Feldenkrais: No Pain - Maximum gain

This is the second of a series of articles on Feldenkrais by Harold Tausch

No Pain - Maximum Gain

People are often surprised by the big changes they notice after a few gentle movements in a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement class or a few gentle manipulations in a hands-on Feldenkrais Functional Integration lesson. We live in a culture that still believes to a considerable extent in the "No Pain - No Gain" theory. It is believed that we can only improve by pushing ourselves to our limits and beyond.  This is not true.

In Feldenkrais we encourage people to stay within a range of motion that is comfortable and easy to do and to not push themselves to the limit.

We do this for a number of reasons. First of all, pain is the way our nervous system tells us that something is wrong and, that if we continue doing what we're doing despite the pain, we are going to injure ourselves. In addition, the Feldenkrais Method is an educational technique. We are learning all the time. If we continue to do a movement that is causing us pain, our nervous system will learn that this is not a good movement to do and will tend not to do that movement in the future. As a result, we end up with fewer movement possibilities which is, of course, the opposite of what we are trying to achieve with Feldenkrais.

The "No Pain - No Gain" approach is also about working very hard. When we work hard and move quickly, we do not create an environment in which we can learn. All that we are doing is practicing what we already know how to do, however well or poorly organized that is. To learn to improve our movements we have to slow things down and reduce our effort so that we can really become aware of what we are doing and to notice small differences as a result of the Feldenkrais explorations.

Another aspect of the "No Pain - No Gain" approach is to go to our limits or beyond, to the point of exhaustion. This again is counter-productive if we are trying to improve the quality and effectiveness of our movements. As we approach exhaustion, our movements become less precise and less efficient. We start contracting more and more muscles, often including muscle groups that have nothing to do with what we are trying to do. It results in the development of poorly organized movement patterns.

Feldenkrais engages the learning capabilities of our nervous system. Learning actually takes a lot of energy and our attention can quickly become fatigued. That is why there are frequent rests during Feldenkrais classes and why the practitioner carefully gauges the response of the client's nervous system to prevent a sense of overload.

In many ways, the Feldenkrais Method is the antithesis of the "No Pain - No Gain" theory. Instead of forcing our body to perform through effort, we are always looking for the easiest, most efficient, and pleasurable way of moving. As a result, our movements take less energy and are more effective. "No Pain - Maximum Gain".