Invited Post – Habits: You Can’t Live with Them, You Can’t Live without Them


This is an invited post by my esteemed Feldenkrais instructor, Karen Dold of Move with Elan

Try this.  Interlace your fingers, look at your hands, and note which thumb is on the outside.  Un-interlace your fingers, then interlace them again.  Same thumb on the outside?  This would be your habitual interlacing.  Now, un-interlace your fingers, and interlace them in the opposite way, so that the other thumb is on the outside.  How does it feel?  Most people find that it feels very weird – like they were holding someone else’s hand.  This would be your non-habitual way.  Did you know that you had a habit in the way that you interlaced your fingers?

Habit:  (noun): an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.  So says  The habits my clients and I deal with are not “almost” involuntary.  They are involuntary, unseen, and unfelt.  And they get in the way.

Habits can be very useful.  Necessary even, in order to get anything accomplished in life.  For instance, what would life be like if every time you drove your car, you had to pay attention to every little detail of the act of driving just like you did the first time you drove?  Remember the first time?  You had to figure out the location of the accelerator, the brake, the turn signal, the windshield wiper switch, the light switch, and the clutch; you had to figure out which hand or foot to use and when; you had to observe the traffic 360 degrees around you and match your speed to the environment; you had to listen to your instructor without diverting your attention from all the aforementioned things, etc.  It was either exciting or terrifying, but quite probably it was overwhelming.  But soon driving became second nature and a very useful habit.

We have lots of useful habits.

Habits can also be not useful, even destructive (and no, I am not referring to a drinking or drug habit here – though those are, too.)    If we knew what we were doing was not useful, presumably we would do something else.  But what if we do not know what we are doing?  Involuntary habits by definition encompass “that which we do not know that we do”.  It is our physical “involuntary” habits that create our inability to compete in our sport with as much skill as we would like, or lead to patterns of repetitive injuries or pain as we train.  These involuntary muscle contractions or patterns of movement can be thought of as “the uninvited guest”: they are part of EVERYTHING that we do.  These patterns will be congruent with some activities that you do, so the activity seems easy and effortless.  However, these unseen, unfelt patterns will be counter-productive to other activities that you do, and the activity will be challenging, or you will keep hurting yourself while doing it.

For example, if you are someone who keeps their abdomen taut all the time, bending over to pick something up off the floor will likely be simple (congruent activity for taut abdomen).  However, you will not enjoy standing and looking up at the sky to watch a meteor shower.  Your tight abdomen will prevent your back from arching (incongruent activity) to support your head looking up – and you might experience pain in your neck.

When we learn a new activity, or follow the advice of our coach in our training, we bring these “uninvited guests” to the new activity.  And then we wonder why we do not progress in skill in our training, or improve our performance as quickly as we would like to, even with diligent and persistent effort.

How do we become aware of these unseen and unfelt habits that hinder our development as an athlete?  How do we develop new patterns of systemic muscular coordination that create skill in our desired activity?  How can we learn to feel what we are doing?  How can we learn to train without pain?  Go visit your local movement detective: your local Feldenkrais Method practitioner.  Take a class.  Have a private session.   See for more information.

Some of your movement habits are useful.  Some are not.  This may be a fruitful area of inquiry if you are beset by injuries or not progressing as quickly in your skill development in your sport as you would like.

[Thank you, Karen, it is very much appreciated, as is your continued instruction in Feldenkrais. -k Your Medical Mind]


Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.