Limitation: A Generous Teacher

Limitation: A Generous Teacher

When I was 14 years old back in the 1980s, I used to go to a bookstore at the mall with my girlfriend and we’d get all excited about discovering books on such far-out topics as shamanism, new-age philosophy, astrology, and anything remotely resembling an altered state of consciousness, as profoundly bored as we were with middle-class suburbia and junior high. 

One of my favorite books at the time was a tiny paperback called Illusions by Richard Bach.  It’s been more than 25 years since I read it and I have no idea if I’d appreciate it as I did at 14. But a favorite quote has stuck with me from that book all these years later:

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” 

I take it to mean that if I say “I can’t!” then, of course I can’t.

If I don’t argue for that limited viewpoint, then maybe it’s not so true… 

It blew my mind at the time, and I still love the perspective. 

Many years later during our 4-year Feldenkrais training, I had another mind-blow shift in my understanding of limitations.

At the time, I was a full-time yoga teacher and I loved exploring “my edge” in poses. You know, that place where you can’t go any further? My habit was to go to that edge in a pose and hang out there, thinking that I was increasing my flexibility. (Never mind the fact that as a super-flexible person, the last thing I needed to be practicing was increasing my range of motion. Ahem.) 

Well, my very smart teacher, Yvan Joly, pointed out a very different perspective. In his mellifluous French accent he said something like this: 

“If you continue to go to your limit, you’re reinforcing to your brain the experience of being limited. You hit your edge, your limit, and your body-mind is sensing, “I’m limited. I can’t go anywhere from here.” Is that what you want to be reinforcing in your experience?  Stuckness? Limitation?”

A deep inner voice said, “Hell no!” Was pushing to my limit a way of actually arguing for my limitations? Reinforcing them, experientially? Wow. Busted. I resolved to do my best to let go of this deeply ingrained habit.

One of the unexpected insights that comes through exploring the approach offered in the Feldenkrais method is a very different relationship to one’s limitations.

Instead of pushing to our edge, we might practice moving in a range that feels easy, effortless, and nowhere near painful. With such an approach, the range of movement changes, the nervous system lets go of protective defenses against our own aggression, yet even better, the quality of life and the inner relationship with oneself changes in beautiful ways. 

There’s a lovely piece of writing a dear friend passed to me on a piece of paper many years ago, and while I’ve shared it in the past, I want to include it here again, because this poem offers yet another gorgeous perspective on limitation. Given our recent experiences with Covid infection, Carl’s torn Achilles tendon (which is recovering beautifully), and more limitations, I’m relishing this perspective all over again. 


by Daniel Villasenor 

Balance is but the acute perception of imbalance. 

Freedom is the dissolving of a threshold. 

A limitation is an angel. 

But just because something is winged and divine does not mean that it is easy. 

The angel of limitation takes the shape of a question. 

Can you learn to live beyond force? 

And can your impasse become your wonder? 

Something subtle and eternal begins to form within you as you explore these prodigious questions. 

And sensing your sincerity, your limitation shivers. 

It melts; it morphs. 

And you want to weep for joy as you pass through it, because the view of the possible has changed in ways you never could have predicted. 

If this is called courage, it is also what you were missing in your previous life, before the angel of limitation visited your spirit and made you courteous to every known and unknown thing on the earth, including yourself. 


Are there limitations you experience in your life that you could relate to as an angel’s visitation? What profound learnings might be embedded in physical pain, money stress, exhaustion, relationship issues, health challenges, or the voice that “never has enough time!” 

The angel of limitation takes the form of a question. 

What if a challenge we experience as a solid limitation could actually be experienced with curiosity, openness, and wonder? As a beautiful question life is offering us the chance to live into? 

Can you learn to live beyond force? 

Can you? Will you? 

And can your impasse become your wonder? 

If this is called courage, it is also what you were missing in your previous life, before the angel of limitation visited your spirit and made you courteous to every known and unknown thing on the earth, including yourself. 

Courteous to every known and unknown thing on the earth, including yourself. If more of us were oriented in this way, what a different world we’d be living in.  Courageous, unconditional friendliness. Brave welcoming. These are lifetime devotions for me. Implicit in the inclusion of the word courage is the understanding that it’s not necessarily easy – yet so worth cultivating. Times may be challenging, but we can still grow courageous kindness. I believe we must. 

A Mary Oliver line comes to mind:

We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we change. Congratulations, if you have changed.

Congratulations! Especially if that change includes growing a sense of courtesy to every known and unknown thing on the earth, including yourself. As a people, do we want to invest in dehumanizing snark or courageous courtesy? I know where I want to throw my weight. 

May our limitations become our wonder, and may we learn to live beyond force and domination.

From my heart,


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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.