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.
How the Feldenkrais Method Is Taught
The Feldenkrais Method is taught in two formats: Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration® personal instruction.
Awareness Through Movement® lessons focus on basic movements performed in daily life, e.g., reaching, sitting, and lying down and on specific parts of the body, e.g. jaws, back, knees, neck, and ankles.
Students are guided through a sequence of gentle, simple movements that provide multiple options for kinesthetic learning. For example, students seated in chairs are asked to see how far they can rotate their necks.
Through a series of guided verbal instructions, they may repeat the movement and connect it to moving their shoulders, ribs and other body parts.
As they bring more parts of themselves into play with each repetition, they notice their necks can rotate a little bit farther and, by the end of the lesson, significantly farther than when they began.
Functional Integration® is an individual approach tailored to the particular needs of the client. The practitioner observes how a client walks, sits, and moves and assesses what the client needs to work on. Similar to the Awareness Through Movement® lessons, the movements are light and gentle and bring awareness to different parts of the body.
The difference is that working one-on-one allows the practitioner to guide the client through light touch rather than verbal directions. The practitioner can also record strategies learned in a session so the client can practice during the week. For more information, please use the contact button below.
About Dan Clurman
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Dan Clurman is a certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner who has led Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® classes for over 20 years. He has studied a variety of somatic disciplines including tai chi, yoga, Chi Nei Tsang, and is certified in Judith Blackstone’s subtle body method, the Realization Process. He has taught Relaxed and Awake retreats at Spirit Rock and Esalen Institute in California since 2007. Dan also integrates somatic awareness into his work as a communication coach. He teaches communication skills to individuals, couples, corporations and dharma organizations including Spirit Rock, Insight Meditation Center in Barre, Massachusetts, and Natural Dharma Fellowship at Wonderwell. Learn more at www. feldenkraismethodguide.com and www.comoptions.com