THE METHOD

Image credit: The Amherst Training (1980-1981) © International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Jerry Karzen.

WHAT

From a participant’s personal insights into the method, Jane E. Brod, the personal health columnist for the New York Times, wrote an article Trying the Feldenkrais Method for Chronic Pain in October 2017.  Her comments provide us a good observation of the method in general.

In fields of science, newer research has discovered relationships between brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, and behavior.  These findings of brain plasticity help us to understand the Feldenkrais Method.

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© Online Feldenkrais.

For example, renowned psychiatrist and researcher Dr. Norman Doidge (M. D.) contributes to the field of brain plasticity and has two books as New York Times Bestsellers.  Dr. Doidge’s book The Brain’s Way of Healing, which won the 2015 Gold Nautilus Award in Science, addresses two chapters on the Feldenkrais Method to explain rewiring the brain and neuroplasticity.

In the book The Brain’s Way of Healing, Chapter 5 focuses on Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais and his Method.  Chapter 6 follows a successful recovered case of a nearly blind man David Webber, who used the Feldenkrais method and other neuroplastic ways to re-learn how to see.

In one section of the film version The Brain’s Way of Healing, Dr. Doidge interviewed Elizabeth Natenshon, who was born missing one third of her cerebellum which controls most motor activities.  In the interview, Ms. Natenshon and her parents recalled lessons received from Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais, who said, “She will dance at her wedding.”  In the film, this interview ends with a video footage of Ms. Natenshon’s wedding: Ms. Natenshon danced at her wedding.

HOW

Moshé Feldenkrais developed his method by inquiring into the connections between learning, the functions of the brain and the nervous system, and body movements.  In his lecture Physics and My Method, delivered to the Microprocessor Conference sponsored by The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva on May 7th, 1981, Dr. Feldenkrais elaborated on how movement is essential to learning.  The learning process which involves the brain, the nervous system, and actions responding to various environments (stimuli).

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The Amherst Training (1980-1981) © International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Jerry Karzen.

The International Feldenkrais® Federation, in addition, elucidates and regulates the method in a clear and literal way.  Two essential approaches are used in The Feldenkrais Method® of learning: AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT® (ATM®) and FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION® (FI® ) lessons.

AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT lessons provide individual learning through verbal delivery.  On the contrast, hand-on presence is used in FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION lessons. Both focus on individual’s movement improvements.

According to the International Feldenkrais® Federation’s Standards of Practice, the method has been developed through the lens of science and learning.

Scientific Studies

  • The Method is based on principles of physics, biomechanics and an empirical understanding of learning and human development.
  • Chemical or mechanical aids are not used in the practice of the FELDENKRAIS METHOD.
  • The FELDENKRAIS Practitioner has no sexual intent and does not touch the sexual or other intimate parts of a person.

Learning Perspectives

  • The Method is not a medical, massage, bodywork, or therapeutic technique.  The Method is a learning process.
  • The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is an educational system that develops a functional awareness of the self in the environment.  The Method utilizes the fact that the body is the primary vehicle for learning.
  • This is done by expanding the self-image through movement sequences that bring attention to the parts of the self that are out of awareness and uninvolved in functional actions.  Better function is evoked by establishing an improved dynamic relationship between the individual, gravity, and society.  Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, himself, defined function as the interaction of the person with the outside world or the self with the environment.

Awareness through Movement

Each AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT lesson is vocally guided and done by a series of small and slow movements.  Participants would follow movements within their capabilities in a comfort way.

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The Amherst Training (1980-1981) © International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Michael Wolgensinger.

The International Feldenkrais Federation’s Standards of Practice defines the term AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT as following:

  • AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT consists of verbally directed movement sequences presented primarily to groups.  There are several hundred hours of [ATM] lessons.  A lesson generally lasts from thirty to sixty minutes.  Each lesson is usually organized around a particular function.
  • In AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT lessons, people engage in precisely structured movement explorations that involve thinking, sensing, moving, and imagining.  Many are based on developmental movements and ordinary functional activities.  Some are based on more abstract explorations of joint, muscle, and postural relationships.  The lessons consist of comfortable, easy movements that gradually evolve into movements of greater range and complexity.
  • AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT lessons attempt to make one aware of their habitual neuromuscular patterns and rigidities and to expand options for new ways of moving while increasing sensitivity and improving efficiency.

FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION

FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION is the other form of expressing the Feldenkrais Method.  Just as the Feldenkrais Method practitioners can guide people through movement sequences verbally in AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT, they also guide people through movement with gentle, non-invasive touching in FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION.

The Amherst Evening FI (1980-1981) © International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Michael Wolgensinger.
  • FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION is a hands-on form of tactile, kinesthetic communication.  The Feldenkrais Method practitioner communicates to the student how he/she organizes his/her body and hints, through gentle touching and movement, how to move in more expanded functional motor patterns.
  • The FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION lesson should relate to a desire, intention, or need of the student.  The learning process is carried out without the use of any invasive or forceful procedure.  Through rapport and respect for the student’s abilities, qualities, and integrity, the practitioner/teacher creates an environment in which the student can learn comfortably.
  • In FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION, the practitioner/teacher develops a lesson for the student, custom-tailored to the unique configuration of that particular person, at that particular moment.  The practitioner conveys the experience of comfort, pleasure, and ease of movement while the student learns how to reorganize his/her body and behavior in new and more effective manners.
  • FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION is usually performed with the student lying on a table designed specifically for the work.  It can also be done with the student in sitting or standing positions.  At times, various props are used in an effort to support the person’s body configuration or to facilitate certain movements.

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