The Feldenkrais Method is an educational system centered on movement, aiming to expand and refine the use of the self through awareness. It holds that there is no separation between mind and body, and thus learning to move better can improve one’s overall well-being on many levels. It is intended for those wishing to reduce pain or limitations in movement, and many who want to improve their general well-being and personal development. Because it uses movement as the primary vehicle for gaining awareness, it is directly applicable to disorders that arise from restricted or habitually poor movement. But as a process for gaining awareness, the system claims to expand a person’s choices and responses to many aspects of life such as emotions, relationships, and intellectual tasks, and it applies at any level, from severe disorder to highly professional performance.
The Feldenkrais Method is applied in two forms by practitioners, who generally receive more than 800 hours of formal training over the course of four years. In an Awareness Through Movement lesson, the teacher verbally directs students through movement sequences and various foci of attention. Usually this occurs in a group setting, although the lessons can also be given to individuals, or recorded. There are more than a thousand lessons available, most of them are organized around a specific movement function.
In a Functional Integration lesson, the practitioner uses his or her hands to guide the movement of the student, who may be sitting, lying or standing. The practitioner also uses a hands-on technique to help the student experience the connections among various parts of the body. Movements are developed from the habitual patterns of the student, thereby tailoring the lesson to the individual. This approach allows the student to feel comfortable, and to experience the movement in detail. Through precision of touch and movement, the student learns how to eliminate excess effort and thus move more freely and easily.
Feldenkrais taught that changes in the physical experience could be described as changes in the self image, which can be conceived as the mapping of the motor cortex to the body. Activity in the motor cortex plays a key role in the sense of body position. Feldenkrais taught that changes in our ability to move are inseparable from changes in our conscious perception of ourselves. He aimed to clarify and work therapeutically with this relationship, with instructions that involved both specific movement instructions and invitations to introspection.
Lessons may be very specific in addressing particular issues brought by the student, or can be more global in scope. Although the technique does not specifically aim to eliminate pain or cure physical complaints, such issues are treated as valuable information that may inform the lesson. Issues such as chronic muscle pain may naturally resolve themselves as the student learns a more relaxed approach to his or her physical experience, and a more integrated, freer, easier way to move.