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Work, Rest and Play

How do you think about work? Is it enjoyable? What is work?
What is rest and when and how do you rest?
What is play? Do you play every day? When are you playful?

We have spent most of last year in class investigating what we understand by these words and concepts. It's been interesting and so useful for me to clarify and hear your comments.


Well, first what do I mean by work? In the Feldenkrais world, we differentiate work and effort. Work is a purely physics sort of word. That is the work, the amount of energy it takes to lift your body from, for example, sitting to standing. Or to walk along a path. Or to leap.

This is different to effort. How hard, does it feel to do the same activities? In Feldenkrais, we aim for light, easy, effortless movements. And often after a session people get up and say with questioning surprise, 'I feel lighter! Is that possible?' To feel lighter is possible and tells me that there is improved skeletal support in the field of gravity.

Watch an athlete or dancer or horse playing in the paddock and you can see lightness and activity in the movements. They are graceful and seem 'easy' to the actor. If you are the one leaping it feels easy despite the energy that must be used to perform.


During a class or lesson we are frequently asked to rest. What do you do in those times? Do you think, 'Oh! Thank heavens for that, and start making a shopping list.' Or can you give up the movement and rest in the observation of how you are lying, what has changed, what thoughts and moods are in the foreground? And also let it go, staying alert and interested in the process.

Even in following the movement instructions or suggestions, can you find a way to be your own detective and be aware of the movement, feeling, thinking, sensing and direct yourself to make each movement fresh, discrete, and maybe even new? This attitude, in my experience, is the way to find a comfortable way to continue, until you sense that a pause may be helpful. You are encouraged to take that pause, so that you can then rejoin the action refreshed.

After a long day at the office, how do you feel? Sometimes we may come home, collapse on the sofa and feel brain dead. Is that resting?

Walking - Work Rest Play diagram

Sometimes a favoured hobby or task gives us new energy and we are able to feel fresh for the task. Once absorbed in an easy flow of engagement with your task, it seems possible to continue effortlessly. How does that happen?

It is possible to rest in walking, rest in sitting, rest in whatever task is on the agenda. It is an attitude in moving, feeling and thinking.

This is something I have practiced on long walks. At one stage, in training, I noticed that about 3/4 the way through a walk, I felt tired or in pain and wanted to stop. But it was the same if I was going 3km, or 13km! And I found there is a state of mind and moving that allows me to continue as if for ever. I call this resting in walking.


As you read the first paragraph, did you make a note of when and what playful activities are in your life? If not, do so now! In what sort of way do you play? How do you know it's play?

Play is light and constantly changing, there is enjoyment of the activity. You feel refreshed afterwards, despite exertion. What is feeling of taking an attitude of playfulness?

Play is a restorative process and can be practiced at numerous moments throughout your day.

I'm talking a lot about feeling. This sensed quality is a large part of how we assess the course of a day and how in tune with ourselves we experience each moment.

You may change your experience of an activity asking yourself whether you are working, resting or playing. And by practicing your ability to change your perspective and switch to restful walking, or playfully hanging out the washing, or working industriously but not effortfully writing, you may develop an increased curiosity about yourself and the world around you.

Put the activity you want to observe in the middle of the circle and see which mode you think it usually is; then practice making that same activity to another mode, and again! So soon you are able to change how you feel.

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Photos courtesy of Mode Photography
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