Explore your potential in body and mind

Healthy Options Magazine

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.

The Goal

“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.

The Results

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.

Two Approaches

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
November 2001

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Fitness Life Magazine

Motion Wellness.


Practitioner David Sullivan shows Anya Kussler how to move to improve. Feldenkrais® uses movement to enhance the communication between the brain and the body, thereby releasing stress and bringing us back to our natural way of functioning.

"...When you know what you're doing you can do what you want."
- Moshe Feldenkrais

I had heard much about the various benefits of the Feldenkrais® Method before I asked one of its dedicated followers, practitioner David Sullivan, to give me a hands-on demonstration - and a verbal explanation of this rather mind-boggling modality. Feldenkrais, David tells me, uses subtle movement to improve our overall body-mind connection, which can help us function with greater ease, fluidity and motion, improving our health long term.

David explains: as we grow up, we tend to become locked into doing things the same old way, due to our individual experiences. "We do what we think we can do, because we don't know any alternatives." He gives the example of someone who has broken their leg at a young age and therefore begins putting their weight on the opposite leg. When prolonged, this movement may eventually cause pain and even lead to immobility and disability. "It is when our boundaries cause pain that our habits become a problem," David says. "What it boils down to is 'use it or lose it."

The Feldenkrais Method offers a way to reverse this downward spiral by creating a framework within which a person can learn new possibilities other than the old habits and improve or revitalise the functioning of the body. David assures me that this type of learning has nothing to do with how we learned maths at school, but is similar to how we learnt to walk when we were babies (without the falling over).

While I have no idea how this is supposed to work in practice, I trust an introductory self-help Feldenkrais lesson will teach me how to walk (without falling over). "Just stand and gently shift your weight between your feet," David says. "Notice how that feels. Are you breathing easily? Do you feel that you tend to lean to one side more than the other?" None of these questions require an answer, only awareness of my own movements. "Now slowly extend your left arm in front of you and turn your palm inwards, facing you. Then, with your torso facing the front, move your arm to the left and towards the back as far as you can. Don't strain, just stop when you feel even the slightest resistance. This is your reference movement."

(I manage to turn about 110 degrees).

"Now turn your head to the right and focus ahead. Keeping your head still, try moving your eyes to the front without straining them, then do the reverse: keep your eyes facing ahead and try turning your head to the right. Now repeat the reference movement..."

This is where it gets spooky. Suddenly, effortlessly, I am now able to move my arm way beyond 180 degrees without any restrictions. In fact, I am almost certain I could do a 360-degree turn and tie myself into a knot if I wanted to (okay, a little effort may be required). Then David tells me to walk up and down the room a few times. While I normally tend to put more emphasis on my left hip (I injured my knee in an ice-skating accident 17 years ago), I feel grounded, balanced and light at the same time - one could say I have a proverbial spring in my step.

So what exactly has brought upon this change, this apparent increased mobility? David smiles at my questions: "This is one of the great things about Feldenkrais - the effect happens as a surprise. This is because it is not a cognitive experience, but learning that happens in a deep place inside your brain."

One way of learning is by engaging in slow, non-habitual movements (such as moving my eyes from side to side while holding your head still). By doing this, I have not only extended my own parameters physically, but also mentally which allows me to move freely. "A neurosurgeon might say you are strengthening your neural pathways," David explains, "creating new connections within the brain. But it's really how you organize yourself internally to interact with your environment. To really grow as a person is to increase the quality of your internal organisation, for example your quality of movement such as standing, sitting, walking..."

The Feldenkrais Method is the brainchild of Moshe Feldenkrais, a Russian-born nuclear scientist, as well as judo expert. A painful chronic knee injury he suffered in the 1940s prompted Moshe to explore the relationship between the mind and body - to improve physical movement and function as a way of avoiding surgery. He developed his therapy based on his observations that our senses, thoughts and emotions cause muscular changes in the body and vice versa. Because it is easier to control our muscles, he figured movement was the best way to improve awareness and, as a result, improve our flexibility, mental and physical potential, as well as other aspects of human functioning. It certainly worked for Moshe: he learned to walk again without pain.

Feldenkrais offers two types of approaches - a group or self-help lessons, Awareness Through Movement®, such as the one David introduced me to at the beginning of our session, as well as an individual hands-on treatment called Functional Integration®. The latter is performed with the client lying down in any comfortable position (in my case on my side, in my preferred sleeping position, clutching a pillow), with towels and blankets supporting my neck, head and limbs. Then the practitioner applies gentle touch and wave-like movement to all the limbs. There is no set model or order in which to do this, but David starts at my head, then works his way down to my feet. Both approaches utilise slow and subtle movement to enhance self-awareness and thereby give our nervous systems a choice of moving and functioning in different, easier, smoother ways.

Learning how to move in such hitherto unknown ways can assist us human beings long-term and on many different levels. It can help with chronic or neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, make ends meet with stress-related illnesses, assist in sustaining our general vitality and even help children with certain types of learning and development. It is also a powerful tool in improving athletes' performance and technique, which is why many Olympic sprinters and professional golfers have worked with Feldenkrais practitioners.

David, personally, has a Feldenkrais success story to tell. At age 17 he was diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition that manifested itself as severe lower back and knee pain. David was introduced to Feldenkrais after a ski injury to his chest in Switzerland in 1994. The method not only improved his mobility, but also alleviated his lower back and knee pain. Hence David trained as a Feldenkrais practitioner in Germany and Australia for four years then practised in Munich before returning to Auckland two years ago.

