by Carrie Lafferty, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner
Do you have a powerful walk? Pause for a moment while you ponder this question. Notice inside. Does a certain feeling or "image" arise inside of you as you imagine the inner sensation of your walk? Can you sense if you have to do something inside in order to feel yourself walking powerfully? Do you have a vision of how a powerful walk has to look? How can you attend to walk forward with strength? Do you sense effort or ease in your walk?
Walking is a complex human activity. We can’t make ourselves feel a more powerful walk by holding a fixed belief of how we "should" be. We also can’t create a powerful walk through only strengthening a muscle or group of muscles.
Instead, we must explore how the whole body is used relative to both the ground and to gravity during this dynamic activity. Power and grace are a natural state. We can access this ease by allowing our whole self to move in a unified way. When this happens, all parts of us are serving one common action and we feel a smooth fluid motion.
Natural Power From Within
Finding your natural power from within requires you to sense how you move while you are moving. Paying close attention, you can learn to sense the difference between movement that is jerky or resistant (effortful) and that which is fluid and smooth. The Feldenkrais Method® helps you learn to engage and monitor this inner sense of moving. When we’re able to sense effort, we can become curious for new possibilities to arise.
How do you learn to sense effort? It requires playfulness and curiosity. Reduce the speed of your movements to allow new movement options to be noticed. Cultivate an open, non-judgmental attitude and you’ll notice that novel understandings begin to emerge.
As noted, walking is highly complex. When it is done with ease and efficiency, we have a sense of a sort of grounded buoyancy. We feel mobile and free and yet also fully supported. In this way, our sense of power and grace is dynamic and changing at all moments.
At any given moment in time, mostly unaware to us, our nervous system is making millions of small incremental changes to keep us walking on our intended path. Part of the above dance is developing the skills to notice these adjustments at a more refined level.
Notice with a Fresh Perspective
Imagine a multi-colored flag blowing in the breeze. You can stand in front of the flag and observe for a few moments. At one moment, you look at the flag and see a flash of yellow. At the next moment maybe blue and then green. As you continue to notice, it is possible to start to experience more complex patterns of how the flag moves. Your awareness shifts with each combination of noticing. This allows you a new perspective in your experience of what the blowing flag is like.
The same thing happens in a walking Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® (ATM®) lesson. We may explore a lesson about one sensory pattern within walking (like the pinkish/yellow flag pattern). Let’s do a small movement experiment now.
Stand up and close your eyes. Sense the contact between the soles of your feet and the floor. Follow by sensing where you locate your hips and shoulders in space. Focus for a moment on just your right shoulder, then your left shoulder, then your right hip, then your left hip.
Open your eyes. Now begin to walk forward slowly. Sense the contact change across the soles of your feet as you walk. Allow your noticing to be open, curious, and light.
Focus for a moment on the sense of weight moving across the bottom of your right foot. Take several steps until that sense is highlighted in your awareness.
Sense now how your right shoulder moves when the weight is moving forward across your right foot. Can you begin to coordinate a smooth movement pattern where the weight moving forward across your foot enables your right shoulder to move forward with ease? Repeat this several times.
Stand for a moment and sense the difference between your right and left sides.
Now begin to walk forward slowly again. Sense the contact change across the soles of your feet as you walk.
Focus for a moment on the sense of weight moving across the bottom of your right foot again. Can you begin to coordinate a fluid movement pattern where the weight moving forward across the sole of your foot enables your right shoulder to move backward with ease? Repeat several times.
There are at least two possible ways of doing the same action. Transferring weight across the bottom of your right foot can enable your right shoulder to move forwards or backwards. Notice that the movement in your hips and spine are different with each of these movements. Which is easier? More fluid?
Stop and stand for a moment again. Notice your contact with the ground. Could you support your right and left sides differently?
Both patterns of movement are valid and are important to be available for efficient human walking.
If you choose, take a few moments and explore the same sensations while walking forward and focusing on the weight traveling across the bottom of your left foot. This may allow you to find how you may use your spine and hips differently when you transfer weight across your right foot compared to how you transfer weight across your left foot.
As time goes on and your ability to notice feedback gets more subtle. Using curiosity and a "not trying to fix" awareness, your system inherently begins to discard the less efficient patterns.
The Walking Spiral
This counter balance of grounded buoyancy is where our power lives. It subtly changes from one moment to the next. Our nervous system can arrange the trillions of muscle fibers moving our numerous bones in an infinite number of ways. This gives us different ways to do the same thing, allowing for choice. What an amazing opportunity to find more options for ease and power just through informed noticing!
Our sense of ease is three-dimensional. We can feel a pattern of being buoyed up from the ground in a spiraling direction: sort of like unscrewing a light bulb. This buoyant sense dances with the feeling of grounding that gravity’s downward force creates within us. When these forces move through us truly like a dance, instead of a fight, we feel grace, power, and ease in our walk.
Over time and with practice, we can become more skilled at clearly feeling the difference between ease and effort in our movement. We gently incorporate a new, easier pattern. We begin to sense our whole self-moving in a more unified way. This shows up as a sense of smoothness, grace, and natural power. Our inner energy communicates freely with the world. We become open to the natural power arising from within.
Emerging from your own inner wisdom, reinforced from the outer natural environment, you become truly empowered.