed with a condition that becomes a label adhered to their self-image about the way that they stand or move. “Due to my ________(fill in the problem), I can’t stand straight,” for example.

Somatic education involves learning a new way to think about how we move, sense, think, and feel our way through the day. Our deeply formed habitual patterns of thought, emotion, and movement are interconnected. With a trusted teacher, we can playfully explore our habits of movement, learn to tune in and become more aware of how we organize ourselves to move, and learn to find other options that we have not considered.

We can learn to view ourselves from a more open plane of possibility, even with health related issues.

What is possible when we stop thinking of “good posture” as an ideal static state? What if, instead, we consider that what is truly useful in life is to be able to do whatever it is that we want to do with our body (which is really our entire self) when we want to do it? In this way, we can think of “good posture” as the ability to move in whatever direction is needed or wanted. So what does that mean, practically speaking? For one thing, it means becoming more knowledgeable and aware of how we use our body in action.

One day a woman came to me believing that her “crooked spine” had to be forced into an upright line. While we certainly are interested in how the spine bends and twists as one moves, we also know that even a small amount of change in the way a spine is organized can result in significantly improved experience of how one functions. The women's beliefs and concerns about her spine were so ingrained that she would strain her voice, stretch her face, and mimic hoisting herself upward whenever she described what she viewed as the goal that she wanted to reach. By the end of one of our sessions, she was dancing around the studio with grace, swinging her hips, her head moving more freely to be part of a sauntering movement.

Movement is linked with our thoughts about ourselves and with our potential. By learning to move with more freedom and flexibility, we expand what is possible, and we have improved more than just our physical dimension. See my blog about becoming a cyclist at age 54!

From a Feldenkrais® perspective, a person does not have to reach an “ideal” standard of organization within the body in order to feel pleasure, grace, ease. When one feels safe and supported, engaging in movement with curiosity rather than with a corrective mindset, the nervous system can respond, and learning new options becomes possible.

Mary Rudd is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner


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