Shift Yourself into a Summer State-of-Mind

By Mary Rudd

“From time to time, you should shake yourself out of your routine and ask yourself whether you are really doing what you think you are doing.”

“Make sure that all muscular effort is converted into movement, for effort that is completely transformed into movement improves both ability and one’s body. Effort that does not turn into movement, but causes shortening and stiffening, leads not only to a loss of energy but to a situation in which the loss of energy causes damage to the body structure.”

---Moshe Feldenkrais, Awareness Through Movement: Easy-to-do Health Exercises to Improve your Posture, Vision, Imagination, and Personal Awareness

Are you ready for summer play? Many of us shift into a playful mindset in summer as the season beckons us to be more active outdoors. How does the season shift the way that you move, think, feel? What sensory images come to mind for you when you think, “Summer”?

In my classes and private sessions, a student’s interests, work, play, and daily functioning are important contexts for their learning. From simple pleasures such as playing golf to more adventurous outings such as kayaking, I encourage students to have fun playing with their movement discoveries in the studio, and many find that yields happiness and hope for more comfort and ease while staying active.

Although students' reasons for working with me vary, our explorations take the same general approach of moving slowly, gently, in order to learn --or relearn--what ease feels like. The concept of slow, gentle movement creates a puzzle in the minds of some people. How could doing less rather than pushing one's movement to the limit create any sort of improvement? The teachable moment inside this question is that it is easier to pay attention to what you are sensing when you move slowly. Without attention, the movement becomes merely exercise.

In a world where we see people working out on elliptical machines while trying to read magazines, it is easy to observe that we are caught in a cultural belief that our mind and body are separate. Even lying in the sun beside a pool requires attention to sensory experience, otherwise we are going to hurt from sunburn later. While it is true that we are used to being distracted from the present moment, it is also true that we can use our brain to have better experiences.

I once heard another Feldenkrais teacher say, “What I really do, in a nutshell, is help people learn how to notice better.”

I teach a group of colleagues in their work setting once a month. The business owner believes that the benefits for her team extend beyond more efficient, coordinated movement, and that our class also instills new habits of paying attention, of noticing both what is happening in the moment and how one is responding in that moment. Most business owners would agree that an important part of providing quality service to customers is the ability to connect with them, to listen and respond in a way that feels satisfactory to clients. What better way is there to cultivate these skills than to practice and build them within one’s own experience?

Recently, I taught this group a lesson exploring how the quality of our eye movement affects our ability to turn and to use ourselves more fully. Movement that at first felt disjointed became smooth, connected, and efficient within 45 minutes. The lesson yielded various responses from the group, including that the experience is “deceptively effective.” Another, surprised by the quick changes in the range and fluidity of her eye movement said, “It almost feels like magic.”

Because the Feldenkrais Method® is so gentle, newcomers are often surprised that such impactful change can result.

We pay attention to ourselves while we move; our only interest is in noticing how we are doing the movement, and what that feels like, and then we try other ways of doing the movement, and we notice what that feels like. Which ways feel better? You can learn to choose from these options when you are out living your life.

Like a pianist who is learning a complex piece for the first time, slowing down is an essential part of the learning process. We are reminded of how to be in a learning space and to give the process the time it takes to begin “sticking”. By the end of a lesson, we are usually putting it all together and moving in larger ways, more like the way that we live. The difference is in how the student feels at the end.

In the eye movement lesson with the work team, one student applied the lesson to improving his golf swing. Another appreciated being reminded of how important eye movement is to the entire body. Another was surprised to experience freedom in his body that he hasn’t felt since his various joint replacements.

The great thing about learning through personal experience is that what you find yourself noticing, sensing, and feeling is what matters. There is no limit to what a person may discover that will resonate with other experiences in their life.

Are you ready to try movement through a nourishing, rejuvenating, supportive approach? Shake things up and join me for a class or for some private sessions this summer.