Learning the Importance of Slowing Down


Question: We've been working together for 10 months. I'm curious to know how you're making sense of the experience.

Answer: A huge thing is more awareness of me being in my own body. How just my mood affects the speed of my movement. And vice versa. The speed of me moving affects my mood. One of my biggest challenges is being very speedy, and constantly rushing in my body. So just having the experience of, for an hour, slowing things so much—it kind of leaves a tail of me being able to slow down during the week.

It's this experiential work of -- 'this feels so good to be so slow' -- and maybe even subconsciously, it teaches my body to do that, too. Now I notice when I'm very speedy. I notice sometimes I walk very fast, and I'm like, 'Why do I need to walk very fast right now?' It will save me a few seconds. Why would I do that to myself?

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Question: As we've been working, there have been periods of time when we've worked together once a week, consistently, and other times when we've gone for longer stretches of time between sessions. In the longer stretches, are there still residual effects from what we've been doing?

Answer: Yes, there are. Definitely. I think my body is learning. And I definitely... My hope for anyone who works with you is that they would do it long enough to give their body the chance to create new habits.

Statement: I'm thinking a lot about habits lately. One thing that comes to mind when you're talking is that the nervous system has its own optimal speed for learning—the speed at which it can process new information and learn new muscle patterns or new action patterns. It has to be going at a certain speed for it to be able to feel the new alternatives. Does that make sense to you?

Question: Could you explain more? I think it does, but…

Explanation: Well, so an example would be— You go to move your arm, but you find out that as soon as you start moving your your arm, you start holding your breath. Or as soon as you start to lift your arm you feel some hesitation, like ‘Oh, I'm actually kind of scared to lift my arm. I don't know why that is.’ If you go slowly enough, and you just start to lift your arm and then, ‘Oh, I'm feeling something strange,’ then you stop. Just that, and ‘the nervous system’ starts to make sense of that information. It starts to find an easier way to do it. It starts to optimize on its own.

Making sense: Yeah, like a river that flows. If there is something that's blocking, maybe it was has to go left or right to find an easier path. A way around it.

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Yes. What I'm saying is that the specific function of finding another way takes a little bit of time and takes some slowness. Slowness is one of the things that I offer — the kind of time it takes to figure out another way of doing something. Does that resonate with your experience?

Yes. And I think that while this long process happens, I can have a very fast result during and after the one session, too. So it's both. It's like a bigger restructuring that's happening but also shorter results as well.

Also, my back pain almost disappeared. And that's incredible.

And it affected my lifestyle. In addition to what we have been doing, I was able to also start going to the gym, and then going to the gym a lot more. The self-care I’m doing by meeting with you snowballed. ‘How about I just sign up for a gym that I really enjoy as well, that has a hot tub and a steam room?’ And that feels really nice. And then, how about I go and find equine therapist and work with a horse? So I think it just adds up. I am taking action in the world to take better care of myself.

It’s like there's a cascading effect. Or another metaphor, it’s like a seed of self care that grows into a tree with branches, more different ways of taking care of yourself.

Exactly. And it's funny, the thing that I'm working on most in equine therapy is also allowing myself to be slower. I think it's such a interesting connection. The feeling in the back, my back, my low back when I'm on the horse—that's what I'm paying attention to.

Wow. Is that something that you are bringing from the Feldenkrais context? Are they telling you when you're riding, ‘Oh, feel your lower back.’

I think you once told me that when you're working with me, you're connecting my nervous system with yours. My therapist, she's a professional horse rider, so she’s saying, ‘While you are on the horse, they are aware of everything that you're aware of. You're looking to the left, so you're putting more pressure on their left side, they feel it, they want to avoid tension. So they move that way.’

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The horse is extremely sensitive to you. So you have to be more aware of yourself, because the micro movements that you make have an effect on this horse.

It's like we become one thing. And I think that's interesting. And now I'm connecting all of the dots, the Feldenkrais and the equine therapy… I have a very strong effect on the people around me. So me taking care of myself is actually taking care of all of the other people that I love in my life.

Wow, that's beautiful.

Like with my family and my romantic partner. In a way, it's my responsibility to put the oxygen mask on myself first.

And in this case, putting the oxygen mask on means learning how to go more slowly and actually feel what's going on with you.

Yeah, in the present moment. And I think that Feldenkrais has such a big element of mindfulness. But it teaches the body mindfulness and bypasses the whole thinking about it. It just goes directly in.

So I wish that even more people will find out about your services as a Feldenkrais practitioner, because the body work that you're doing is amazing. It's been very helpful.