Basic instructions for doing the lessons

The Equipment

Before you start playing the audio, you need to find the right space and setup. You need enough space to lie on the floor and extend your arms out to either side of you. (For some lessons you may need a little more space than this.)

You want the space to be reasonably quiet and warm enough that you won't be distracted. At the same time, you're not planning for a silent meditation retreat.

You probably would like to have some kind of blanket or mat.

We value the feedback of a firm surface in Feldenkrais, so (respecting your own comfort foremost) do use something less than an inch thick. The "stickiness" of a yoga mat is not desirable for Feldenkrais; but a good combo is a yoga mat underneath and a blanket on top. You can slide on the blanket if necessary but the blanket doesn't slide on the floor. If the blanket or mat is large enough (like a blue moving blanket) to keep you from worrying consciously or subconsciously about "staying on the mat," so much the better.

You would also like to have on hand some towels folded flat to use under your head if that would facilitate your ability to be comfortable enough for easy exploration in the position of the lesson. You will almost certainly need these for the first lesson. The idea is that you want to bring the floor up to you, so don't just use fluffy pillows. Fluffy pillows will cradle your head nicely, and also hold it in place and keep it from moving. So use some towels, folded to create a flat surface. This will give you a secure platform for movement.

The clothing

There is no uniform. No Feldenkrais pants. No Feldenkrais shirts. We’re nowhere with our marketing machine. Just wear ordinary clothing, being aware that you’d rather be discovering your own capabilities and limitations than those of your clothing. Blue jeans are sometimes more restrictive around the hips and uncomfortable for the seams in the back than we might think.

The attitude and approach

This is not a no-pain, no-gain method. Don’t push yourself, don’t sweat, and don’t go to extremes. (Unless you want to; and in that case just notice what it feels like to go there.)

The movements are to be done below the level of any sense of stretch or strain, not so much because of some global commitment to gentleness, but because there are a lot of very informative sensations below the level of stretch and strain sensations, and we can learn a lot by orienting ourselves to those quieter sensations of movement, position, coordination. It’s like learning to see in the dark. Do less than you usually do, and bit by bit you’ll start to feel more.

For the most part, don’t bother going to the end of your range of motion. The gig’s up at the beginning anyway. From the start you’re engaged in an image of the action that already settles where the end is going to be. Refine the beginning and the limitations will recede like magic.

Try out a movement and then stop completely. Go back to the starting place, and wait a moment before starting again. If you don’t start the movement afresh each time, you’re cheating yourself of the chance to do something new.

Sometimes, faced with an instruction I give in a recorded lesson, you may find yourself with the choice of doing what I tell you to do or taking care of yourself. It’s a movement that you know hurts. You can feel it already on the first try. You remember it from the last time. When you’re faced with that choice, why worry about me? Take care of yourself.

Of course it isn’t obedience that makes us push ourselves. You will feel like you will miss something if you don’t do exactly what I say. When you find yourself in that situation, trust me: the best thing you can do is to do the movement in a different way. In your mind, for example. Or do it only twice instead of the 20 times others are doing. If it’s painful even to imagine the movement, a favorite technique of mine is turning myself into a cartoon character in my mind and having that cartoon character do the movement, with whatever strange distortions of anatomy it takes for the movement to feel like something new and different from the familiar old pain. You aren’t getting ripped off, not getting your money’s worth, if you imagine a movement instead of doing it and feel less pain afterwards instead of more.

We will come back again and again to our discoveries of how to improve the process, but the above is enough orientation to get you started.

4 Replies to “Basic instructions for doing the lessons”

  1. There has been some discussion on feldyforum about the possibility that mats made for moving furniture, not for human faces to be rubbing in them and sliding on them, might not be healthy! Bausinger in Germany has practice mats made of natural fibers that are used for Feldenkrais there; Kasha also in Europe has a good-looking natural mat. The only natural cotton/wool yoga mats I see on North American sites are 2-4″ thick, too much for Feldenkrais.

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