What is the Feldenkrais Method® ?
The Feldenkrais Method® is named after its originator, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc. (1904- 1984).
The Feldenkrais Method ®is a form of somatic education that uses gentle movement and directed attention to improve movement and enhance human functioning. Through this Method, you can increase your ease and range of motion, improve your flexibility and coordination, and rediscover your innate capacity for graceful, efficient movement. These improvements will often generalize to enhance functioning in other aspects of your life.
- Who was Dr Moshe Feldenkrais ?
- How does it work? What is the theory involved?
- Who is it for? What kinds of situations does it address?
- What happens in a session? What can I expect?
- In group classes
- In private Feldenkrais lessons
- What about the setting? Where does it take place?
- What about the duration? How many sessions will I need and for how long?
- Can it be used as a complement to medical treatment, and if so how?
- What do I need to tell my doctor if I am seeing a practitioner of this discipline?
- What do I need to tell a practitioner of this discipline if I am receiving medical care?
Who was Dr Moshe Feldenkrais ?
Feldenkrais was born in Russia. At 13 he left home, travelled for a year to reach Palestine, worked there as a laborer, cartographer and tutor in mathematics and became active in sports (gymnastics, soccer) and the martial arts (jiu-jitsu). During his twenties he went to France, graduated from l’Ecole des Travaux Publiques de Paris, in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. Later he earned his Doctor of Science in Physics from the Sorbonne in Paris, and became an assistant to Nobel Prize winner Joliot-Curie in early nuclear research.
In Paris, Feldenkrais also met Jigaro Kano, the creator of modern Judo, and Feldenkrais became one of the first European Black Belts in Judo (1936) and introduced Judo in the West through his teaching and books on the subject. In the early 1940’s, while working in anti-submarine warfare for the British Admiralty, he patented a number of sonar devices.
After suffering crippling knee injuries, Feldenkrais used his own body as his laboratory and ingeniously brought his understanding of many fields together to found a new movement based science. He was curious about biology, perinatal development, cybernetics, linguistics, and systems theory and studied intensively in psychology, neurophysiology, and other health-related disciplines He taught himself to walk again and in the process developed an extraordinary system for accessing the power of the central nervous system to improve human functioning.
How does it work? What is the theory involved?
« Learning how to learn »
“If you know what you re doing, you can do what you want” M. Feldenkrais
The “movement lessons” developed by Dr Moshe Feldenkrais draw on recent scientific breakthroughs in neurophysiology, biomechanics stress-reduction and an empirical understanding of learning and human development. They are revolutionary because they are designed to communicate directly with the brain, the control centre of the body. It is the brain and the nervous system -not the muscles- that determine the health of posture, the ease and comfort of movement and the extent of flexibility.
Feldenkrais lessons use sensory motor learning which is the process by which all physical learning takes place, from crawling to walking to talking, to driving or playing a musical instrument. Sensory motor learning is the natural way the body learns and improves. It takes place through a complex feedback process between the brain, muscles and senses. The brain directs the body’s movements and in return receives information which it immediately uses to enhance and improve neuro muscular activity. Step by step a person’s self organising system finds the most efficient and comfortable way to organise the body’s movement, co-ordination, posture and balance.
A simple metaphor which indicates the Feldenkrais Method’s way of learning and the notion of integration in our lives, is the process of learning to ride a bicycle…it takes trial and error, a child learning to ride first of all falls in all the possible directions until all the possible “errors” are eliminated and balanced riding is possible. As we all know, even if we do not ride a bicycle for many years, this type of learning is not forgotten by our system…when we get back on a bicycle even after several years, then the capacity to balance and ride is present…maybe tight corners and bumps on the road may be a little challenging, but the essential of the learning is integrated and in a way “unforgettable”.
Who is it for? What kinds of situations does it address?
Anyone–young or old, physically challenged or physically fit–can benefit from the Method. Feldenkrais is beneficial for those experiencing acute or chronic pain of the back, neck, shoulder, hip, legs or knee, as well as for healthy individuals who wish to enhance their self-image. The Method has been very helpful in dealing with central nervous system conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and stroke. Musicians, actors and artists can extend their abilities and enhance creativity. Many seniors enjoy using it to retain or regain their ability to move without strain or discomfort. Sportsmen can learn to improve their performance and obtain unthinkable results through this method.
What happens in a session? What can I expect?
The pleasure of moving gently, with a minimum of effort and a maximum of efficiency…
Feldenkrais work is done in two formats.
In group classes
In group classes, called Awareness Through Movement® (ATM), the Feldenkrais teacher verbally guides you through a sequence of movements in basic positions: lying or sitting on the floor, standing or sitting in a chair. A lesson lasts from 30 to 60 minutes. The lessons are composed of, easy, comfortable, unusual movements that gradually evolve into movements of greater range and complexity. These precisely structured movement explorations involve thinking, sensing, moving and imagining. Many are based on developmental movements and ordinary functional activities (looking behind yourself reaching, standing, lying to sitting, , etc.), some are based on more abstract explorations of joint, muscle, and postural relationships. There are hundreds of ATM lessons, varying in difficulty and complexity, for all levels of movement ability.
