Feldenkrais Method of somatic learning
Imagine being so aware that even as you reach for a cup of coffee, you sense the muscles in your back supporting your hand, the quality of each finger’s touch as it wraps around the cup, the momentary intake of breath as you carefully lift it to your lips, the fluttering of your eyelids as you sip….the human organism has the potential to experience this peak awareness, not just during moments of heightened danger or demand, but every moment. By developing this ability, you move more effectively, listen more carefully, make fewer mistakes, injure yourself less, and enrich your life as well as the lives of others around you. Whether you have limitations due to injury, or are at the peak of your performance, you can improve, grow and enjoy your life more fully.
We are always in movement – even sitting at the computer involves a complex series of signals throughout the nervous system that keeps the mouse moving, the toes tapping, the forehead wrinkling. These habitual movements help get the job done – the foot knowing when to step on the brakes, the hand knowing how to hold the toothbrush. But many of these habits also cause pain and limitation. Hunched shoulders, grinding teeth, tense lower back are just a few examples of what Moshe Feldenkrais called parasitic habits. Sometimes an illness or an injury has forced the development of compensatory habits – they help you through a portion of recovery, and then they create greater problems.
Research has proven that the nervous system can learn to create new patterns, new “neural pathways” for a more rewarding life. It does this most effectively through movement – the language of the body. The Feldenkrais Method® uses subtle, sophisticated movements to teach people how to literally reorganize themselves – improve range of motion, reduce pain and live a fuller life. Students can take group classes, called Awareness Through Movement® lessons, or work one on one (Functional Integration® lessons.) Both approaches are extremely safe and pleasant learning experiences for any level of movement ability – from severe limitation to peak performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did the name come from?
The Feldenkrais Method was developed over 60 years of research by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. He was a scientist and an athlete, as well as one of the first Europeans to earn a black belt in Judo. He combined his rigorous scientific approach to the study of movement in order to explore how we learn and how to improve our lives.
Is it strenuous?
No. Both Awareness Through Movement® lessons, which are taught in a group setting, and Functional Integration® lessons, which are taught one on one, are slow, gentle explorations of movement that can be done by anyone, at any level.
How does it work?
Because the movements are not physically demanding, they are able to interfere with habits you may have developed – some since childhood, some due to injuries or trauma – that are now causing problems in your life. The Feldenkrais teacher guides your attention, either verbally, or through gentle touch. You begin to learn more functional habits that your nervous system then incorporates, improving range of movement, breathing and quality of life. Because everyone learns at one’s own pace, the changes are often gradual, but most people feel some improvement even after one lesson.
What do we do?
An Awareness through Movement class can take place lying, sitting or standing, although most often they are done lying down. You may be on your back, side, or stomach depending on the movement sequence being explored. The teacher gives clear, verbal directions. There is little to no demonstration. Your quality of movement is based on your experience of yourself, not some outside model. The teacher is there to guide you toward a greater awareness of HOW you do things. You will not lose weight doing these movements, although you may discover a change in attitude towards your eating habits! In a Functional Integration lesson, the student may either sit or lie on a low table, fully clothed, while the teacher guides the student’s awareness of movement through touch. The lesson is often silent, although some verbal direction takes place. The touch is gentle and non-invasive. In both experiences, the teacher creates a safe and nurturing environment for maximum learning.
I have a lot of pain, and severe movement limitations, can I still study the Feldenkrais Method?
Absolutely. The wonderful thing about the Feldenkrais Method is that it is about exploring learning strategies. If you have difficulty with one side, you can work with the other side. If you can’t lie down, you can sit. And even if nothing moves, you can work with your imagination, creating new neural links that can improve your quality of life.
I feel great and perform at my peak. What can the Feldenkrais Method offer me?
There is always room for improvement. You can learn to do what you already do well, more easily, with less effort, so there is energy left over to go even further. Many of Feldenkrais’ biggest adherents are professionals who strive to be their best – Yehudi Menuhin, Martina Navratilova, Whoopi Goldberg are just a few. Weight lifters find the weights seem lighter, tennis players, golfers find their swing more effortless, runners go further and performing artists feel they can dance or play the night away.