What is the Feldenkrais® Method?
All of us know what we’re doing, except when we don’t. Thankfully, there are plenty of things to which we don’t have to pay full attention as we do them. We’ve developed habitual ways of moving and acting, so that our attention can be on “other stuff.” The classic example is driving. Or the mother in the kitchen, with a kid on one hip, the phone on one shoulder, stirring up tonight’s dinner. This capacity to do things automatically serves us well. It opens up our bandwidth to accomplish more and to entertain ourselves along the way.
What about the times when we don’t know what we’re doing? How awkward is it to learn a new dance step, or figure out a new app on the smart phone, or get dressed with an injured or “frozen” shoulder? We all get to experience not knowing what we’re doing. Oddly enough, the more accomplished and successful we are, the more difficult we might find it to face “not knowing.”
“If you know what you’re doing, you can do what you want.”
Moshe Feldenkrais, circa 1957
(Image © International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Luzzi Wolgensinger)
If we’re in the habit of knowing, of being successful at just about anything, we skip over an important part of learning. We skip over the part where it’s awkward, and what we thought we knew doesn’t work. We skip over the part where we have to pause and look at the obstacles, to slow down and pay attention to what’s happening. To notice what we know and to acknowledge what’s missing. To get curious and truly open to new possibilities. And the new possibilities can be as simple as where we balance the weight on our feet in standing and walking or as complex as discovering how to get more of what we want out of life.
Moshe Feldenkrais developed a method of exploring and improving how we move our bodies. His method works for highly accomplished movers as well as for those with extreme physical limitations. No matter who you are and what you can do, if you slow down, pay attention, and explore the possibilities, you can improve how you move. And when you improve how you move in your body, you improve how you move in your life.
So how does this work? The Feldenkrais Method is taught through two vehicles: Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lessons and Functional Integration® (FI) sessions. ATM lessons can be taught to individuals or groups, and consist of verbal directions through a sequence of movements. The individual movements range from slow, simple and gentle, to quick, rigorous and complex. The biggest constraint in every lesson is to move within a range that doesn’t cause pain, and to bring attention to how one moves.
FI sessions are taught to individuals, with the practitioner using his or her hands to guide the participant’s movements. The sequence of movements is specific to the individual and to that session. Generally, the movements are gentle and slow, bringing attention to the quality of movement, to unconscious constraints, and to improving the range and ease of movement.
A word about pain: pain is an indication of a problem, and in this method, no one is encouraged to push through pain. Rather, the approach is to slow down, bring more attention and curiosity to what’s happening and to gently explore alternatives.
All of the lessons, ATM and FI, are designed to expand and refine the participant’s self image, to improve the quality of movement, to invite new possibilities. Feldenkrais said that although he was a teacher, he couldn’t teach anybody anything; all he could do was create the conditions for learning. Feldenkrais lessons create an environment in which participants can bring attention and curiosity to who they are and to how they move—in their bodies and in the world.
Gika Rector is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner. Get more information about the Feldenkrais Method at www.feldenkrais.com.