Just as we develop social habits such as smoking or arguing, our body develops habits such as poor posture and tension.
Feldenkrais is a method of somatic education that uses simple movements to experience the body within and undo these bodily habits through enhanced self-awareness. The Feldenkrais Method leads to improved posture, flexibility, coordination and a reduction in tension and pain. It’s a safe, simple and effective practice that anyone can do.
Awareness Through Movement
Theory aside, Feldenkrais operates on two practical levels. The most common approach is Awareness Through Movement (ATM) classes. In these classes an instructor guides clients through a series of movements that would best be considered explorations. The movements are simple and slow. They are not designed to be physically challenging movements that provide any sort of physical health benefit. Rather, they are designed to increase self-awareness.
In one example, a slow turning of the head from side to side gives clients an opportunity to become aware of that particular movement and how it relates to what they’re thinking and feeling. It’s a movement we unconsciously do many times in the day, so by consciously uncovering what’s going on, a self-awareness of the body-mind emerges that can reduce pain and improve movement.
As awareness increases, people begin to feel things in their bodies that they had never felt before. A tension in the left shoulder causes the muscles to tighten, pulling the left side higher than the right. Armed with that information, it also becomes possible for people to realize that the physical tension in their jaw originates from their left shoulder. With practice, a person can discover that their tension is simply melting away through awareness.
Feldenkrais also has a bodywork component to it. In these one-on-one Functional Integration sessions, a trained practitioner helps a client learn more efficient ways of moving by applying precise touch along with the client’s focused awareness on the movement.
Scientific studies have confirmed Feldenkrais’ efficacy. In one randomized controlled trial, participants complaining of neck and shoulder pain and disability were divided into a Feldenkrais group, a physiotherapy group, and a control group. The participants in the Feldenkrais group experienced fewer complaints after the 16-week trial. The physio group experienced the same level of complaints, and the control group, more.
The study of neuroplasticity—the brain and nervous system’s ability to change functionally and structurally based on input—has further proven the effectiveness of somatic education practices such as Feldenkrais.
Though Feldenkrais seems abstract, it’s a practice that works, particularly for stress-related conditions that cause chronic muscular problems.