Feldenkais is NOT "exercise for old people" - grrr!

Updated: Jun 28

I gave an introductory Feldenkrais talk and lesson the other night.

As usual, I had spent a long time beforehand struggling to figure out how to describe Feldenkrais in a pithy elevator pitch.

As usual, at the end of the class, people told me that this “exercise” would help their grandmothers.

Feldenkrais is NOT exercise for old people!

Feldenkrais is a means of understanding that by moving through your unique past and present environment, you have created a random wiring in your nervous system that gives you a sense of "you".

And, also through movement, you can change that sense of "you". If you'd like.

That’s the scientific version.

The spiritual version is that through movement you might begin to understand that the world is just an illusion and that we are in fact THAT.

We also contemplate THAT in meditation, of course. Generally, in meditation, we sit still and leave our bodies. I believe that “leaving” our bodies during mediation might also exacerbate the problem that most of us barely inhabit our bodies in the first place. And without first having a full and three-dimensional sense of and respect for your own physical self, it's trickier to find that meditative peace in our moving, functional lives - when someone cuts you off in traffic, for example.

Gautama Buddha said:

"There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening.

And what is that one thing?

It is mindfulness centered on the body."

Buddha lived in the 5th century B.C. I wonder what associations people had with the word "body" then?

Now, in the 21st century, we have mostly numbed and braced our own bodies against body-shaming, body discrimination, and holdover Cartesian codswallop that "the mind" is noble, eternal, rational and masculine and "the body" is feminine, emotional, irrational, base and terrifyingly mortal. And so, understandably, many of us have relegated our bodies to be mere transportation system for these noble, eternal minds (whatever the heck "minds" are). At best our bodies inconveniently need to be “maintained”. At worst, we cut our bodies out of our awareness because bodies are indeed potent sense organs that feel.

I have no idea what happens in the afterlife but for as long as we are in this one we are indisputably flesh and bone. There is as much "me" in my little finger as there is in my head.

We only have a nervous system because we move. That nervous system created a “me” because I turned my eyes to look, cocked my head to listen, crawled across sand, or lawn, or a soft rug, to touch something. I learned I had legs because my mother stroked them and kissed them and wrestled them into a Onesie and I learned I had a nose when someone grabbed it with a tissue and instructed me to blow.

Of course, as a Feldenkrais teacher, I am biased, but if we want to understand ourselves in a deep way, it makes sense to examine the quite literal steps that created that “me” in the first place. Can we live and move and breathe and take up three-dimensional space in a real world, in real time, with a mature awareness and curiosity as to how we breath that world in, move our eyes, walk and run and jump over prickly lawn? For sure meditate. For sure get your exercise. But for goodness’ sake also learn to inhabit your entire body and know it as the miraculous sense organ it actually is so you can begin to use it to help you feel what Buddha was perhaps talking about.

The problem is how to communicate THAT in an elevator pitch.

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