The basic assumption is that we, humans, are born to learn. While babies are not blank slates when they are born, it takes years for them to become skillful in very basic things such as walking, not to mention more precise movements. Many animals, on the other hand, can walk as soon as they are born. So why does it take so long for a baby to start walking? Because there is learning that needs to take place. And that learning is unconscious and it happens through movement and exploration (not by copying or imitating, because that would be a conscious act).
What does it mean? It means babies don’t think that they need to learn something, they just do a lot of random movements; brain and nervous system do the rest – sense, feel, compare, make connections that gradually form into patterns that start to make sense and manifest themselves as movements that we recognize as reaching, pulling, pushing, rolling, crawling, walking. And more importantly, as babies learn to do all these wonderful things they learn how to learn. That is the skill that they will apply throughout their lives whether they will become aware of it or not.
A Feldenkrais lesson is an opportunity to learn in the way babies do – without trying to make things happen. In a lesson the student’s attention is brought to how she experiences movement. The process of paying attention to movement allows the brain and nervous system to notice nuances, compare movements and make changes to improve movement when possible. Since the change is more unconscious than conscious, there is no need to do anything to keep what has been learned. In this kind of learning newly learned patterns are integrated as they are discovered, smoothly and effortlessly. What is ready to be learned becomes part of person’s movement without having to be repeated many times. If this sounds counterintuitive, think about babies again: If a healthy baby learns how to walk, does she ever forget and need to relearn it?
Cool, right? Wait, there is more! – This way of learning is enjoyable too – we get rewarded by our brain and nervous system by feeling more relaxed and at ease both physically and emotionally. And as an added bonus we learn to pay attention to ourselves and get a chance to experience a different kind of learning not always available in other parts of our life. Isn’t it wonderful that it all comes as a package?
Let’s learn together!
Copyright © 2013 Igor Shteynberg