This is general intro to Feldenkrais. For practical information about how the Method is taught click here, and to book for my classes, workshops and one-to-one Functional Integration® lessons, click here
FREEDOM TO MOVE /FREEDOM TO BE FREE
I feel free from the usual nagging pain in my hip – and taller. My shoulder seems flatter and I have more mobility in my neck. Have just been on a long dog-walk and no ache!….Two great nights’ sleep and no pain! The euphoria hasn’t worn off. Just a shame it’s taken almost 60 years to discover this relief….
LW Bury St Edmunds
In the feedback above, given by a highly competent and active professional woman, it is clear that there was a definite felt appreciation that something was not right. In spite of her intelligence, she was not sleeping well, not enjoying walking her dog and was experiencing a marked lack of freedom in her neck. As a result of attending one-on-one lessons with me, as she says, she found the solution she was looking for in an unexpected way and in contact with an unexpected method.
The Feldenkrais Method grew out of Moshe Feldenkrais’s desire to understand more about how human movement could in the best way serve a person’s desire to live well. In his life’s work he was committed to help people achieve their chosen goals- no matter how simple or complex they might be. with ease, comfort and satisfaction. His aim was to make us teachers of ourselves, and to develop the in-built skills of the human being.
Moshe Feldenkrais 1904-1984
At various times in his life Feldenkrais was a refugee, a car mechanic, an engineer and inventor, a self-defence instructor, a judo expert and a world teacher. During the run-up to WW2 he was in France working at the Joliot-Curie laboratory, developing the engineering technology that allowed the lab to better explore radioactivity. As the Nazis swept into Paris, he was on his way to Scotland where he became engaged in developing submarine technology. After the war he was in London working to support inventors as part of the reconstruction effort. He then returned to Israel where he began to establish his method.
His theories of movement grew out of his experiments with Ju-Jitsu and a study of the precarious and creative sense of balance in human beings. His modifications of Ju-Jitsu brought him into contact with Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo. He subsequently became one of the first ever Black Belts in the new technique and wrote the first Judo textbook in English. The study of balance as the generator of effectiveness and self-confidence in human movement lies at the base of his method.
As a young man he had injured his knee playing football, and faced with surgery that would repair his knee but remove his ability to play, he set about creating exercises that would allow him to work around his injury. Later he would write: “Health is measured not by the capacity to stay standing, but by the ability to be knocked down and then return to standing”. It was more important for him to continue living the life he wanted to live, than having something done to him that would leave him psychologically less happy. Satisfaction for Feldenkrais arises when we feel capable, adaptable and resilient as a result of our own actions.
If you have regular meals, and very healthy food, and avoid places where people smoke cigarettes, and keep yourself in cotton like a precious egg…that has not been fertilised…you stop using the most important part of our being. [We depend on] the ability to recover, the ability to heal oneself, to adjust oneself to a changing world. The world is changing all the time…
What drives learning in human beings?
He became interested in the source of our ability to move, and began to study child development. He asserts in his writings that the only capacity that the human is born with is curiosity. The human frame is inherently unstable and built for confidence in mobility. as it constantly adapts and re-adapts itself to the force of gravity. In short, the structure of our body demands cognitive curiosity.
During the first years of life we are learning, without of course knowing that we are learning. This learning is driven by movement, from the very first in utero movements of the finger-buds. We not only learn about the world, we learn about how our body can move – its uses and limits. Moreover, this process is joyful. Just think of the hoots of joy that often happen when an infant discover a new thing to do. This is often swiftly followed by the demand “more!”. We enter the world with an elemental and continual need to know more.
The Cognitive Scientist Daniel Wolpert has said the brain’s primary function is to create movement. Feldenkrais asserts that a human infant is born with a sense of curiosity pre-installed. Once out in the world, curiosity drives us forward to learn all the things we need to know to lead the lives we choose to live. Curiosity drives movement, movement drives learning, learning grows brain capacity and so on round the cycle.
…and when things go wrong – what then?
