Updated: Nov 2
I decided today I should explain why I use the title "Joy In Movement" on my website and which appears on some of my advertising material for both my private lessons and my classes. I don’t want you to think that it’s just a catchy phrase or that I use it simply because it makes the acronym of my first name, (although this was a happy coincidence).
The inspiration for my use of the expression “Joy In Movement” came to me as I found I was using words with a visceral quality to describe what we are searching for as we carry out movement explorations in Feldenkrais lessons.
I believe this is important because we tend to talk about our bodies in terms of whether they are functioning to our liking (or not) in order that we can carry out the activities that we want or need to do in our lives. However, when we only listen to our body when it’s in pain and speak about the gammy knee or the sore shoulder or the „bad“ back, it’s as if we are referring to something which is not a part of us, not a part of our whole being. Because ultimately we are one being and it is only the medical industry that has labelled us into parts. And it’s not hard to find a doctor who will happily give us a diagnosis to fit our maladies.
What is not common in our culture is to listen to the quality of our movements and to seek the joy in movement which we did as babies. As a baby you would not have carried out a movement that didn’t feel good. As adults we regularly carry out inefficient movements because if it leads us to our objective then it is good enough. And we often settle for good enough at an early age rather than refining our movements, which is why it can be quite dangerous for ambitious parents to insist on their children achieving so called "milestones" before they are ready. The child thereby missed out on the joy of self discovery in it’s desire to seek the reward from the parent.
Interestingly we tend to use the word joy in reference to babies. This is usually the joy of parents to the birth of a child or the excitement parents would get when the baby does something new. But the joy that I’m thinking about is the one experienced by the baby itself. So when I use the word joy in my teaching, it is a word that expresses a visceral reaction to an experience and it is this visceral or sensory reaction that we are seeking through our exploration in movement and which informs us that there has been a change in our organisation. This change has come about because our nervous system has learnt something new.
It may seem immature to talk about joy in terms of our own movement experiences, but when we have these joyful experiences it is because we have a moment of learning. And these moments tend to happen out of the blue, Just like a baby who rolls over onto its belly for the first time and it’s face lightens up with delight.
That’s why it’s important not to focus on the movement themselves when we practice the Feldenkrais method, rather we focus on the quality of the movement and eventually something will change. We sense this each time we return to lying on our backs and noticing how our contact with the floor has changed. We may be doing a movement with the shoulder, but suddenly we feel a change in our lower back or in the way our legs lie on the floor or there’s a difference in sensation in one side of the face. These experiences remind us that everything in the body is connected.
It’s important to me when I work with my clients (my students) that we learn afresh to experience this sensorial way of learning again and I’ve not found a better environment for this learning than through a Feldenkrais lesson. And if my students can get a sense of joy by performing an action in class they previously thought was impossible or if I can help them find joy in a private lesson by helping them to avoid a habit that is causing them chronic pain, then even if they return at times to old habits, they now know that this sense of joy is always attainable if they are willing to simply explore new options.