Mind Body Studies Practitioners and students describe the ways that Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais’ work helps their practices on the yoga mat or the meditation cushion.
MBS and Yoga: Finding the Heart of the Practice
Maxi Roedl, a yoga instructor and MBS Practitioner, has found that the principles of Moshe’s teachings have influenced her instruction within her yoga classes. Instead of adding anything extra on to her classes, she finds that the influence of MBS has helped her students to better understand their asanas and to connect with the fundamentals of their yoga practice.
“What I’ve stopped completely is saying ‘Do more this, go more there.’” Instead, Maxi is asking questions and prompting students to better sense for themselves when a movement is working.
“It’s more, ‘Feel your neck. Does it really feel nice?’ And then, ‘What could you do to make this more pleasant?’ I use this sort of phrasing. It’s a completely different way of teaching. It’s more about empowering the students’ own resources, rather than giving fixed instructions. It’s not one-size-fits-all.”
Maxi doesn’t consider the change in approach to be anything novel or foreign to traditional yoga. “Of course, I teach the postures and how they’re supposed to be,” she explains. As students can better identify for themselves the quality of ease in their movements, they become more engaged and skillful yogis.
“In the old yoga scriptures from 2000 years ago, the instructions were never written in the way that they typically describe things today. The focus was not so much on the body, but more on awareness. It wasn’t on ‘relaxation’ at all, but on consciousness and awareness, on increasing your capacity to breathe and on spreading your own life energy. One of the most important Patanjali sutras says that posture should be steady, firm and pleasant.”
In the sutras themselves, one can recognize the same kind of phrasing one often hears during an MBS lesson: “Is this movement pleasant? What could I do differently to make it more pleasant?”
MBS and Meditation: Turning Attention Inward
Turning inward is a challenge for many who practice meditation, particularly forms of meditation that work with the mindfulness of one’s own breath, thoughts, or movements.
In daily life, we spend most of our time focused on external situations that seem to demand our reactions. It can be challenging to direct our attention away from these external stimuli, and still more challenging to disentangle from the inner dialogues that the stimuli trigger. In an MBS class, participants have a chance to practice this “turning inward”.
Current MBS student Bar Altshuler describes MBS as a form of training in this ability to attend inwards, to one’s own experience in the current moment:
“In Buddhism, also, we speak about knowing yourself, investigating yourself before going outward. There’s this inner process. And in an MBS group class, we often close our eyes and don’t look at what other people do. Nobody is correcting. The whole philosophy is to look at yourself.”
Whereas many forms of activity are based on measuring one’s progress by outward comparisons, mindfulness disciplines require continuous turning inwards. In contrast to most everyday activities, one’s own experience becomes the focus of attention.
Many who join the MBS training are initially surprised that even post-graduate training courses require practitioners to bring their attention to their own movements, again and again. In order to truly observe how someone else does a movement, first it’s necessary to explore how you do the movement, yourself. To learn through MBS and to teach MBS is to explore in this way at ever deeper levels and with ever finer levels of observation.
MBS, Pilates and Myofascial Release: A System of Questions
“It comes down to the asking of questions and the readiness to go with what you get, rather than a pre-determined idea.”
MBS Practitioner Jane Meek describes this orientation of “asking rather than telling” as a central underpinning of her work with MBS. She has found the emphasis on inquiry to be useful in her work both with Pilates and with myofascial release.
Jane describes the process of “asking questions with her hands” not only to be “very liberating”, but as central to opening up the possibility for change:
“Any time that I touch somebody, my intention is to ask a question. Do you want to move this way? If I press you here, what do you do?”
Instead of approaching each new client based on her expertise, Jane’s emphasis is on seeing each situation freshly. Asking questions instead of delivering answers recalls the “Beginner’s Mind” orientation that is vital to so many mindfulness practices.
Yogis and meditators, those practicing Pilates or martial arts, can all develop themselves as more capable students on each of their particular paths. We invite you to learn more about Mind Body Studies and experience for yourself how Dr. Feldenkrais’ work can complement your current interests and careers. For more information, visit www.mbsacademy.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org