The emphasis is on learning which movements work better and noticing the quality of these changes in your body, learning through sensing and your own experience and not through imitation. Through increased awareness, you will learn to abandon habitual patterns of movement and develop new alternatives, resulting in improved comfort, flexibility and coordination.
In private Feldenkrais lessons
In private Feldenkrais lessons, called Functional Integration® (FI), the practitioner guides the students learning, not only with words but also by gentle non-invasive touch. Each lesson is created to fit to the particular needs of each individual at that particular moment, relating to a desire, intention or need. Through rapport and respect for your abilities, qualities and integrity, the practitioner/teacher creates an environment in which you can learn comfortably Functional Integration® is a hands-on form of tactile, kinaesthetic communication. The practitioner communicates how you organise your body and, through gentle touching and movement, conveys the experience of comfort, pleasure and ease of movement while you learn how to reorganize your body and behaviour in new and more expanded functional motor patterns.
Functional Integration® is performed with the student fully clothed, usually lying on a padded table or with the student in sitting or standing positions. At times, various props (pillows, rollers) are used to enhance comfort and ease within the lesson or to facilitate certain movements. The learning process is carried out without the use of any invasive or forceful procedure.
In both ATM and FI emphasis is given to:
• Orienting to the process of learning and doing rather than working towards a goal.
• Using slow, gentle movement and directing students to move within the limits of safety by avoiding pain and strain.
• Allowing the student to find his/her own way with a lesson.
• Directing awareness toward sensing differences and perceiving whole inter-connected patterns in movement.
Through lessons in this method you can enjoy greater ease of movement, an increased sense of vitality, and feelings of efficiency and paradoxically peaceful relaxation. After a session you often feel taller and lighter, breathe more freely and find that your discomforts have eased. You feel more centered and balanced and step by step learn to be active in your own unique learning process..
What about the setting? Where does it take place?
Individual Functional Integration® Lessons are given in private practices on a chair, standing or on a low padded table; Awareness Through Movement Group Lessons generally take place in a comfortable heated (if necessary) room with mats on the floor.
Many of the lessons involve lying on the floor, though Awareness Through Movement® classes can be given on chairs, standing and many options of residential classes for weekends in many different settings are also proposed.
Both during individual and group lessons participants are fully clothed, only shoes are removed and anything that might restrain ease of movement around the tummy.
My practice is located at:
What about the duration? How many sessions will I need and for how long?
In both ATM and FI lessons, people learning the Feldenkrais Method® are usually referred to as ‘students’ rather than clients or patients. This reinforces our view of the work as primarily being an educational process…this being so, learning takes place at your pace, your own rhythm. (How long would it take you to learn French? and how long did it take your best friend? or myself?)
This being said, after one individual lesson, students report changes and possibilities of improvement and moving towards change. Feldenkrais said « the only perfection of mankind is his perfectibility »
Generally after 4 or 5 individual lessons significant improvement is noticeable in relation to the initial demand at a rhythm of one lesson per week.
Can it be used as a complement to medical treatment, and if so how?
Feldenkrais lessons are not a substitute for medical treatment but can be used as an accompaniment to therapy as the whole person is taken into consideration within their environment.
For example, if a cancer patient is undergoing radiotherapy and needs to adopt a certain position during the treatment then a Feldenkrais practitioner can help that person be the most comfortable possible in those circumstances thus reducing the pain and discomfort associated with the treatment.
What do I need to tell my doctor if I am seeing a practitioner of this discipline?
Explain to your doctor the role of the Feldenkrais Practitioner:
Feldenkrais teachers observe people move, understand how they can move, and guide them to coordinated, comfortable action. Knowing the principles of human design—and understanding that what we already do interferes with doing things differently—teachers create the conditions for students to perceive innate abilities, learn new skills and recover lost ones.
Tell your doctor that the practice of this method is open to anyone of any age and condition and that an essential ingredient all of the time is a total respect for your whole person. In a Feldenkrais lesson the quality of movement is important and the learning process depends on you doing ONLY what is easy for you at any given time. No stretch or strain or forcing or pain is accepted in Feldenkrais lessons.
Even if pain or injury or physical limitation may appear to interfere with your ability to do an exercise you can still benefit from the exercise by making each movement extremely small and slow. Movements can also be done in your imagination which is a technique called visualization.
What do I need to tell a practitioner of this discipline if I am receiving medical care?
Tell your Feldenkrais practitioner about any medical or psychological treatment you have, your teacher also need to know about past injuries, accidents, chronic or acute pain and the diagnosis of your doctor of your medical condition if relevant.