Frequently Asked Questions about the Feldenkrais Method
What is the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education?
The Feldenkrais Method is a form of somatic education that uses gentle movement and directed attention to improve movement and enhance human functioning.
We are all creatures of habit. Often our habits of movement are far from ideal resulting in poor posture and stiffness, and in pain and joint degeneration. The Feldenkrais Method helps people to undo poor usage habits and replace them with ways of movement that feel better, take less energy, and are much easier on the body. It is also helpful in improving function for people whose ability to move has been affected by injury or illness.
Posture improves because the nervous system stops telling certain muscles to contract that distort our posture. Greater flexibility is achieved by organizing our movements so that muscles that get in the way are not contracted and the effort is distributed throughout the body. The Feldenkrais Method teaches us how to move so that the forces generated by our actions travel through our joints rather than stressing them.
With greater freedom and lightness of movement, there is often an associated greater emotional freedom and vitality and greater freedom of action in our lives.
Who Benefits from the Feldenkrais Method?
Everyone can benefit from the Method. The Feldenkrais Method helps those experiencing chronic or acute pain of the back, neck, shoulders, hips, legs, or knees, as well as healthy individuals who wish to enhance their movement abilities. The Method has been very helpful in dealing with central nervous system conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and stroke. Musicians, actors, and artists can extend their abilities and enhance their creativity. Seniors enjoy using it to retain or regain their ability to move without strain or discomfort.
What Happens in a Feldenkrais Method Session?
In group Awareness Through Movement® lessons, the Feldenkrais teacher verbally leads you through a sequence of slow, gentle movement explorations: often lying on the floor on a padded surface, but also sitting, kneeling or standing, or sitting in a chair.
As you move, your attention is directed to different parts of your body and you are encouraged to be gentle with yourself and focus on the quality and comfort of your movement rather than the range. The lessons often involve doing non-habitual movements to help break our unconscious habits or restricting movement in one part of the body to encourage more movement in another.
Many lessons are based on developmental movements and ordinary functional activities (reaching, standing, lying to sitting, looking behind yourself, etc.). Some are based on freeing the movements of specific joints and muscles. There is an emphasis on learning to move in such a way that the powerful muscles of the back and pelvis do most of the work.
There are hundreds of ATM lessons, varying in difficulty and complexity, for all levels of movement ability. A lesson generally lasts from 30 to 60 minutes.
Private Feldenkrais lessons, called Functional Integration® lessons, are tailored to each student's individual learning needs. The practitioner guides your movements through gentle non-invasive manipulations and, occasionally, verbal instructions.
The client is fully clothed, usually lying on a low padded table, or sometimes in a sitting or standing position. At times, various props (pillows, rollers, blankets) are used to support the student, or to facilitate certain movements.
Movement possibilities are presented as an invitation to the client rather than imposed on them and are designed to facilitate the release of unconscious holding patterns. New patterns are introduced by eliciting and refining the various components of a movement function. The goal is to establish the new patterns in such a way that they are spontaneously adopted by our nervous systems and replace our older habits.
How Does the Feldenkrais Method Differ from Massage and Chiropractic?
While all of these practices touch people, the Feldenkrais Method is very different. In massage, the practitioner is working directly with the muscles, in chiropractic, with the bones. These are structural approaches that seek to affect change through changes in structure (muscles and spine). The Feldenkrais Method is a functional approach and works with your ability to regulate and coordinate your movement, which means working with the nervous system and the whole person.
How are Feldenkrais Practitioners Trained?
All Feldenkrais practitioners must complete approximately 800 to 900 hours of training over a 4 year period. Trainees participate in Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration lessons, lectures, discussions, group process, and watch videos of Dr. Feldenkrais teaching. Newtonian mechanics, physics, neurophysiology, movement development, biology, and learning theories are presented in the training programs.
photo by Rosalie O'Connor