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Choose Flexibility

By Ann Harman

Flexibility! When we think of flexibility, usually we think of a ballerina, a gymnast, or perhaps a martial artist doing a high kick. Certainly this is an important aspect of flexibility, and we address this extensively in the Feldenkrais Method.

However, Moshe Feldenkrais once stated that he wanted “Flexible minds, not flexible bodies,” and that the object of his Method was to learn how to learn, both in movement and in meeting the challenges of life. How did he think that a method of movement education could accomplish this?

In the movement explorations of the Feldenkrais Method, we learn to create choices in movement, to sense how we perform our actions, and to observe our results. This is different from the way many of us go through stressed and hurried lives during which we may not always take time to be aware of our sensations, consider other alternatives, or observe our outcomes. The simple act of slowing down to observe and consider, which is essential to our Method, can dramatically change one’s life.

An important concept, which we use extensively, is the idea of choices. Feldenkrais applied this concept everywhere; much of his Method involved creating learning situations for people to discover new possibilities of movement,from which they could make new choices. A single course of action constituted no choice; two courses of action constituted a primitive choice. Only when three or more courses of action were considered could there be a reasonable probability of an intelligent choice. He recommended making a practice of considering choices before we act, even in simple acts such as choosing a hand to hold the toothbrush or planning a route to go to work.

Much of Feldenkrais’ Method involved teaching people choices of movement patterns. But, more important to this discussion, he believed in viewing a problem from multiple perspectives. One day he spoke to his class about what a wonderful philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was. The next day he amazed the class by an equally convincing argument that Andrew Carnegie was a robber baron. He would often take the opposite side of an argument from a student, convince the student to change his or her mind, and then suddenly switch to an equally convincing argument for the other side! He felt that one did not adequately understand an issue unless one could convincingly debate it from either side.

Just for fun, try this experiment. The next time you feel that you are stuck in any way, limited in possibilities, or simply don’t have a choice—stop. Don’t act yet, unless it is an emergency. Get a piece of paper and a pen. Start brainstorming about the possibilities. Let yourself be wild and imaginative; you can discard the unfeasible ideas later. See if you can come up with three or more ways of handling the situation. Opening your mind to this process is likely to bring some workable solutions to mind, along with the ridiculous.

Another experiment is to play with perspectives. When faced with a decision, consider the problem from several viewpoints. If you are in a conflict with someone else, be sure to include his or her perspective. Does this change your thinking?

Enjoy these experiments, and come to an Awareness Through Movement class or go to a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm to see how we apply these concepts to the study of efficient and pain-free movement.

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