What is strength? Part 2 of 3


Let’s use the example of the following classic Feldenkrais movement to illustrate how ones’ strength can be affected by using muscular contraction and muscular release. Suppose one is lying on the floor and stands the right foot on the floor so that the right knee is facing the ceiling. When one presses the right foot into the floor the right side of the pelvis comes off the floor and the pelvis tilts to the left. When one releases the pressure of the right foot the pelvis comes back onto the floor so that one can rest briefly. But is the pelvis really released on the floor, and if not, can one really rest?
I often observe in my classes that instead of fully releasing the pelvis to rest many people maintain a slight muscular tension and the right side of the pelvis stays marginally lifted, as if preparing for the next movement. So, I asked myself why so many people do this so frequently? It seems that keeping this slight muscular tension while “resting” may feel good initially. This is because, as one does not release the pelvis fully, there is less weight pulling on the bones and less stretching and lengthening between the joints. Furthermore, as you start making the next movement it takes less effort to contract the muscles as they are already slightly contracted. Keeping some muscular contraction when resting comes at a price though. Over time, as you make a habit of not fully releasing, you get less rest, there is less opening and lengthening in the joints and as your muscles do not release fully, eventually they may contract and shorten.
Clearly, keeping our musculature contracted between movements, even if only slightly, gives us less rest and less strength over time. Next week I will finish this post about strength by explaining how Feldenkrais practice can help us improve this interplay between contraction and release.