Feldenkrais Method™

Surf at Dana BeachWas there a time when you moved with greater ease than you do now? Are you learning to live with some nagging discomfort? Is that perfect tennis serve/golf swing/swimming stroke eluding you? Are you fearful about beginning a painful aging process? Could it be possible that it doesn't have to be this way?

Yes, it is possible!

The Feldenkrais Method® provides a way of discovering and recovering comfort, ease and skill. Its benefits are enjoyed by athletes, musicians, dancers – those seeking improvement in their performance – and by those recovering from incapacity or injury, such as an accident, surgery or a stroke.

Moshe Feldenkrais was a mechanical engineer (D.Sc.) and physicist, as well as a colleague of the Curies in Paris, the first European Judo black belt holder, and a great thinker and teacher. After suffering a disabling knee injury, Dr. Feldenkrais taught himself to walk without pain – a process that led to the development of the innovative method which bears his name.

The two techniques that make up the method are Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration®.

Generally given to groups, Awareness Through Movement lessons are those in which the teacher verbally guides you in the exploration of gentle, unfamiliar movements. These help you to become aware of how you move and how you might move differently, allowing you to let go of limiting habits and discover increased freedom and ease of movement. After the lessons, many people report that they can relax more fully, move more easily, cope better with life's stresses and even sleep better!

Functional Integration lessons are one-on-one sessions with the practitioner. You remain fully clothed, and may be lying down, seated or standing while the practitioner initiates small, gentle movements in your body. The learning process of your nervous system is the same as in Awareness Through Movement sessions, although the lesson is directly tailored to and arising from your specific needs and nature.

Feldenkrais workshops are group sessions made up of several Awareness Through Movement lessons given over the course of a morning, afternoon or day. They typically address the requirements of particular activities, such as gardening, riding, music-making, sports, or may be designed to help reduce pain and/or general stiffness and discomfort. If you are interested in attending or organizing a Feldenkrais workshop, you will find more information by clicking on Workshops > Feldenkrais Method at the left.

For more information about the Feldenkrais Method, or to find a practitioner near you, visit www.Feldenkrais.com.

For a taste of Feldenkrais, try the following fun version of a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson:

A word of guidance: take several short breaks, letting your arm hang quietly. If at any time you find yourself stretching, holding your breath, or trying to push through some resistance, stop. Find a way to make it easy, or do it in your imagination. This process is about skill, not will.

Imagine that you are a dancer with a day job waiting tables in a New York restaurant (the most dramatic of any wait-people I've ever met!). On the palm of your hand, hold an (imaginary) tray with brimming soup bowls. Without spilling any soup, rotate your hand with the tray so that it passes between your arm and your torso. You may need to bend your waist away, if the tray is a big one. Explore how you can continue this rotation to bring the tray back to the starting point!

Tricky, isn't it? Move slowly, especially when you get to a sticky bit. Be inventive with the rest of yourself to make it easy. Take a break.

Explore rotating it the other way – beginning by lifting the tray up and over your head. Notice if it is more or less easy, and how the difficult parts are passed over from this direction. Is there anything to learn from this observation that might make it easier to go in the original direction? Play with it a little and then leave it.

Now, stand with your arm quietly by your side. Notice how the arm and shoulder feel. Take a look in a mirror. Surprised? Many people will find the arm much longer than the other, although they will express the feeling of it in a wide variety of ways, such as heavier, lighter, fuller, longer or shorter.

So, what has happened? Slow, gentle, non-habitual movements, in the absence of fear and pain, allow the nervous system to discover which parts of oneself are participating in an activity, which parts are necessary and which aren't. The nervous system allows the release of tense muscles that are serving no purpose. Your "relaxed" and lengthened arm reflects this.

After doing this lesson, if you did see a difference in the length of your arms, you might ask yourself, "To what purpose are the muscles in the other arm holding it short and tight?" Probably none – other than to make your life a bit more difficult! After all, doing nothing shouldn't take much doing!

What makes a Feldenkrais lesson more than simply a relaxing experience is that the nervous system gains information about new possibilities of being and moving, discarding habitual tensions and movement patterns that may be unnecessary or even getting in our way. This makes it easier to do what we want, with less getting in the way. What can make it lasting is that the nervous system is brilliant enough to choose the most efficient and least stressful possibility, and continue to practice and improve upon it.

Another image: picture the process of any activity as a passage through a maze. The difficulties we meet in getting where we want to go are like hedges grown up across the path. They may represent injury, fear, inconvenience – whatever. Most of us have the tendency to push our way through difficulties. We grit our teeth, brace ourselves, hold our breath – common expressions of common practices, and not likely to produce a creative or graceful outcome. Flinging ourselves at the hedge might get us to the other side, but we can get damaged and so can the hedge, although the hedge may well grow back!

The Feldenkrais approach suggests that instead of battling the barriers, we can step back, stay flexible, continue to breathe and approach the problem more creatively. We may find an easy way to get where we want to go, and at the same time discover paths that might be useful in the future.

If you are interested in attending or organizing a Feldenkrais workshop, you will find more information by clicking on Workshops > Feldenkrais Method at the left.

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