The Feldenkrais method is an educational system that allows the body to move and function more efficiently and comfortably. Its goal is to re-educate the nervous system and improve motor ability. The system can accomplish much more, relieving pressure on joints and weak points, and allowing the body to heal repetitive strain injuries. Continued use of the method can relieve pain and lead to higher standards of achievement in sports, the martial arts, dancing and other physical disciplines.
Pupils are taught to become aware of their movements and to become aware of how they use their bodies, thus discovering possible areas of stress and strain. The goal of Feldenkrais is to take the individual from merely functioning, to functioning well, free of pain and restriction of movement. Feldenkrais himself stated that his goal was, “To make the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy, elegant.”
This method of re-educating the nervous system can be beneficial to a wide range of people, including athletes, children, the elderly, martial artists, those who are handicapped, people with special needs, and those suffering from degenerative diseases. It has also proved popular with artists, particularly musicians, a number of whom have used Feldenkrais to improve their performance.
The Feldenkrais Guild of North America (FGNA) states that over half of the those who turn to Feldenkrais practitioners are seeking relief from pain. Many people who have pain from an injury compensate by changing their movements to limit pain. Often these changed movements remain after the pain from the original injury is gone, and new pain may occur. Feldenkrais helps students become aware of the changed movements and allows them to learn new movements that relieve their pain. Apart from the obvious physical benefits of more efficient movement and freedom from pain and restriction, Feldenkrais practitioners assert that there are other positive benefits for overall physical and mental health. Feldenkrais can result in increased awareness, flexibility, and coordination, and better relaxation. Feldenkrais practitioners have also noted other benefits in their students, including improvements in awareness, flexibility, coordination, breathing, digestion, sleep, mood, mental alertness, energy, and range of motion, as well as reduced stress and hypertension, and fewer headaches and backaches.
Musicians and athletes can improve their performance in many ways when they learn to use their bodies more efficiently. Feldenkrais can also help injured athletes regain lost potential and free them from pain and restriction of movement.
There are numerous accounts of the remarkable results obtained when Feldenkrais is taught to handicapped children so that they can learn to function despite their limitations. Handicapped people can learn to make full use of whatever potential they have, and to have more confidence in their abilities. Practitioners who specialize in teaching Feldenkrais to those who have handicaps have in many cases allowed the patient to discover ways of performing tasks which were previously thought to be impossible for them.
The elderly, whose movements are often restricted by pain and stiffness, can learn to overcome these obstacles with Feldenkrais instruction. In some instances even severe cases of arthritis have been conquered. Theoretically, Feldenkrais can make possible renewed levels of energy and freedom from restriction.
Feldenkrais is described a being a dual system, with two components: “Awareness Through Movement” and “Functional Integration.” The system aims to re-educate the body so that habitual movements that cause strain or pain can be relearned to improve efficiency and eliminate dangerous or painful action.
Feldenkrais helps to translate intention into action. In practice, an individual can learn to achieve his or her highest potential, while at the same time learning to avoid and eliminate stresses, strains, and the possibility of injury.
What to Expect
What to Expect
During this session, the patient wears comfortable clothing, and may sit, stand, walk, or lie on a low padded table. The practitioner helps the pupil by guiding him or her through a number of movements. The practitioner may use touch to communicate with the student, but touch is not used to correct any movements. The purpose of this session is to increase a student’s awareness of his or her own movement and become open to different possibilities for movement. The instruction can be focused on a particular activity that the student does every day, or that causes him or her pain. The student can learn to alter habitual movements and re-educate the neuromuscular system. This type of session is particularly useful for those who suffer from limitations originating from misuse, stress, illness, or accident. It can also help athletes and musicians perform to the best of their ability by increasing their possibilities for movement. It offers students the potential for improving their physical and mental performance in addition to heightening the sense of well-being.
Awareness through movement
Feldenkrais’s martial arts background can be clearly identified in many of the aspects of Awareness Through Movement (ATM). During group sessions, pupils are taught to become acutely aware of all their movements and to imagine them, so that they can improve the efficiency of their actions in their minds, and put them into practice. Pupils are encouraged to be disciplined about practicing their exercises, to achieve maximum benefit.
Awareness through movement is described as an exploratory, nonjudgmental process through which pupils are encouraged to observe and learn about themselves and their movements. The range of this therapy is wide, and there are thousands of different lessons designed to help specific areas.
No preparation is necessary for the practice of Feldenkrais, and all are encouraged to seek help from this system. No condition is considered a preclusion to the benefits of Feldenkrais.
Bratman, Steven. The Alternative Medicine Sourcebook. 2nd ed. Chicago: Lowell House, 1999. Somerville, Robert. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Tiburon, CA: Future Medicine Publishing, Inc., 1999.Organizations
Feldenkrais Guild of North America. 3611 SW Hood Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97201. (800) 775-2118. (503) 221-6612. Fax: (503) 221-6616. http://www.feldenkrais.com.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.