Most of us develop habitual ways of sitting, walking, and moving in childhood that we carry into adulthood. Everyday activities like opening and closing doors, carrying groceries, and getting in and out of cars are repeated so frequently that we are unaware of how we use our bodies or how much energy we expend in performing these actions.
Over time, these habitual ways of doing things can put unnecessary stress on the body, leading to tension, pain and, even injury.
Changing habits, especially bad habits imprinted over a lifetime, takes extraordinary effort – or so we’re told. Many believe that only through determination, hard work, and vigilance can we make lasting changes.
It took the genius of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli physicist and judo expert, to disprove the notion of “no pain, no gain” – at least, in modifying habitual ways of moving.
Far from requiring strenuous effort, Feldenkrais recognized that the body and mind – he viewed them as unified – can develop new and healthy patterns of moving through easy and gentle guidance.
While living in England during the 1940s, Dr. Feldenkrais suffered a serious leg injury. The doctors gave him a 50 percent chance of being able to walk again. Refusing to accept that prognosis, he turned to the fields of physics, neurology, and physiology to study the relationship between body and mind.
In the process, he made discoveries that led to his full recovery and the theory of sensory-motor reorganization known around the world as The Feldenkrais Method®.
Students of this approach typically gain more flexibility and range of motion from doing the lessons. They notice that they move more effortlessly and expend the appropriate amount of energy for the task at hand.
Instead of yanking open the kitchen cabinet, for example, they gently pull the door open in a smooth motion. Those who have injuries or medical conditions also experience more comfort by learning to draw on different parts of their bodies for support and strength.
Moving with more awareness also often leads to an overall feeling of enhanced physical and mental well-being.
The Feldenkrais Method® is neither a medical treatment nor a form of bodywork. It’s an educational system learned by doing the lessons.
Rather than concentrating on an end-goal only, it teaches students to be attentive to and aware of how they move so that they can change ineffective habits.
Does It Last?
Although students typically realize immediate gains from the lessons, the greatest benefits come with practice.
As a physically based form of learning, the Feldenkrais Method® directly affects how the body’s sensory motor system organizes its movement patterns. Once students discover an easier, more comfortable way to move, they naturally continue to seek more efficient and enjoyable movement.
The saying “Work smarter, not harder” fits here. Discovering that your body and mind can do more with less effort has its own rewards.
For many, moving with greater ease and changing old habits also translates into functioning with greater ease, enjoyment and awareness in other areas of life, such as personal and professional relationships.