Very often the smooth processes promised by the infant’s start in life are interfered with as the person develops. Accidents happen, and the structure of a human body can be compromised by all sorts of factors, including, where no other restrictions exist, bad habits due to poor learning or extended contradiction of the body’s in-built structural qualities. Or quite simply, the choices we make in our life force our movement into restrictions and compromises. With cognitive development comes the development of the self-image – made up of a complex mix of choices, enjoyments, the teachings of others and the demands and pressures of the way of living we have chosen for ourselves out of the myriad possibilities. When you hear someone exclaim “I’m sorry, I’m not a people person!”, or some such, you can be sure that this is their self-image talking. Feldenkrais makes the differentiation between what we do and who we are, the better to align these things. He often said:
If you don’t know what you are doing, how can you know what you want to do!
Over his lifetime of teaching Feldenkrais devised thousands of lessons that build a greater awareness of movement and the potential for movement. Practically, he focuses his thinking and working on re-acquainting adult brains with the processes of the early learning of movement and exploration. It is by way of accessing these processes that the method, in gentle and ease-ful ways, alters a person’s self-image. The habits of doing that we learn are often necessary at a particular point in our development. But they have a shelf-life. The important thing is to notice when they have reached their shelf-life and to try out some new ones.
Play, trial-and-error, exploration and physical discovery are more usually identified with a childlike way of behaving. But Feldenkrais focuses his method on these four elements of behaviour and thinking about behaviour. Taken together they amount to a strategy to keep the nervous system on its toes by taking advantage of the inherent and dynamic instability of the human frame. Adults are not of course children – we constantly reflect on, re-visit and re-design our lives. Feldenkrais insists that if we accompany these processes with calm awareness of how, what, when and where we do what we do, then the possibilities open to us are near-infinite. Without awareness, we risk falling back into the faulty learning of the past and continuing our journey with the same restrictions as before.
His method attempts to smooth out the wrinkles of faulty, ineffective learning of movement and replace it with a more flowing, aware relationship with the world of people, objects and events around us. In changing movement, using our hard-wired sense of curiosity, his method changes thinking. It brings us to insights about why we have chosen a particular path and enables us to create new choices in thinking and doing.
Ease, comfort and satisfaction are Human Rights
Feldenkrais believed that we all have a right to ease, comfort and satisfaction in our movement. His method does not require a perfect body, nor does it require perfect movement abilities. Any body can derive benefit from the group and individual techniques of The Feldenkrais Method.
Everyone who comes to a Feldenkrais class enters into a world of new learning and quiet discovery. They leave experiencing deeper breathing, a surer sense of balance and with much more access to their world.
The Method follows its founder in being concerned with the intense practicality of freeing movement. If the free movement of the infant is the first source of learning, and if freedom of movement brings the joy and satisfaction of discovering a new world, then it follows that re-connecting, as an adult, with the process of learning through movement will enhance everyday satisfaction and effectiveness.
The difference that makes the difference
My practice focuses on supporting and inspiring people to find a greater sense of resilience, self-confidence and creativity in everyday life. One of the pathways to regaining these three essential qualities of life is to alter our bodily sense of ease, comfort and satisfaction by exploring our movement. It is difficult to underestimate the power of movement awareness to improve and develop our sense of ourselves.
The Feldenkrais Method® introduces into the river and clatter of life an atmosphere of guided self-absorption and movement journeying. You are encouraged to identify what it is that you can do now and go on from there to expand your movement repertoire. For this reason, the Method is of use to anyone who feels that they could do more. In the same class you might find a runner of olympic standard, a golfer, an elderly person and so on. The desire to learn and achieve more of our potential is not limited to social or occupational status. Everyone can learn something different. And it is, Gregory Bateson has said, important to search for and cherish the difference that makes the difference.
Try it! You have nothing to lose….
A Feldenkrais class or a one-to-one Functional Integration® lesson is a positive experience in which you need never feel threatened by what you can’t do – you simply push the boundaries of what you are capable of.
I have worked with many people – from those who demand the very most from their bodies such as professional dancers and musicians, dedicated runners, to people whose access to movement is limited through stroke, spinal injury or birth trauma. In each case it is a question of increasing awareness of what is and is not possible by gentle verbal guidance or physical manipulation.
The aim is to bring you into the fullest possible awareness of your movement, with all its possibilities in terms of your connection to your world.
Click here to find out how I might be able to help you explore your movement potential.