01 January 2016 - The Feldenkrais Method
Maggy Burrowes, Feldenkrais Practitioner

The Feldenkrais Method — Well-being through Well-doing

Every year in early May, Feldenkrais practitioners around the world join together to celebrate the birth of our founder Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais — and there is much to celebrate. The Method that he is famous for uses focussed attention and self-awareness via movement and touch as a tool for self- healing and self-development. Motivated by a knee injury with very poor predicted surgical outcomes, he soon realised that, for any improvement to be both effective and permanent, it would need to enable him not simply just to change the way he was moving and using his knee, but to integrate those changes into every aspect of his behaviour. He realised that this was the only sure way to prevent old habits reasserting themselves and causing him to re-injure himself. He began to work with the principles of what is now known as neuroplasticity, i.e. the ability of the human brain of any age to learn new behaviour and — more importantly — unlearn old, established habits of moving and being that are no longer supporting our well-being.

Well-being is usually used to indicate a positive approach to good mental and physical health. It is not simply to be free of the symptoms of ill health, but to be actively engaged with, and enjoying, life. As research for this article I went online to look for a more precise definition, and found a list of 5 steps to mental well-being on the NHS website; I was not at all surprised to discover that three of those five steps are core elements of The Feldenkrais Method; being active; keeping on learning throughout our lives; and being “mindful”.

Feldenkrais comes in two formats, both designed to combine these three elements into effective learning strategies that anyone can incorporate into daily life. At its core, Feldenkrais is about the importance of moving with freedom, ease and spontaneity as the foundation of health and human resilience. Awareness Through Movement classes are “mindfulness-in-motion”; you learn to focus your attention and awareness on your whole self as you move, your mind and body functioning as one in the present moment. You lie down, you let go of the effort of striving, of achieving, of succeeding, of impressing, and of perfecting, and instead, for an hour or so, you explore, and experience, and discover, and refine, and evolve new strategies for expanding your movement possibilities and rediscovering how to learn through play, just as you did as a child.

In a hands-on lesson — Functional Integration — the same heightened self-awareness is achieved through sensitive, touch-based neuromuscular feedback.

The NHS list is based on research results — for most of us the important thing is our own subjective sense of happiness. People often discover Feldenkrais because they have a pain or movement problem that has not responded to “treatment” and they are on a quest for a new approach. Spontaneous pain relief is a common way for first-timers to become regulars, and, as with Yoga and Tai Chi, the full benefits of Feldenkrais come with commitment and regular practice, and those who embrace the Method and make it part of their lives find that steadily increasing well-being is the natural result.