Practical Science on Movement and Pain

The Feldenkrais Method

The Feldenkrais Method is a system for learning efficient and coordinated movement. Students take lessons for a variety of reasons, including to improve physical comfort, reduce chronic pain, increase performance in sports or dance, or promote self-awareness for personal development.

The Feldenkrais Method was invented by Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli engineer, physicist and martial artist. For a brief bio of the man, click here.

Although Feldenkrais died in 1984, advances in neuroscience have largely confirmed the amazing accuracy of many of his theories, particularly his ideas about neuroplasticity, and also the way in which movement, sensation, thinking and feeling are dynamically linked and organized by the “self image.” It is not an exaggeration to say that Feldenkrais was way ahead of his time.

For example in the 1980s, after revolutionizing the science related to infant motor development, Dr. Esther Thelen was astounded to realize that her “new” ideas about how humans learn movement had already been embodied in the Feldenkrais Method. She subsequently enrolled in a training to become a practitioner.  Many other well known experts in neuroscience are fans of the Feldenkrais Method, including Norman Doidge, Alain Berthoz, Oliver Sacks, and Michael Merzenich.

What it is

The Feldenkrais Method is taught in two forms: Awareness Through Movement (ATM) and Functional Integration (FI).

ATM is taught in a class format, where an instructor takes students through a series of movements, usually while laying on the ground. The movements are slow, gentle, novel and exploratory. The lessons are often based on developmental patterns by which babies learn to move, such as lifting a head or leg, or rolling to sit or crawl. Students are taught to direct significant awareness to subtle yet crucial aspects of movements that are nearly impossible to sense in more traditional exercise settings that incorporate more speed, strength and effort.

Functional Integration is a one on one hands on session on a table where a teacher slowly moves the student’s body in patterns designed to achieve the same goal as an ATM – increased awareness and understanding of how to move efficiently.

Why it works

For a better understanding of how and why the Feldenkrais Method works, there are various articles that explain the science and reasoning behind the Method, including posts describing:

The Body Maps

Movement Efficiency

Making the Hard Easy and the Easy Elegant

Why Slow Movement Works

Skeletal Awareness

Sensory Motor Amnesia

Strategies to Cure Chronic Pain

The Importance of Play for Motor Learning

Try It!

Click here to choose from three free ATM lessons based on the Feldenkrais Method.

Click here for information on four audio lessons and an e-book based on the Feldenkrais Method.