TRIED AND TESTED Feldenkrais
By Nathalie Kyrou
(archive article – Sunday, October 5, 2008)
What is it supposed to do?
The Feldenkrais Method is a form of somatic education that uses gentle movement and directed attention to improve mobility. It helps you discover your innate ability to direct your own improvement, and will aid anyone who wants to reconnect with their natural abilities to move, think and feel. It teaches people how to use every part of their body, even for the simplest action. This can help a person who has, for example, suffered a traumatic injury, by allowing them to reclaim the potential they once had. Not only can they, through a series of guided movements, reconnect to their former abilities and range of motion, but may even feel better than they did before. With or without injury, this method has helped musicians, artists, dancers, actors and athletes to achieve their fullest potential both physically and neurologically.
What benefits does it claim?
This method has been known to help people overcome limitations brought on by stress, misuse, accident or illness. Feldenkrais also helps people with their energy levels and increases their flexibility. Because it aids movement with less effort, it can make daily life easier by reducing fatigue. It can help with posture and balance, resulting in increased gracefulness and a sense of presence. It can help you break free of bad habitual movements, by allowing you to recognize your patterns of limitation and escape them. Feldenkrais can also help in pain management and alleviating chronic discomfort.
Is there any science behind it?
Yes, as it works with your neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change and adapt through neurological pathways. Israeli physicist, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, was an engineer as well as an educator, and through his own experience with a disabling knee injury, taught himself how to walk without pain. He did this by improving his “kinesthetic sense” – his ability to sense, feel and coordinate easy, effective movement. He developed The Feldenkrais Method, where he looked at his clients through the eye of an engineer, rather than a medical therapist, taking into account the body as an entire system, a feat of engineering structure, where everything is interconnected.
What is it like?
Sessions can be private or ATM (Awareness Through Movement) group lessons. In the former, also called Functional Integration, each individual’s personal needs are met through gentle non-invasive touching and words. You may be asked to lie down or to sit or stand. In ATM, the teacher verbally guides the group through a sequence of gentle movements intended to help develop a greater awareness of how you move. Although the movements are simple and slow, they can be quite challenging, and you may feel like you are moving in new ways. You may even be asked to move your eyes only, and to use these eye motions to help guide your movements. There are hundreds of types of ATM lessons, varying in difficulty and complexity for all levels of movement ability, and they usually last about an hour. After experiencing a lesson, one often feels more relaxed and at ease – you may find that you breathe more freely too. People have claimed they feel “lighter, taller, more alert and connected” after classes. Feldenkrais can also be taught to children.