Five Gifts for Better Movement

(without hiring an expert)

We want to be ourselves, but act in a way so that our life is comfortable. We want to feel it is easy to do, then bring it to a state of elegance and aesthetic satisfaction.
— Moshe Feldenkrais

Actions are movement. When we act differently, we find our world changing. Here are some tips for changing your world with five simple gifts.

1. Establish your values. I once worked with a slender woman who wouldn't stop actively tensing her abdominal muscles, even though it was causing tremendous back pain. Nevertheless, she preferred to maintain this tension because she valued looking good over reducing pain.

What do you value right now?

  • avoiding pain?
  • looking good?
  • being correct and proper?
  • getting something accomplished?

None of these is wrong in itself, but we can forget we have other choices and get stuck in one mode. You don't have to stay stuck. Try shifting between the value of getting something done and listening to your comfort, between looking good and finding ease, between being correct and spontaneous experimentation. (A little secret: The more you ruthlessly prioritize ease, comfort, and self-compassion, the better you look as you move!)

2. Stop telling yourself off. The benefits to telling oneself off are all negative. The benefits to creating choice, novelty, and variations in your experience are limitless. Your mental state and your body will thank you. Instead of saying to yourself, "pull your shoulders back!" or, "sit up straight!", try asking:

  • what happens if I shift my pelvis right now?
  • what happens if the weight on my right foot changes?
  • what happens if I place my elbows in a different spot?
  • what happens if I lift my sternum? drop my sternum?
  • what happens if my chin is in a different relationship to my chest?

3. Use your attention. The best gift we can give another being is our full attention. Yet, we rarely give this to ourselves. You'd be surprised by how much you can shift your state by attending to yourself. Right now, are you:

  • clenching your jaw?
  • holding your breath?
  • leaning on one sit bone?
  • curling your toes?

For example, I've readjusted myself three times writing the last paragraph because I was stuck in my "writing" mode, which is different from my "attending to my comfort" mode. I let go in my jaw, took a breath, let my shoulders down, dropped my pelvis backward, and softened my eyes. What a difference!

4. Play. Movement is fraught because life is fraught. Experiment with getting un-fraught at least twice a day, no matter what your physical circumstances.

  • wiggle your fingers and toes
  • swivel your spine
  • look up, down, and around
  • walk backwards
  • walk in a circle around one leg
  • walk backwards in a circle around one leg
  • walk with a book on your head
  • skip down the hall
  • allow yourself to collapse

Most important, do something non-habitual. A Feldenkrais lesson is ideal for this, but anything will do. You'd be surprised by how much better you can think, accomplish, and feel if you take a few minutes to be non-linear. (In fact, play is proven to optimize learning. For more info, check out the National Institute for Play.)

5. Trust yourself. Before I got into Feldenkrais, I listened to all kinds of experts tell me how to move. While I might have learned to move my leg "correctly," I was still in pain and my movement looked terrible. Trusting yourself over "experts" is no easy task, but honoring your own sensory feedback is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.