The Feldenkrais Method®

By IDEA Authors
Oct 24, 2011

Are you recovering from an injury or suffering from chronic pain? The Feldenkrais Method of somatic education may help. It offers a holistic approach to human development and motor function improvement through the medium of movement and sensation. The effectiveness of the method lies in its ability to work with the whole person. It is also useful for elite athletes and expressive artists.

Buffy Owens, GCFP, a Guild Certified Feldenkrais PractitionerCM with experience as a personal trainer, yoga instructor, birthing assistant and life coach, explains how the method works.

What Is Feldenkrais?

Feldenkrais is based on the premise that through personal experience we develop habitual patterns of physical and psychological behavior—movement and thought—to ensure our personal, biological and social comfort. Over time these patterns become deeply embedded in our neurological systems and can become “blocks” to new ways of thinking, feeling and moving (Feldenkrais 1949).

The method’s creator, Moshe Feldenkrais, emphasized that the most effective way to improve our activity and reaction patterns was to work with four interacting elements: the nervous system, the skeleton, the muscles and the environment. The environment, as he used the term, included self-image and social and cultural influences (Feldenkrais 2010).

How the Method Is Taught

The Feldenkrais Method has two separate modalities. Awareness Through Movement classes verbally guide participants through a series of gentle and sophisticated movement sequences. The focus is on helping you to discover your habits of moving, thinking and sensing; for example, where you use unnecessary effort or add unconscious constraints. Functional Integration is a one-on-one, hands-on approach to working with people. It explores learning through skilled manipulation and passive movements.

Resources

To learn more about Feldenkrais, see these websites:

Sample Lesson: Pelvic-Tilt Variations

The pelvic tilt is a common preparatory exercise taught in Pilates, yoga and mind-body fitness classes. This Awareness Through Movement lesson, which includes a segment on pelvic tilts, will give you a sense of the Feldenkrais Method’s approach and explore how shifts in your attention and intention can affect how force travels through you.

Begin by lying on your back with legs extended and arms down by your side, palms down. Bend your knees so that the soles of the feet are flat on the floor. Do each of the following movements several times, and with each movement see if you can reduce the effort and sense how the force moves through you:

  • Bring all your attention to flattening your back into the floor so the pelvis is posteriorly tilted and then to arching your back away from the floor so the pelvis is anteriorly tilted. How does this movement affect the rest of your body? What is happening in your chest and neck?
  • Now think about contracting your abdominal muscles to tilt your pelvis so that the lower back comes toward the floor and then contracting the back muscles to tilt your pelvis so the back moves away from the floor. How does the force move through you now?
  • Begin to roll the pelvis toward your head and away from your head. See if you can feel the roundness of your pelvis as you move. Roll your pelvis away from the head and allow your entire spine to be gently pulled. As you roll your pelvis toward the head, let the movement come up through the spine.

These are three different ways of doing the same thing. What was different about each one in your experience? All are appropriate in different situations. But in this moment, which felt the most comfortable for you? Why?

This handout is a service of IDEA, the leading international membership association in the health and fitness industry, www.ideafit.com. ¬2011 by IDEA Fitness Journal. Reprint permission is granted to IDEA members by the copyright owner, IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. (800)999-4332.


References

References
Feldenkrais, M. 1949. Body & Mature Behavior: A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation, & Learning. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Feldenkrais, M. 2010. Embodied Wisdom: Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

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