Sometimes when you least expect, in fact even when you actively fight against it, a tiny lesson with a huge impact sneaks inside you ~ past your defense mechanisms, through your tough facade ~ and wraps itself around your weakened spirit. And when this lesson is something you already knew, it's that much more, well, enlightening ~
Tonight after work, when everyone else seemed to be running around getting ready for some huge storm that is heading our way, I went to the downtown Oakland YMCA, which you know is one of my favorite places. Someone recommended I try the Feldenkrais class, to help regain strength in my back. I wandered into the exercise studio and had second thoughts when I saw it was a dark room, two students (including me), and the instructor. Before I could sneak out, though, the class started ~ and I lay there in the dark, wondering how in the world I would get through an hour of the instructor softly asking us to "imagine the connection your ankle is making with the floor," and so on.
So, for the first 10 minutes or so, I begrudgingly went along with her instructions ~ then a few more students walked in, and the instructor turned on a couple of large heaters. The thing is ~ the thing is ~ it all started making sense, feeling right. The heaters hummed and cast a huge orange glow, waxing and waning, bright then dim as their huge round faces smiled first to the left then glided quietly to the right, casting a long thin shadow on the ceiling. I lay there, the shadows looking down at me, gliding across the ceiling with an "I told you so" smirk.
The instructor explained how Feldenkrais requires only tiny movements ~ nothing vigorous. ~ When all you know is that anything good takes hard work, requires breaking a sweat, well, laying there quietly in the dark felt ridiculous. We lay on our backs and crossed our legs and leaned them to the right ~ tiny movements, but it was hard on my back. Then we uncrossed our legs and pointed our arms up towards the ceiling, as if clapping ~ and shifted to the right then to the left. We went through a series of small, ordered movements. She told us how the movements were not random but ordered lessons, laying out a story. She explained that the order in which we did the movements encouraged a softening of the chest, a readjustment of habitual patterns, a gentle shakeup of how we organize our bodies in certain movements ~ a chance to do things a little differently for a lot of difference.
If you know me, if you really know me, you know that I'm about to say: There's a metaphor in there somewhere.
And there really was ~ we went back to the first round of movements and I laughed out loud when my body went farther than it had before, when it felt freer and better and lighter. She told me that you don't have to push far to make big changes ~
I sprinted out of the room, smiling as warmly and widely as the huge beaming heaters, and I bumped into Brooke, who teaches the deliciously agonizing Step class. So, I joined Brooke's class and at the 30-minute mark, someone panted and reminded us that the class is now 45 minutes long. We turned up the music, shouted a lot, and shimmied through the cool-down. Then I slipped my headphones on for a run on the treadmill and a spin on the machines for another hour plus ~ listening to Ira Glass. I'd write about the 'Home Alone' episode I heard, but someone else wrote a much better post about that.