One evening in the last year of my Feldenkrais training program a group of us went into Manhattan to dance and celebrate our time learning together. At one point in the evening as I danced with another student called Detlef I decided to move my body in total synchronicity with his. Quite quickly we were in sync so then I moved to lead him to see if he would follow me, and he did! We danced for 4-5 minutes like this, our bodies moving in complete connection with one another such that we didn’t know who was leading and who was following. It was an intoxicating, unforgettable experience for both of us, but after my incredible experience with one of the trainers it validated that I could achieve what I had felt from her connection. I finally had a glimpse of how to do it and it was amazing!
I spent years cultivating how to connect with others through movement such that it is a structure to structure connection – I can follow you or you follow me in a seamless dance. Two practices really helped me along this path, working with animals and rock climbing. Animals respond immediately to good connections or immediately resist if the connection is not good. Rock climbing taught me how to yield within my structure so that fingers that must hold onto non-existent niches have strength to do so without stiffening the rest of the body.
What makes it challenging to establish structural connections with each other is that we spend so many years learning how to be completely disconnected from one another emotionally, physically and intellectually (except babies and toddlers). As one of my clients jokingly states ‘I apply three brain cells to pay attention to how I move.’ Unfortunately most of us are unaware of what it feels like to move so we must first wake up to movement and then re-educate ourselves to learn to move more optimally. Your brain tries to inform you how to move but the messages are either ignored or the response to them is backward. For instance when you do an activity your brain might inform you that it hurts, your response may be to decide you must push through the pain or you won’t gain. That is backward, you should stop the way you are moving and try a different way!
I recently had a twitter exchange on stretching with a man who works out 2 hours a day, six days a week at 85 years old. He maintained that it is part of the aging process to become stiff and inflexible in the body and I maintained that it need not be so if he is moving as his structure is designed to move. The discussion revolved around the merits of stretching – he insisted that it is necessary and I said if you know how to release muscles when you are done using them for a movement then there is no need to stretch, they are released. My point is why would you get stiffer as you get older if your muscles release when you don’t need them for movement? This is an argument that is simple logic yet those that are attached to stretching resist completely.
The experience of a structural connection with another living being is an unforgettable feeling emotionally, intellectually and physically – you will crave more! It is a lifelong practice to become better at feeling beyond the resistances we build up over time and more adept at following clients’ patterns of movement before leading them in a better pattern. By following first you feel more secure and become more open to being lead in another direction – albeit none of this comes from your conscious, thinking brain.
Connection that goes deeply into your nervous system and skeleton at a profoundly powerful level with another living being is what we have evolved to be. Our brain exists to produce adaptable, complex movements – all learning comes from movement, no matter how small or large. Exquisite learning results from fine motor skill adaptability and complexity throughout our structure. Establishing this level of connection results in awareness of say, how a horse can use just a tiny fraction of a muscle to flick off a fly. Let a fly land on you and see if you can flick it off with a fraction of a muscle.
The bottom line is adaptable, optimally organized movement is how we evolve and learn physically, emotionally and intellectually. Connecting with one another through movement eliminates the potential for misinterpretation, misunderstanding and obfuscation because the body never lies! First impressions of people are determined NOT so much by what is said but by what we experience through body connections. That is what matters because we can say anything to one another but the structural language is always truthful. This is why we so value our animals, communication is structural, which ultimately is unconditional love.