Feldenkrais Institute Northwest

On Adaptation

We've all been injured physically or emotionally. It's impossible to move through this world without that occurring. We have no idea from moment to moment what life has in store for us, so the best that we can do is learn to be as adaptive as possible. In Feldenkrais we are not only concerned with a person's ability to adapt to unexpected circumstances and to an ever-changing environment, but also with how effectively they adapt.

All adaptation is not necessarily effective. Take walking, for example. Every person on the planet has their own unique way of walking, which has developed from their own unique history, chosen activities, and emotional and intellectual traits. From this observation we can make a fairly basic but accurate conclusion that there is no right or wrong way to walk. There are however, some ways which are more effective than others.

Basically speaking, the more accurately and efficiently the skeleton is aligned in the walking process, the more efficient and graceful the walking will be. We’ll use someone who only walks on a flat surface as an example. In (his) day-to-day life, the only adaptation he is required to make in his walking style is to walk up steps or step up onto other flat surfaces. Let's also say that he has developed a very light and elegant walking style where he maintains an efficient skeletal alignment throughout his walking and stepping.

Other than occasional slippery surfaces and perhaps wearing different types of shoes, he is rarely required to adapt his walking style to a different environment. One day he decides to go on a hike through rugged terrain. The flat, even, and predictable surfaces he is accustomed to walking on no longer exist. Without prior experience in this type of an environment, he will have an increased chance of spraining an ankle, wrenching a knee, or falling. To avoid these pitfalls, he must adapt to this new environment. This process will take some time and will require, to a certain degree, giving up certain previous notions of how to walk.

One of the most important keys to adaptation is the ability to let go of what was and what should be and to deal directly with what is. Wishing for a flat surface to walk on will not serve our friend while he walking in rugged terrain. What will serve him is effectively applying the skills he has acquired through walking on a flat surface to the current environment he is in.

In this example, walking and environment are metaphors for any changes that may occur in our lives. Whether from emotional trauma or physical injury, how we respond to a situation and choose to adapt to our present reality will determine our effectiveness and quality of life. A foundational piece of my work with clients is to have them become truly present with their current environment.

Someone who has had a stroke or been in an accident is often still thinking about the past and how they were before their injury. In no way is it my intent to diminish or dismiss their current thinking. My intent is to make clear that to truly begin to move forward they must begin with being present and accepting their current condition. This process of accepting what is and moving forward from there will require effective support people in this person’s life, and it is a chosen part of my role as a Feldenkrais Practitioner to be one of these effective support people for my clients as they move toward their chosen goals.