Sunday Star Times, 04 March 2012
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, light yet grounded. Sign me up I said ...
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Feldenkrais saved my life - literally
Having a possible brush with death is a strange thing. The doctor said I could have died but at the time I didn’t feel close to death. Only years later when I was in the middle of my Feldenkrais® Training program did I suddenly remember my first Feldenkrais lesson - the one that potentially saved my life.
Feldenkrais, death, doctors? So what happened exactly?
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Healthy Options Magazine, January
introduction to the Feldenkrais® Method
“...making the impossible possible
the possible easy
and the easy elegant”
The Feldenkrais® Method is a method of mind/body integration
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 Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais,
was begun in the l950s 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 Russia, 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
“Changing our muscular patterns will alter thoughts,
emotions and our self image”
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 reinforces these pathways as well as the newly
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.
Feldenkrais developed two approaches:
- Private one-on-one sessions focus on hands-on touch and
guided movement called Functional Integration®.
- 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
more floor work.
- Clients remain fully clothed with non-restrictive clothing
- At no time is any attempt made to alter the structure
of the body, as the method works by telling the nervous
system it can simply let go of unneeded muscular tension
- Sessions last from 45-75 minutes.
“What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible
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 pushing, 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. This
is an important reason why the Feldenkrais Method makes up
part of the physical education curriculum in many schools
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.
Functional Integration® and Awareness Through Movement®
are registered service marks of the NZ Feldenkrais® Guild
© David Sullivan.
All rights reserved.