Feldenkrais is becoming more widely recognised as an effective way of helping people of all ages to a better quality of life and feeling of well-being.
The bad news
The way you use and hold your body can lead to a host of crippling conditions. Daily stresses and traumas aggravate the situation. They continually make demands on our sensory-motor system, which keeps responding to them with a limited set of specific reflexes. Repeatedly triggered, these reflexes create habitual muscular contraction, which we cannot voluntarily relax. Hence the growing stiffness, soreness and restricted range of movement most of us experience as we get older. What restricts our freedom of movement, causing us discomfort, has usually been learned and can therefore be unlearned to a considerable extent — whatever our age.
The good news
The Feldenkrais Method® is a simple, effective way of relearning how to move with ease and grace and to improve posture and general health. It is never too late to relearn. It is based on the recognition that most of our ills, pains and problems arise from lack of choice — in the final analysis — from compulsiveness and imprisonment in habitual patterns of behaviour.
The Feldenkrais Method uses body movement as the principal medium for learning and discovery. It changes your body by teaching the brain.
Genuine somatic learning enables you:
- To develop careful sensory awareness
- To reduce excessive muscular strain and effort
- To maintain or regain control over your body.
One of the Method’s central aims is to help people regain what they once knew as small children: heightened awareness of ourselves, fearlessness, self-reliance and a wonderful feeling of well-being. Its proven value entails the creation of learning conditions capable of enhancing contact with oneself, leading in turn to growing refinement and continuous maturation of the nervous system.
The outcome is regarded as extraordinarily therapeutic.
No need to go for the burn!
Feldenkrais is not painful at all; it is a gentle movement therapy with an impressive record. It can help people with a variety of conditions, from easing sports injuries, back and limb problems, shoulder, neck and back pain to increasing mobility and flexibility for people who suffer from arthritis, rheumatism and stroke-related problems.
The Method can also help those who are fit and well to keep in prime condition by improving flexibility and co-ordination of movement, encouraging improved breathing habits and relaxation.
Going to Classes
Feldenkrais is available in two formats: group sessions known as Awareness Through Movement or by individual consultations called Functional Integration. The lessons are often done lying down, although some are done sitting or standing. Older people and those who have difficulty lying down on the floor can still benefit from sitting or standing and sometimes it is possible to use a table.
In the Awareness Through Movement group classes the teacher gives verbal instructions, leading students through a sequence of gentle movements and being aware of their breathing while moving, or the way different parts of the body move in relation to each other. The students are taught to become aware of connections between different parts of the body. For example, how lifting the elbow and shoulder causes the ribs to move.
In the Functional Integration one-to-one lessons, the student is guided in a hands-on way through a series of movements to extend the possibilities of the neuromuscular system which has become chronically restricted, often simply through habit. Functional Integration is likely to be offered where a person has specific problems.
How long will it take to relearn?
The number of classes each person needs for maximum benefit depends on their problem and how easily they are able to respond to change. In other words — how quickly they can unlearn ingrained bad movement habits and unlock a nervous system that is accustomed to doing things in the same old ways. Age is an important factor in the time it takes to adjust. The older you are the more lessons you may need to change the way you think and move.
After the first session, most people have an immediate feeling of well-being and experience an increase in the ease and efficiency with which they move. They feel lighter and more relaxed and niggling discomforts are eased. This immediate effect shows just how powerful the Feldenkrais Method can be.
The intention is that students will use what they learn throughout their daily lives so that the body moves and works smoothly and efficiently, resulting in their staying fit and preventing problems such as backache for the rest of their lives.
It is beneficial to actors, dancers and musicians who are encouraged to relax, switch off and refocus themselves.
There can also be spin-off. For example, the benefits to nurses of learning to move with less effort would include a reduction in stress and problems associated with handling and lifting, such as back pain, and an awareness of easy movement options also becomes a resource for advising patients about movement.