The Feldenkrais Method of somatic education, created by Moshe Feldenkrais, offers a holistic approach to human development and motor function improvement through the medium of movement and sensation. It 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).
Awareness Through Movement Classes
The Feldenkrais Method comprises two separate and unique modalities that are grounded in the same theoretical philosophy: Functional Integration® sessions and Awareness Through Movement classes.
Awareness Through Movement lessons verbally guide participants through a series of gentle and sophisticated movement sequences. The focus of the classes is on guiding the students to discover for themselves how they move; for example, where they use unnecessary effort or add unconscious constraints. Over the course of a lesson, student find out for themselves the best way to organize their own unique movement. Often, movements that seemed impossible become possible, and movements that were possible become effortless. At no time during a lesson are students told how to do a movement; rather, they are guided through a somatic exploration that allows them to discover how to embody the movement. To begin to understand this type of movement, consider the following sample lesson.
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.
Introduction: Directing Attention
- Lie on your back with legs extended and arms down by your side, palms down. Take a moment to sense yourself.
- Direct your attention to your left heel. Feel where it makes contact with the floor. Sense the angle of the foot. How close are your toes to the floor?
- Explore the contact of the left calf. What is your sense of the calf resting on the floor? Where does it make the greatest contact? What is the shape of the contact?
- Bring you awareness to the upper left leg. Do you have a sense of the space behind your knee? What is your relationship like with the floor in this area?
- Now sense the left side of your pelvis. With your mind’s eye begin to trace the length of your pelvis from top to bottom. Where does your pelvis end, and where does your lower back begin? What is the width of the left side of the pelvis? Begin to fill in the whole left side of the pelvis.
- Continue sensing up through the lower curve of the back. Feel those areas that transition away from the floor and toward the floor. Sense the ribs’ contact with the floor on the left side. Feel the left shoulder blade and the way the head rests on the floor.
- Pause and sense your entire left side. What is your sense of the length of the left side? How does your left side feel compared with your right side? Did directing your attention to one side have an effect?
Pelvic Tilts: Attention Affects Performance
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?
For more information, please see “The Feldenkrais Method®: Learning Through Experience” in the online IDEA Library or in the January 2011 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.
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