So far, David has seen some excellent results. One of his clients, Nicky Butler, had her leg amputated above her knee seven odd years ago. As a result she experienced severe chronic pain and was confined to crutches - until she was introduced to Feldenkrais. Says an ecstatic Nicky: "It's the one time in my life that I felt completely and instantly relaxed - and that after just one session! That was a definite first for me. I now understand how I was always trying to hang onto my pain, because that's what I knew. Even my jaws used to ache." A combination of regular one-on-one and self-help sessions later, Nicky is able to walk without crutches and is largely pain free. Another of David's clients, Kirsten Hunter, suffered from migraines, RSI and poor posture until she experienced the positive effects of this therapy. The most spectacular result, she says, was when she experienced OOS so badly, that she could hardly use her arm. She first began taking group lessons through her work, which she says immediately improved the mobility in her neck. Her most spectacular result to date is when she recently experienced a bad bout of OOS. "It was so tender, I couldn't bare David even touching my arm. So he did some movement work on my back and I actually fell asleep. And when I woke up, the pain was gone completely. I don't know how he did it, but it worked."

While I have had no major physical trauma in my life, other than the compulsory stiff computer shoulder as well as a tendency to hypertension and constantly worry about the trivialities of life, David's light and easy hands-on movements nearly put me to sleep as well - not to mention ease away any residue of stress. In fact, my mind feels so pleasantly still and my body so at ease and almost 'fluid', I have to cut our interview short and arrange another time to meet - when my muscles have awoken from their divine hibernation (or shall I say intervention).

- Anya Kussler
Fitness Life Magazine
March, 2006

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Sunday Star Times

Moving the goal posts.


Old habits die hard they say. But as Megan Nicol Reed discovers, stubborn tensions can dissolve when you learn easier ways to move.

IF NOTHING else, he promised, you’ll feel enlivened yet relaxed, lighter yet grounded.
Sign me up, I said. But how long will it take? I added. Time is always an issue with me.

I want to meet someone for whom time isn’t an issue (and them slap them), he replied. A session takes around one hour.

Is Lycra imperative? I asked.
No, he said. But if you feel too restricted I also have Thai fisherman’s pants.

And so I arrived for my first session of the Feldenkrais Method, 10 minutes late, restricted by tight trousers and high shoes. David Sullivan has the look of a man who practices what he preaches. His voice is light, his tread soft.

I had imagined something akin to yoga-cum-pilates-cum-tai chi with a little meditation and, hopefully, some massage thrown in. It is, he says, “a mind body integration technique that uses movement to enhance the communication between the brain and the body.”

Did I, he asked, have any particular aches and pains.
Well, I said, there’s that old lower-back problem caused by running and a sway back. And then there’s the pain in my upper back, which starred when I was breast-feeding my daughter. And then there’s the knees which gave out when I was training for a marathon.
Ahh, he said, perhaps go for a little walk for me.

Which I did, and then, at his instruction, lay down on my side on a bed in the middle of a large and airy room. And after that I can remember very little. I think he gently manipulated a few spots. I think he told me to roll this way, stretch this arm and lift that hip. I think. As if hypnotised, I fall truly and madly, deeply asleep.

Fortunately much literature exists on the technique to fill in the gaps left by my drowsiness. Moshe Feldenkrais was born in Russia a few years after the turn of the century and moved to Palestine as a teenager. He boasted both a doctorate in applied physics from the Sorbonne and a black belt in judo. After severely injuring his knee playing soccer, and wishing to avoid surgery, he devoted the rest of his life to studying the structure and function of the human nervous system. And came up with a way to increase awareness of and correct poor habits in how we move.

Feldenkrais believed most of us use our bodies inefficiently but that the human brain has extraordinary capacity to relearn and change.

And so there’s a lot of talk about replacing limited and disorganised patterns and creating new neural pathways.

Sullivan started out studying mechanical engineering but after years of chronic lower back pain and a diagnosis of scoliosis, discovered Feldenkrais when he injured his chest skiing in Switzerland. After regaining total mobility and alleviating all pain, even in his lower back, he decided to become a practitioner himself, training and working in Germany before returning to Auckland.

David Sullivan turned to the Feldenkrais Method after a skiing accident

Apparently, whether through genetics, occupation (Sullivan uses the example of violinists who must spend great tracts of time with their neck in a funny angle) or, to accommodate a past injury, we all have habits which inhibit more natural and elegant movement. The Feldenkrais solution is to first isolate these habitual patterns, then break them down and allow the nervous system to find new and improved movement patterns.

This is achieved through one of two ways: group lessons where students and talked through a series of slow movements and one-on-ones where, like my session with Sullivan, the student’s movement is guided by gentle touch.

When I rouse myself, I am panicked to realise that I am late to pick up my children. I also feel I’ve been slacking on the job somewhat. Sullivan reassures me that it is not unusual for clients to fall asleep on the table. Indeed he tells me of one, a police officer, who had scarcely slept a wink in two years, and who promptly fell into a deep slumber.

Sullivan is keen to know if I feel lighter on my feet. I think I do. But what I do know is that for someone for whom tense is usually a more apt adjective of my general state of being, and in spite of being half an hour behind schedule, I feel scarily relaxed.

Method to Movement

Somnolence is never a good look in public. I may have dozed off in an individual lesson but what can you expect from a class?

• You will either be sitting or lying down.
• An instructor will talk you through a series of exploratory movement sequences.
• These sequences are designed to help you become more aware of ways you usually move and discover new, more helpful patterns.
• You proceed according to your own pace and within the range of movement that’s comfortable for you.
• Lessons vary from simple to complex, minimal to dynamic.
• You won’t need the latest gym gear but non-restrictive clothing is recommended.
• The method works by informing the nervous system and so no attempt is ever made to alter the structure of the body.

- Megan Nicole Reed
March 4, 2012
Sunday Star Times

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