Created by Israeli scientist Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), this work has spread all over the world.
Through a practice of observing oneself in action, one learns how to refine one’s activity, whatever it may be.
Through awareness we can learn to move with astonishing lightness and freedom – at almost any age – and thereby improve our living circumstances, not only physically… but emotionally and spiritually.Dr. M. Feldenkrais
Babies learn to roll over and walk through a sensory-motor way of learning that is organic to us. As adults, we can revive our ability to sense, change and learn for ourselves, and learn to overcome habits or difficulties that interfere with our enjoyment or success.
Moving, Sensing, Feeling, Thinking: Dr. Feldenkrais chose movement as a way to human improvement. We cannot truly separate these four components of our experience. Attention to any one aspect – moving, feeling, sensing or thinking – immediately and directly influences the others – and influences the whole person’s way of being in the world.
However, movement, or the anticipation of movement, is the main preoccupation of our nervous system – including the job of keeping us upright in gravity, and safe in our environment. Movement is the most concrete of our experiences, and the easiest to access and perceive.
Actually, a change in a movement pattern (the shape, attitude or ‘posture’ of an individual) reflects a change which has come about in the entire nervous system. We work with movement in order to affect such changes in the entire system. That’s learning! A fundamental change in the motor component of a habit pattern, breaks up the entire pattern, and leaves thinking, sensing and feeling more free as well.
In other words, it’s a wonderful way in to self-reflection, discovery, and growth!
Therapy Versus Learning
by Diane Lade
Therapy and learning encompass differing yet complementary roles. Learning can be an extension of therapy and can take us to the next level of healing from physical difficulties. Learning with the Feldenkrais Method allows us to reclaim our self-healing ability, and becomes a resource for profound physical and mental change. Let’s address some of the issues involved with the limitations of therapy and when learning comes into play.
One of our roles is to receive clients in distress. “I’ve hurt myself.”, “I don’t know what I did but…”, “I need you to fix me up.” Therapy begins with a problem that has become serious enough to interfere with normal function. It moves forward with the hope that the problem can be fixed, and if successful, it results in a return to normal function. For the one in need of therapy, attention is usually focused on the unpleasant symptoms.
You might know the situation in which you injured yourself, but not be able to pinpoint the exact insult that caused harm. Even in the case of an obvious insult like a whiplash injury, you still don’t know what is maintaining the pain or the difficulty, long after the tissue has healed. If the therapist doesn’t know either, then you end up trying different techniques ‘shotgun’ style, moving through different therapies, or many therapies at once, still seeking that resolution.
Learning presents a different orientation. Certainly, most of us are still motivated most directly by pain. Loss of function and an activity you love may be another strong motivator. The question that guides our inquiry is, “HOW?” How did I hurt myself moving that planter? How do I repeatedly injure my shoulder? My knee? Is there anything I could do differently that would give me a different outcome when I vacuum, for example?
The results of an inquiry like this may be surprising and unexpected. Very often pain is diminished or resolved along with a general improvement in function. But the impact of the discoveries made along the way has wider-reaching effects than one can anticipate. For example, more than a few clients have discovered for themselves that their attitude of overriding their own internal cues is the main thing that keeps getting them into trouble. They ”knew” they shouldn’t have shoveled that driveway. Training in paying more careful attention, noticing strain before it becomes injury, allows them to move more safely through everyday tasks. Working with mental attitudes like impatience, or with myriad emotions that arise that they’d rather sweep aside- for example shame about needing to ask for help… all this awareness can lead to new kinds of freedom, and a gentler, more comfortable life.
For us learning fanatics, returning to ‘normal’ may be a dubious goal. For most of us, normal function is mediocre at best. I have met a surprising number of Feldenkrais students who claim without reservation, that they are much better in every way, than they were before their difficulty arose. How can this be? And even in the face of progressive disease such as Multiple Sclerosis, or devastating accidents involving head injury? Improving general function, they find themselves thinking better, moving more easily, and knowing themselves more thoroughly than ever before. One can continue to improve, even as age progresses, and disease processes continue. Continuing to learn is the key to maintaining the best quality of life imaginable.
Therapy has an important role when things go wrong for us, and we are grateful for so many resources in that realm. If it succeeds, whatever type of therapy it is, it triggers our innate healing response, which failed to resolve the healing in the first instance, to a happy conclusion. This innate response is involuntary; as such, one is dependant on the therapy/therapist to provide the nudging our system needs. We need these external experts.
However, there is a huge realm of experience in which we can become our own expert. We can regain the confidence to trust our own experience and sensation.
Should I choose the memory foam mattress, or the very firm? Which is better for my back? There are many opinions; how can you know, for yourself, which is truly better for you? In the Feldenkrais Method, you practice recovering your ability to sense, to differentiate, to know and to decide for yourself based on your experience, not an external authority. This is empowerment; it enhances independence, and leads to informed decision-making.
Yes, sometimes learning happens in or as a result of therapy, and indeed in many life situations. But to make it a deliberate study, is very powerful; it can restore choice in our lives. As Dr. Feldenkrais said “When you know what you’re doing, you can do what you want”. This way of attending to yourself becomes a resource for living the life you want.