What to Do When the Lesson is Over…
David Zemach-Bersin, Founder Feldenkrais Access
As a Feldenkrais Teacher, I often hear: “I feel great after that lesson! How can I make
the improvements last and maximize the benefits?” To support the benefits of a
lesson, first consider this: Awareness Through Movement lessons do not end when
the movements stop.
For approximately an hour, as we do an Awareness Through Movement lesson, our
brain has an opportunity to sample new options. Old, habitual patterns become
flexible, and our brain has a chance to learn something new. New neurological
pathways begin to develop, which allow for better posture, easier movement, and
better organization. But those new pathways are unfamiliar. If you stand up after
doing a Feldenkrais lesson, and immediately start rushing around or grab your cell
phone, you will miss the potent minutes–or hours–when the lesson’s effects are the
easiest to feel, and the most easily integrated.
Your awareness immediately following a Feldenkrais lesson is very powerful, and
helps to ensure the lesson’s effectiveness. Give yourself sufficient time to feel and
take notice of the various changes and improvements in your body. Simply noticing
differences and changes in the way you are standing, walking, moving, and feeling will
strengthen those new neural pathways. Orient yourself in a non-judgmental way
toward your kinesthetic, bodily experience, without analyzing the changes or
attaching words or language to your sensations. Do you feel lighter or taller? Does
your walking feel different? Has your breathing changed? While you are still in this
state of heightened awareness (but now upright and walking around,) can you
continue to ‘let go’ of unnecessary muscular effort or tension? Do you feel a
difference in your hip joints? Do your legs feel lighter?
I once received an especially significant Functional Integration lesson from Dr.
Feldenkrais. Afterward, I asked him, “How can I keep this feeling?” He said something
like, “You can’t, but walk around and feel yourself. Feel what is different, and that will
help your brain to integrate the improvement.”
After doing a lesson, I suggest you try to avoid evoking old habits right away. If you’re
trying to make room for the new learning, don’t rush back to ‘normal’ life too quickly.
Maybe take a short walk or a rest. While doing either, feel where you can relax,
especially your jaw, throat, and lower abdomen. Breathing more fully is an indication
that your nervous system is at ease.
Any new learning is fragile, especially after a lifetime of sensing, moving, feeling, and
thinking in particular, habitual ways. All new learning needs safety, nurturance, and
time to become integrated. You will find that if you can treat the time after a lesson as
a precious gift, you can potentiate the lesson’s long-term benefits. The more you let
the new learning ‘soak in,’ the more likely it will become integrated.