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Getting Older and the Power of Yet

I recently returned to an Awareness Through Movement lesson that I had not taught or explored on the floor myself for about 4 years. It’s a lesson that I thought would be a good fit for the theme of clarifying how the hip joint functions that we have been exploring for the last month in class. Although this lesson has never been “easy” for me, I was shocked to find that on one side, even the opening configuration was just not possible at this point in my life. I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this particular lesson, but my difficulty getting into the starting position definitely shifted that love/hate balance, and not for the better!!!!

After three years of studying towards a degree in Gerontology, I became very familiar with the natural changes the body/brain go through with advancing age; possible changes in how memory functions, deterioration in vision and hearing, declining immune system function, etc. The list goes on and on! However, we seem to be bombarded relentlessly with unrealistic media images of the “well-derly” doing all manner of adventures, air-brushed photographs of aging faces and bodies even in AARP magazine, and the punishing idea that if only we would just do everything “right”, none of this will happen to us. We are not just a death-denying society, but also one that denies the possibility of very real physical changes as we get older.

Back to my shock and dismay. Some of the thoughts that ran through my mind were, “ Oh well, there goes that ability! Guess I should just be grateful for what I CAN still do”. Then I remembered a central theme of Moshe Feldenkrais’s work: that whatever our present limitation, it’s only our belief that it is a permanent limitation that prevents us from being able to improve. So whatever difficulty I had in getting myself into the starting position on that day, it didn’t mean I would never be able to do it again. I did what I always tell my students in class: start wherever you are and be gentle with yourselves. Make modifications and if the modifications aren’t possible, then THINK it through. Try it on the other side, which might be quite different. The most limiting thing any of us can do is to shut down the process of exploration or to close our minds to the possibility that our abilities may improve, no matter how old or arthritic we might become.

After I gave some space (and compassion) to my frustration, I just started where I was and although I can’t say I did the lesson as “well” as I might have four years ago, much more was possible for me than I initially believed. I was also incredibly grateful in the realization that I might be in much worse shape if it weren’t for the tools of this beautiful practice! So when practitioners of this work say that anyone can improve regardless of age or physical condition, believe it!!!

For an inspiring talk, check out this TED Talk: The Power of Yet, by Carol Dweck.

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