INTRODUCTION

Scores of us undergo unecessary surgeries to restore function to our backs, shoulders, knees, feet, and ankles. We suffer needlessly from pains in the neck and back, irritated joints, sore muscles, and tight jaws. We spend thousands of dollars on pain medication, tranquilizers, or muscle relaxants, and countless hours on boring and ultimately ineffective exercise routines that may leave us feeling as if we were robots or machines. Even worse, millions of us live a shadowy existence in which we suffer quietly and assume that there is nothing we can do about it…

This book will introduce you to a movement method for your brain that will help you to improve your physical and mental abilities in a pleasant and effortless way. You will rediscover the joy and the comfort of easy, well-coordinated movement. You will learn how to use your body’s intelligence not only to help you to become a better walker, swimmer, or tennis player, but a better thinker as well.

We spend the first years of our lives discovering how to relate the different parts of our bodies to one another and to our environment. We learn to feel where our arms are, how far our feet are from our head, where up and down is. Remember, human beings are the only animals that must learn to move. Without this learning process we would not be able to use our bodies; we would not know how to move our legs and arms in order to crawl, to keep our balance, or to function in the world.

For most of us this learning process ends once we can move well enough to get by. The playful experimentation with movement and the attentive perceiving and experiencing of what goes on in our bodies stops, and we begin to execute our movements automatically. We become satisfied with performing activities in a habitual and familiar fashion and we cease to refine our movements and to deepen our body awareness as soon as we reach a passable degree of competence. We stop improving how we walk, for example—as long as no one laughs at us…

We generally assume that all of our problems arise because our bodies aren’t able to withstand the exertion caused by a certain activity, or because we’re not strong enough and don’t have enough stamina, or because the activity itself is too demanding. We try to remedy this situation either by making our bodies stronger and more flexible and increasing our endurance, or by avoiding the activity in question. We rarely consider the possibility that the reason for our complaints is how we perform the activity, how we move, how we use our body.

We deepen our understanding of anything by learning to make distinctions. In order to become a good cook, for example, you must learn to make taste distinctions. You could learn to cook by taking a course or by following instructions in a cookbook step by step. You will actually produce a dish, but you might still feel a sense of insecurity and inadequacy if you didn’t use your own sense of taste in deciding which ingredients and in what amount to add. Unless you learn how to make distinctions in tastes, textures, and temperatures, you will never learn how to cook, that is, how to make a good dish under any circumstances…

For more than 20 years, I have used the Feldenkrais Method® as a basis for teaching people to move with more ease, more comfort, and more efficiency. The method is named after its founder, the Israeli scientist Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), and forms the basis for the lessons in this book (usually referred to as Awareness Through Movement® lessons). I have worked with people who suffered from chronic pain, as well as with athletes and performing artists. I believe the Feldenkrais Method® is the most advanced and effective tool for improving the body’s own capacity to learn to move intelligently.

The movements do not require mechanical repetition. Their positive results do not depend on stretching or softening your muscles, but on improving the effectiveness with which the brain coordinates and controls movements. You will have the opportunity to learn how to make use of the unlimited possibilities of your brain–that is why they are called “lessons” and not “exercises.”

The lessons are not recipes for “correct” movement, they do not tell you how to breathe or walk, how to sit or stand. They teach you how to become your own measure for efficient movement. You will learn to perceive consciously how you move, where there is tension in your body, where you exert unnecessary effort, and when you are not making use of your full potential. This knowledge will allow you to develop new and effortless movements…

If you find yourself smiling while you are doing a lesson, you will know that you are doing something right.

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