One thing I think many people misunderstand in Feldenkrais is the idea of doing the movements such that they're easy and comfortable. Our culture has a huge thing about pushing ourselves and never being good enough. If used in the right way, such as in environmental conditioning (e.g. Wim Hof Method), we can reach extraordinary human potential. But it's important to be clear what our intention is.
In Feldenkrais we do value becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable in the sense of becoming acquainted with the unfamiliar--finding places in ourselves we've never gone before. But our intention isn't conditioning, stretching, or exercise. Our intention is learning.
Rather than push through the pain, discomfort, dis-ease, and resistance, can we find away around it? Can we find a way to make things easier? Sure you could push through the resistance, but there's no improvement in that. How can we "make the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy elegant"? (Moshe Feldenkrais). Then when we come back to doing what it is we need to do, it becomes that much easier and we can do that much more.
It's important here, too, to make the distinction between what we do in the lesson and in real life. In lessons (and sometimes in life), the objective is learning, so we want to use as little effort as possible so we can sense ourselves and cultivate sensitivity (see Weber-Fechner law). We want to slow down and experiment with what we're doing and how we can improve the function. But if you're in a high-pressure situation and you have to do something now and it has to be done right, of course you're going to use effort! It might not be the most elegant, but it'll get done.
My best example of this is musicians performing. If you're on stage and you're nervous and there's no room for error, you're going to play exactly how you practiced. You're not going to experiment with that new fingering you just figured out, and you're not going to try a new interpretation you just thought of. But if in the practice room you spend your time experimenting, playing, and figuring out how to make things easier and use less effort, then when you get on stage, you're going to be that much more comfortable and have that much more freedom.
So in this way, we do want to become comfortable with the unfamiliar--to explore outside the narrow range of our habits and find new options. But pain or discomfort draws our attention away from the learning. Learning--the kind of neuroplastic change that results from having multiple options, experimenting, and sensing which one is more efficient and effective--happens best when we're curious and interested and when we feel safe.
So by all means, see what happens to you and how you react when you're really cold, hungry, tired, or in a position, situation, or configuration you've never been in before. That's a great place to learn. But be aware of what it is that you're doing. As Dr. Feldenkrais always said, "If you know what you're doing, you can do what you want."
Wim Hof: "How can we hone the skill of being comfortable with the uncomfortable and become more resilient?"
"Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure."
--Dean Karnazes (The UltramarathonMan and Author of ‘Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner’ in an interview with Outside Magazine
I'm Alex. I'm a Feldenkrais teacher and bassoonist interested in how we can live in happier and healthier lives. I live in an intentional community centered around permaculture, and I teach at a wilderness school. I think a lot, read a lot, and value connecting with people and the Earth. I write to figure out what I think.