What is the Feldenkrais method?

Quick Answer
A self-education system focusing on the relationship between mind and body.
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Overview

The Feldenkrais method of mind/body education was developed by Moshé Feldenkrais, a physicist and engineer. The basic idea of the method is that focusing on the connection between the mind and body movement causes new patterns of movement to form, restoring the body to the way it is meant to move. This reversion promotes improved movement, improved brain function, and general well-being.

Mechanism of Action

The Feldenkrais method is practiced in two different ways: by functional integration and by awareness through movement.

Functional integration involves personal, one-on-one training in which an instructor gives a student hands-on instruction in developmental movement. In this type of instruction, the teacher touches the student and helps him or her move through body awareness; the student remains fully clothed. This type of session focuses on whatever agility problems the student is experiencing but is most often focused on eliminating excess effort and on moving more easily.

Awareness through movement is a group session in which an instructor verbally guides students through developmental movement. Though the instructions are directed at a group, individuals are encouraged to discover and be aware of their own personal body movement and development.

Uses and Applications

Through his own awareness of the body-mind connection and through his own practicing of movement, Feldenkrais came to believe that one could improve balance, coordination, and flexibility and relieve pain, tension, and stress. He also believed that a person could overcome many neurological and physical problems by focusing on this connection, which creates new neural pathways that affect movement.

Scientific Evidence

The type of hands-on instruction that helps define the Feldenkrais method is difficult to evaluate by methods such as a double-blind trial. (It would be impossible to give some people real instruction in the method while others received something else.) A few observational studies have shown, however, a relationship between Feldenkrais practice and improved balance and mobility and the relief of pain and stress, particularly in the elderly or others whose movement is limited.

Choosing a Practitioner

Feldenkrais practitioners are certified through the Feldenkrais Guild of North America. Certification takes three to four years and involves 740 to 800 hours of training in Feldenkrais methods and a period of practice and application under supervision. Possibly the most important factor in choosing a practitioner, however, particularly for functional integration, is the person’s comfort level with the instructor.

Safety Issues

The Feldenkrais method focuses on gentle movements, so there should be no pain involved in practice.

Bibliography

Beringer, Elizabeth, ed. Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 2010.

Feldenkrais Movement Institute. http://www.feldenkraisinstitute.org.

Feldenkrais, Moshe. Awareness Through Movement: Easy-to-Do Health Exercises to Improve Your Posture, Vision, Imagination, and Personal Awareness. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991.

_______. The Elusive Obvious: Or, Basic Feldenkrais. Cupertino, Calif.: Meta, 1981.

_______. The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion. Berkeley, Calif.: Frog Books, 2002.

International Feldenkrais Federation. http://www.feldenkrais-method.org.

Wyszynski, Marek. “The Feldenkrais Method for People with Chronic Pain.” Pain Practitioner 20, no. 1 (2010): 56-61.

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