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The New Zealand Feldenkrais Guild

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How to get the most out of your Mindful Movement lesson

1. Suspend the wish to be goal-oriented  while doing the lessons.

Feel better faster by tuning in to how you are moving rather than how much you are moving. Although this may be confusing, this is the secret behind the Feldenkrais Method. Most of the time, people rush their learning process because they think it will help them achieve their goals. Trust that the more you tune in and temporarily suspend the feeling that ‘more has got to be better’, the faster you will improve.

2. Slow and small is best.

The biggest challenge of Feldenkrais is doing the movements small enough. They're small enough when it feels like you're only imagining moving. Feldenkrais movement lessons don't stretch or strengthen muscles; they exercise your brain. Feldenkrais lessons do take effort; an effort of attention. Paying attention in this way sends new messages from your brain to your muscles, which changes muscular contraction. Your muscles relax and you feel flexible and light. Your range of motion expands and pain diminishes as your body spontaneously reorganizes. Doing the movements too big or too fast bypasses these brain changes and gives disappointing results. So, do very, very small movements-even when you feel you're only imagining it.

3. Reduce your effort.

People who have pain contract many extra muscles and thus work against themselves in every single movement. So don't try hard to do it "right”. With every repetition of the movement, let go more. If you do the lessons this way, you'll feel like you've sprinted onto dry land after running in knee-deep water.

4. Widen your attention.

Don't over-focus. Even when you move one area, expand your attention to include your whole body and even your thoughts. Search for extra tension, especially in your hands, face and breathing. Let go of unnecessary effort anywhere in your body, not just the part you're moving.

5. Rest before you feel tired.

Feldenkrais lessons give your brain a workout, and your muscles are already fatigued from overwork. So rest! Frequently! If you feel drowsy, let yourself sleep a little. Feeling tired is your brain's way of telling you it's full, and it needs time to integrate the new input before learning anything else.

6. Never move through pain.

Athletes know that "visualizing" activities improves performance. This is because your brain sends the same signals whether you are doing a movement in reality or not. So, use your imagination; especially when a movement hurts. If a movement hurts, do it smaller and smaller until it doesn't hurt anymore. Then slowly enlarge the movement until you can do it life-size without pain.

7. Find at least three ways to do each movement.

Having options is central to the Feldenkrais Method. Find three different ways of doing each step. For example, lift your arm with your palm up, palm down, or palm to the side. "Lift your arm" is the same instruction, but each orientation of your hand uses different muscles and a different part of your brain. Maybe one will be more useful in one situation than the others, so it's best to have an abundance of options.

8. There is no "right" way.

We all have our own history. Injuries, family example, and emotional upsets leave their mark on our movement. For this reason, what is easiest for you may be different for your friend.  Any job will become effortless if you make variety a habit.

9. Notice small differences.

Not only does reducing your tension and effort make you feel better, it also improves your ability to perceive differences. Knowing the difference between one sensation and another is how we learn to move in easier ways, and perceiving differences is how we learn all things. When we learn to read and write, we must see the difference between a "d" and a "b," or a "p" and a "q" and a "g". If we can't perceive those differences, we cannot read nor write. Sensing the difference between heavy, light, jumpy, and smooth is the alphabet of these lessons. Learn the alphabet, and soon you will be writing elegantly and easily.

10. Your breathing is your guide.

Easy, effortless, full breathing is the sign of skilled movement. Halted, forced breath shows effort. Monitor your breathing, and keep your breathing easy. Peace in the breath yields room to move.