How to Approach a Feldenkrais Lesson that Is Difficult

feldenkrais lessons Jul 08, 2024
Doing a Feldenkrais lesson may look simple from the outside: lie on the floor and make small movements according to the instructor's directions. But sometimes, lessons can be emotionally, mentally, or physically challenging. How do we meet these challenging lessons with a Feldenkrais-inspired attitude? David Zemach-Bersin has some ideas!

Excerpted from a Question and Answer session with David:

At the outset, it is important to state if a lesson feels too challenging, you don't have to do it. On the other hand, challenging lessons can sometimes be very rewarding. So, what can you do when a lesson is difficult? One approach is to do as much of the lesson as you can do comfortably, and then say, "Okay, that's enough. I did the first fifteen or twenty minutes. I feel good, I felt the difference, and I think I'll stop now." This would be a reasonable and resilient modification of the lesson.

A resilient learner facing a moment of failure doesn't say, "Oh no, I'm finished! I'm never going to play that instrument again. I'm never going to play that sport again." Instead, a resilient learner trusts and believes in the ability of their brain to learn and adapt. Maybe they'll say, "Okay, I did some of the lesson. There's some risk to me in doing more today. This is enough."

We absolutely want to avoid pain. Pain means irritation; irritation of a tendon, a ligament, or a joint. And this is not useful for many reasons. It is not helpful for irritation, pain, or discomfort to get 'attached' to the lesson, or to your new learning. We want to avoid that. It's also not helpful because it makes it harder for you to sense small differences, and to make small distinctions. I consider pain to be 'noisy' as far as the nervous system is concerned. Pain overtakes and blocks out all of the smaller, nuanced observations which are so valuable in a Feldenkrais lesson, and in a learning situation.

My usual advice if someone experiences pain, is to make the movement 80% smaller and 80% slower and to add more rest between movements. Do the movement two or three times and then rest, or, do the movement once and rest. Seek only where you can feel comfortable and successful. This is the surest way to access your healing capacity.
And last but not least, if you encounter an uncomfortable movement, try doing it solely in your imagination. The same neurological pathways in your brain are stimulated when you do the movement in your imagination, as when you actually move your body. This may be a novel idea, but it can be very effective. Doing the movement in your imagination would be another reasonable and resilient modification that you can try.

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