Reprogramming the Nervous System
The Feldenkrais Method is one of the two main movement education techniques along with the Alexander Technique, although there are a number of other techniques that work in the same general area including the Anat Baniel Method and Somatics which are both off-shoots of Feldenkrais and virtually identical to it, Bartinieff, the Mitzvah Technique, Pilatus, and no doubt some others that I haven't heard of.
The intention of the Feldenkrais Method is to teach our clients, either through verbal instructions during group classes or through gentle hands-on manipulation in private session, to use themselves more effectively, efficiently, and pleasurably.
The human being is unique in having to learn everything we will need to function in this world. All that we are born with is a sucking reflex and a falling reflex. One of the results of this is that we all have our own unique way of moving, often far from ideal, despite having very similar physical structures.
We learn to move in a physical, emotional, and cultural environment and all three influence our movement learning. We will learn to move very differently if we are born into a hunter-gatherer society than if we are born into our western high-tech, low movement culture. We learn to move adequately for whatever demands our lives make.
We are all creatures of habit and our habits of movement are developed in response to our environment. Once something has become a habit, we are no longer consciously aware of what we are doing.
Our movement habits are often developed as a result of trauma, both physical and emotional. For example, if you break your leg as a child, you may develop the habit of putting most of your weight on the leg that wasn't broken. Often this new habit remains after the injury has healed and causes problems years later because one side is chronically overworked. An example of an emotional trauma resulting in a habit might be having a parent who yells at you a lot. This can result in a closed-in posture with raised shoulders and collapsed chest.
All our movements and actions are a result of our nervous system telling certain muscles to contract and others not to contract. Often our habits result in certain muscle groups being chronically contracted. These chronic contractions use a lot of energy and often interfere with our movement. We end up having to fight our own bodies in order to move.
The intention of the Feldenkrais Method is to reprogram the nervous system to let go of these chronic contractions so that, when we are at rest, we are not doing a lot of useless work; and, when we are moving, we are not getting in the way of our own movement by having muscles contracted that have nothing to do with what we are trying to do.
We have two seemingly paradoxical goals in Feldenkrais: the maximum independence of movement for each part of the body and the maximum co-operation of the different parts of our body so that each part contributes an optimal amount of effort to a movement and no more.
We accomplish this by "tricking" our clients out of their habits and then introducing the possibility of more effective alternatives. The movements, whether in group classes or hands-on are generally done very slowly and gently as the part of our nervous system that learns new patterns is slow (just as you play a new piece of music slowly at first if you are learning a musical instrument).
Unlike some other movement education techniques, with Feldenkrais we do not require our clients to think about what they are doing. Feldenkrais believed that, if a new movement organization was useful to the person, their nervous system would adopt it spontaneously. The idea in Feldenkrais is to increase our repertoire of movement possibilities so that we can respond effectively to whatever life demands of us.
Feldenkrais believed that we develop holistically - that you cannot separate the way you move from the way you feel from the way you think from the way you act in the world. Often there is a significant change in the way we live our lives as we let go of chronic movement habits and replace them with more effective ones.
copyright 2013 by Harold Tausch