Feldenkrais Guild workshop: Using non-habitual conditions to revive novelty and learning: Exploring the principles and applications of the Feldenkrais method[*]
Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, Ramat-Aviv Feldenkrais Center, Ramat Aviv, Israel
Keywords: Feldenkrais, learning, self-awareness, movement
Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) was an Israeli physicist and judo master who developed a somatic method using sensorimotor practice meant to increase self-awareness. His approach to teaching and learning was based on a reverence for the child’s way of being, valuing curiosity, exploration and spontaneity. In this workshop I aim to demonstrate and theorize about these pathways traveled during our early years through guiding seminar participants in an Awareness through Movement lesson, so that they may briefly return to the openness and naiveté of childhood. Many of the awareness through movement lessons Feldenkrais and his followers have developed are meant to replicate the developmental processes of infants. Replicating the process lies in following the graded complexity of the sensory-motor skills infants develop throughout the course of their first two years of life. With each emerging skill, the abilities, access, and repertoire for relating to the environment, open and expand in a variety of ways that lead to the formation of novel associations and hence novel abilities. Thus, learning is based on using prior skills, abilities and knowledge in greater complexity, provided the environmental conditions stimulate and challenge the growing infant. New opportunities in mobilization, communication and interaction have a synergistic reinforcement feedback loop that further support the child's curiosity for novel exploration. Imagine the tectonic developmental shift that takes place once a toddler has learned to crawl. Just as infants create novelty by using prior existing skills, abilities and knowledge, so do adults. Yet, as adults, our previously acquired habits may interfere and impede our attempts to learn and improve despite our best intentions. Each of us can relate to the difficulties in practicing "better sitting," triggered by the struggle to overcome our sitting habits. Thus, circumventing the dominance of the habit is a must and would entail setting up non-habitual conditions in which there is a certain amount of unfamiliarity. The unfamiliarity permits the introduction of novel ingredients into the repertoire, ingredients otherwise pushed away by the automatic pattern. These non-habitual conditions mimic the conditions in which infants develop -- conditions that provide fresh surprises, that attract the growing curiosity to explore the unknown. Using the above principles, the habitual conditions of sitting on a chair can be transformed into a "kinesthetic playground." The non-habitual sensory-motor exploration done sitting on a chair revives the kinesthetic sensations of moving and the joy of somatic self-exploration. The habitual image of sitting as a static and passive position is reshaped into a dynamic and pro-active form of self-organization.
[*] Acknowledgement: This workshop is supported by the Israeli Feldenkrais Guild and the International Feldenkrais Federation (IFF) in association with the IFF Research Working Group.