Moshe Feldenkrais DSc. was born in 1904 and grew up to become an engineer and physicist. He also practised and taught Judo and was a founder of the Ju Jitsu Club in Paris, France. During the same years, he joined his wife, a medical student, in studying with her all of her courses.
During World War Two, as the Germans were entering Paris, Dr. Feldenkrais escaped to England, where he was recruited by the British Admiralty to serve as a scientific officer. When he suffered a debilitating knee injury, he realized that surgery would not give him a good enough outcome. Instead he began exploring ways to re-educate his brain to move in new ways that work, despite the damage to his knee.
One of his ah-ha moments came when he recognized the need for a whole body focus to improve any one part.
"This is the most sophisticated and effective method I have seen for the prevention and reversal of deterioration of function." — Margaret Mead, Ph.D., Anthropologist
Benefits of Feldenkrais
• Relief from tension and muscular pain
• Improved breathing
• More flexible minds
• Improved performance in sports
• Greater mobility in everyday activities
• Increased vitality
The Feldenkrais Method (R)
Feldenkrais Method: difficult to explain, wonderful to experience – a practical and scientific wayof addressing aspects of movement we seldom even think about or worry about… until we have a problem.
Moshe Feldenkrais (1903-1984), a scientist with degrees in physics, mechanical and electrical engineering from the Sorbonne, and a student of Jigaro Kano (founder of Judo) who became European Judo champion. Also extremely widely read in physiology, anatomy and neuro-psychology, he was well-acquainted with the development of other movement modalities by pioneers such as Elsa Gindler, Jacques Dalcroze, Gerta Alexander and most important of all, Mathias Alexander with whom he studied in London in the late 40’s.
Feldenkrais was aware that movement is controlled by electrical signals from the brain, and that every movement exists as an image in the brain before it actually happens. His unique contribution to science is his discovery of a way to interact directly with these neuromotor processes, literally reprogramming the brain to improve its movement organization. The ramifications for this are immense and still unfolding.
Feldenkrais Method brings improvement to
- stroke victims and patients with cerebral palsy, MS, emphysema and other movement-impairing illnesses.
- athletes, dancers and actors – both those who have suffered injury and those who simply want to improve their skills
- pianists, other instrumentalists, vocalists, conductors – all musicians who seek relief from injury or enhancement of their capacity for fine control of every element of their musical expression
- people with back pain or any movement limitation
The movements in a Feldenkrais session are exceptionally small and gentle, sometimes even imperceptible. The client often wonders what is going on because she is not used to perceiving the fine differences in sensation on which the learning process of Feldenkrais is based. But that’s the secret of Feldenkrais’s success: instead of using the grosser amounts of energy that make a muscle actually contract (think of the amount of electricity needed to light an incandescent light bulb), it works with the extremely low-energy signals coming from the brain to the muscle (like the signal a computer key sends the processor). An Awareness Through Movement® lesson is not a lesson in movement as we know it at all, but a fine-tuning of the neurological control mechanisms of movement.
Here’s the kicker: the practitioner accesses those neuromotor processes through the client’s skeleton.
When bones are out of alignment, muscles work hard to keep the skeleton in place, and they are not so free to generate movement. When bones are well-aligned, the muscles work less to hold and more to move: movements feel easier but are stronger. If the practitioner moves the client’s body paying attention to the skeletal mechanics within, he begins to be able to differentiate, by sensation, between the bones, muscles and nervous impulses. A physiotherapist will move an injured leg through various configurations to restore the leg’s sense of moveability and limberness. The Feldenkrais practitioner moves the same leg a miniscule amount, and senses how well the bones line up to transmit a force through. He feels with high sensitivity even the smallest resistance, the smallest possible interference from muscles that hold instead of help.
But the practitioner doesn’t then plough through that resistance. The more you resist, the more it persists! Instead the practitioner ‘nudges up’ against the resistance and then backs off again. He makes the brain more aware of what it’s doing. He brings the resistance into the brain’s sensory picture of that part of the body. We are talking of miniscule, virtually imperceptible movements here – movements so small that they are not perceived as intrusive but inquisitive. After some time the neuromotor system miraculously begins to ‘wake up’ and respond to these slight stimuli – the brain literally gets curious, and lowers muscle tone to better perceive the practitioner’s input. The quality of this relaxation is profoundly different from the relaxation of massage or Yoga – there’s a specific neurological component to it that is unique to Feldenkrais.
And the brain returns to the state all our brains possessed in infancy – it actually becomes neurologically more plastic in its efforts to respond intelligently to these tiny but precise and meaningful stimulations. The neurological controls of movement are created anew.Karen Toth discovered Feldenkrais Method in 1999 and in 2004, decided it was the key to developing a new approach to body movement. She is now a practitioner with long experience who works with many people including children with special needs, horses, and people living with cronic pain.
History of Feldenkrais
The focus of the Feldenkrais Method is to relearn correct physical movement, countering the bad habits we develop in life that can lead to crippling disability. The 3 principles of Feldenkrais are
- vitality for the entire span of your life
- overcome pain
- flexible minds
A New Generation
Every scientific discipline evolves over time and as a scientist, Dr. Feldenkrais understood that his method needed to grow in order for it to stay vibrant, valid and useful. His intention was for his work to develop as increased scientific knowledge and accumulated teaching experience brought more insight, greater understanding and the formation of new techniques. A new generation of therapists have developed new techniques. Foremost among these are the Anat Baniel Method (sm) which has been shown to improve many conditions, giving relief from sports injuries, back problems, shoulder, neck, and limb pain, arthritis and stroke-related problems.
Awareness Through Movement (R) Classes the teacher verbally directs students through movement sequences.
Functional Synthesis lesson, the practitioner uses his or her hands to guide the movement of the student, while the student lies on a padded table or floor.