Sport plays a very important role in many of our lives. Not only does it have health benefits and provide on-going challenge and interest, but it is profoundly mood enhancing and is often woven into our social life, our sense of self and our way of feeling good about ourselves in the world.
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to enjoy the feeling of improving, becoming more skilful, accurate, stronger, faster, more resilient, able to lift more, throw further, strike harder. We all want ways to continue improving.
Our training and the sport itself may involve repetitious movement at higher speeds, loading, stress and even impact than most every day movement. We want to practice without incurring injuries, or at least learn ways to recover from injury quickly and well.
Sports training has evolved enormously in the last couple of decades and can be very specific to the activities involved. However, it is important to remember that we bring ourselves to any sport, with our own very individual way of thinking, feeling, moving, breathing and behaving. While that sounds obvious, it is often the ‘elusive obvious’ (as Feldenkrais named it) that can be missed in the sophisticated technical training and rehabilitation methods we apply.
When we hit a difficulty, a ceiling, a plateau, a recurring injury pattern what do we do?
There are many possibilities with established strength training, stretching and specific drills of course. That may be enough – but sometimes nothing seems to work. There is another way.
We all bring our very individual patterns, skills and limitations in our fundamental ways of thinking, feeling, and moving to our sport. This underlies and forms the framework for everything we do. If we can get curious about how we function at that deep level, we can start to uncover and improve how we do everything. Including our sport.
In Feldenkrais lessons we start to feel how we use our left foot or hip joint differently to our right, our idiosyncratic way of using the pelvis, what we are doing with the ribs, how we breathe when we find something tricky.
And from there we might start to get that we don’t just use our legs to run, but our back, our arms, even our head and eyes, or that kicking involves not just the hip joints but our ribs, shoulder blades, the other foot. In short: we start to feel the ways we use our whole selves to do anything.
And then we may find it isn’t all about strength, or even flexibility, but also about the quality of our movement and how we think about our movement. Do we rely on sheer effort, force and will power that is hard to sustain? or can we shift focus, change gear: look for integrated movement, fluidity and more ease instead?
Now we can start to change the game: learn to feel what we do better and move smarter rather than blindly pushing harder. Then everything about our way of being in the sport starts to shift – and so does our level of skill, efficiency, ease, oh and all those injuries…..
Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais and sport
As a young man, Moshe Feldenkrais was energetic and athletic. He was still very strong even late in life. With a history in unarmed combat during the war, he later became one of the first judo blackbelts in the west and co-founded the judo club of France. He tore his cruciates and mangled his meniscus playing aggressive football as a young man and then taught himself how to find his own way out of pain and difficulty. All of this along with his understanding of engineering, physics and human development was the breeding ground for his Method. He was all about learning for ourselves, becoming aware of the way we do things, exploring how we work most efficiently and intelligently, being curious and getting closer to our human potential. Sounds good for sport, no?
In his book ‘the Lost art of Running’ Running Coach, Shane Benzie talks about ‘Taking ownership of our movement’.
He says: ‘(It’s) about getting to know your body better. About getting more in touch with what makes you human so you can do what humans are designed to do in the way we are designed to do it. This is about rediscovering the techniques that we, as a species, are physically built and mentally wired to undertake. It’s about freeing you to do what you love so that you can feel an even deeper connection with yourself and the world. So that you can do it more often. Be injured less. Go further. Go faster. Feel that flow.”
(S.Benzie: ‘The Lost Art of Running’ Bloomsbury, London 2020 p121)
Todd Hargrave “Better Movement” (and others)
Edward Yu “slowing down to run faster”
Shane Benzie “The Lost Art of Running”
(Moshe Feldenkrais “The Potent Self”)
Some Links – Martial Arts:
Moti Nativ “Warrior’s Awareness”
The Extraordinary Story of How Moshe Feldenkrais Came to Study Judo (interview with Moshe Feldenkrais)
Feldenkrais and Judo
My own blog
Some Links – Running and Sports:
Feldenkrais Practitioner, Scott Forester interviewing Shane Benzie
and other interviews by Scott Forrester re sports:
Todd Hargrave (FP) blog