An introduction to the Feldenkrais® Method.
The Feldenkrais Method® is a unique approach to somatic learning that uses movement to enhance the communication between the brain and the body. It releases tension and stress and brings us back to our natural harmonious way of functioning.
The method, named after its founder Moshe Feldenkrais, was begun in the 1950s and has developed and evolved since that time. It is widely practised and highly regarded in Europe and North America.
The Feldenkrais Method works for a wide range of people, young and old. From those who have chronic pain or neurological problems, to everyday people with stress related problems, or athletes who want to improve their performance and have more energy.
The relief of tension and pain occurs through increased awareness and correction of poor habitual patterns of movement. Improved physical habits lessen undue strain on joints and muscles, enhance physical and mental performance, and lead to a more positive self-image and better overall health.
The Feldenkrais Method is named after the distinguished scientist and educator Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984). He was born in the Ukraine, moved to Palestine as a teenager and studied in Paris. Besides being a scientist who worked on nuclear research and antisubmarine technology, he was also a judo master, credited with introducing the sport to the West. After developing a painful chronic knee problem in the 1940s, he decided to explore the body's functions as a way of avoiding surgery. Feldenkrais embarked on a study of new relationships between the mind and body to improve physical movement and function. He combined his knowledge of martial arts with neurology, physiology, anatomy, and psychology to create a new system, thereby teaching himself to walk again without pain.
The system Feldenkrais developed is based on his observations that the human brain has the capacity, throughout life, to form new patterns of movement, action and function with great efficiency. No matter what level of skill or degree of limitation one has, the brain can learn to replace limited and disorganized movement patterns with new and better-organised ones. Whatever the level of physical or neurological disability, all of us have the ability to learn and improve.
Dr Feldenkrais observed that most of us do just enough with our bodies to get by but never reach anywhere near our potential. His method uses movement to improve the flow of information from our body to our brain. Simply put: when we have more info, we can make better decisions. Easy and enjoyable Feldenkrais movements activate brain centres and provide the stimulus for the nervous system to create new neural pathways. Slow repetition and variation reinforces these pathways as well as the newly acquired patterns.
It is important to note that faulty patterns or habits are improved without your conscious mind having to constantly remind you what you should be doing – this is of little or no help (think of your mother telling you to sit up straight). New information from the non-habitual Feldenkrais movements allows the nervous system to work out how to function with greater ease, fluidity and efficiency.
“What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains”.
When our nervous system becomes more aware of a wider range of movement possibilities, we start to incorporate this wider repertoire into our lives. Improved coordination comes from a greater sense of connection within the body, between the body and the brain as well as within the brain itself.
Movement is performed as a response to our environment: the best movement is the one that is most appropriate to a given set of stimuli. By increasing the range of movement responses to any given situation, we also increase the possibility of thinking, sensing and emoting more appropriately.
The end goal is to have the freedom to respond fluidly to life’s ever-changing circumstances and not to react in the same old habitual ways.
Precautions and risks
This method involves no cracking, prodding, or vigorous manipulation. Rather, it prescribes a series of light movements performed slowly and easily, without any strain or pain.
All movements are light and easy and involve no strain whatsoever. There are virtually no risks involved when studying with a certified Feldenkrais practitioner.
Clients generally experience a sense of lightness, improved posture and relief of muscular tension following a session. They also report better flexibility, co-ordination and balance. The method is also used to alleviate chronic pain, reduce stress and tension. Older clients report such results as improvement in sleeping patterns and a release from stiffness and arthritic symptoms. With children, improved movement proves extremely helpful for other types of learning and development.
The Feldenkrais Method works for individuals of all ages, ranging from people with sore backs, to those with severe neurological disorders like cerebral palsy, stokes or multiple sclerosis to people who want to improve their performance. Performers and athletes are among the strongest supporters of this method, claiming both improved levels of performance and enhanced personal growth.
Feldenkrais developed two approaches:
1. Private one-on-one sessions focus on hands-on touch and guided movement called Functional Integration®.
2. Group lessons are called Awareness Through Movement®.
- In both types of sessions, clients are guided by practitioners through a series of slow, gentle
sequences of movements. Private lessons are hands-on, while group lessons involve verbally
guided floor work.
- Clients remain fully clothed with non-restrictive clothing being recommended.
- At no time is any attempt made to alter the structure of the body, as the method works by simply providing the nervous system with more information and possibilities for movement.
- Sessions last from 45-60 minutes.
- David Sullivan
Healthy Options Magazine