Mindfulness in Movement: Move Yourself to Know Yourself
Monday, December 3, 2018
by: Marsha Novak, GCFP

Section: Art of Living

Try this Awareness Through Movement® Lesson

This short movement lesson is about habits. It should take less than 5 minutes.

The pauses between instructions give you time to complete the movements. At the end, there are a few questions to consider. Direct physical experience is a powerful tool to support contemplation.

• Begin by finding a quiet and comfortable place to sit.

Settle in and draw your attention inward.

• Now gently interlace your fingers and note which thumb is closest to you. Rest your hands.

• Repeat the same movement. It is likely that the same thumb is nearest because most folks have a habitual way of interlacing their fingers. Rest your hands.

• This time interlace your fingers the other or “non-habitual” way. The opposite thumb will be nearest to you.

Uncross them and repeat this variation two or three more times. Rest your hands.

• Now alternate the two interlacings three or four times. Rest your hands.

• One more time just interlace your fingers in the “non-habitual” way. Is it easier or does it feel less odd than the first time you did it?

This completes the movement lesson.


1. What habit or habits might you like to shift?

2. What did you learn from this lesson about changing habits?

One tool we use in the Feldenkrais Method is variation.

3. How can you introduce variation in a way that might help you change an unwanted habit?

The word “mindfulness” is everywhere these days and often associated with a sitting meditation practice. As we sit and follow our breath, we become more "mindful," a term Jon Kabat-Zinn defines as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Although sitting meditation is perhaps one of the well-known avenues for exploring mindfulness, there are others. One of these is the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education.

South American Feldenkrais® practitioner Lea Kaufman uses the phrase ”
moverse para conocerse," or "move yourself to know yourself,” to explain what the Feldenkrais Method is about. What I love about this, aside from aside from how poetic it reads in Spanish, is that it captures the totality of the Feldenkrais experience.

As Lisa Rein highlighted in a recent 
Washington Post article, people often come to the Feldenkrais Method because they are experiencing pain or a physical limitation. The two can also be intertwined. During Feldenkrais lessons, students explore through active, non-habitual movement or gentle hands-on work, what it would be like to move with optimal ease and efficiency. This often leads to less pain and improved physical skills. In this context, I would say mindfulness in movement is beginning to recognize unnecessary tensions and inefficient movement habits that are getting in your way.

There are, however, folks who come to the Feldenkrais Method for reasons other than physical challenges. Moshe Feldenkrais considered his work as a way to optimize human potential in whatever way appropriate to the individual. What I can say is that during a Feldenkrais lesson, 
movement is used as a vehicle for awareness, just as the breath used in meditation. One is asked to pay attention to the feeling of the action, in the present moment, and without judgment.

If there were such a thing as a “mindfulness muscle,” I would say that both the Feldenkrais Method and meditation are tools to strengthen it. Just as meditators have various answers when asked about the benefits of their practice are, so do those who do practice the Feldenkrais Method. For some, it is related to physical pain, but for others, benefits include being more creative, thinking more clearly, being less reactive in conflict, and feeling more physically spacious and open. Nearly all who take Feldenkrais lessons find themselves able to move in a more integrated and easeful way, not something commonly associated with sitting meditation.

Circling back, I'd say that in its essence, the Feldenkrais Method provides a vehicle for getting to know ourselves better – be it how we move in ways that keep us in pain, or self-limiting thoughts, or--you can fill in the blank.

Another Spanish phrase I will borrow from Lea is “re-
conociendote a ti mismo
”  – getting to know yourself all over again – through movement.
Curious? Explore mindfulness in movement by trying the short Awareness Through Movement® lesson I've included in the sidebar or close your eyes, tune-in, and listen to a recording of the lesson.
Marsha Novak, GCFP (Berkeley 3 2003) lives and practices on Bainbridge Island, WA. She is so grateful to have found work that she finds so personally interesting and creative and also improves the lives of others. Marsha particularly enjoys working with performing artists and other “high performers” as well as children with special needs. A growing interest in the Feldenkrais Method as a mindfulness practice has inspired her to create her first online program “A Year of Moving Well: mindfulness + movement for a year well-lived” that will begin in January 2019. You can learn more about her and her practice at www.movingwellbainbridge.com.
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Comments (2)
12/8/2018 9:48:39 AM
Thank you for this great article exploring the intersections between mindfulness and Feldenkrais! I just graduated from Feldenkrais training in September. As a scientist specializing in trauma, I am sitting on top of a mountain of evidence for how brief mindful practices change the brain, facilitate self-regulation and promote self-regulation. I believe that this body of evidence supports Feldenkrais and that Feldenkrais brings unique contributions to mindfulness as I explore how to integrate both into my work. This article brings great insights for how I think about this--Thank you!

donna blank
12/8/2018 9:05:13 AM
Wonderful! I am so delighted to see this topic highlighted. Moshe always referred to these layers of the work, and I am happy and relieved to finally see them come forward .
thank you for your communications on this, and I, we the community, look forward to more!

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