Whether you are aware of it or not, your body has been subtly programmed to move in specific patterns based on conditioning from your parents, family, friends, and the culture in which you were raised. Some of these often unconscious patterns of movement can potentially limit physical mobility, effect patterns of thought and emotion, and even effect your everyday sense of well being. A method of somatic education called Feldenkrais, developed by physicist, engineer, and judo master, Moshe Feldenkrais, provides tools to reprogram patterns of movement to increase mobility and quality of life.
How Does Feldenkrais Work?
The Feldenkrais Method is an experiential system of physical practices designed to increase awareness of the mind-body connection. Feldenkrais believed that through changing habitual patterns of movement, a person could relearn how to move the body in a more functional way, reducing chronic pain, increasing physical performance, and even help heal the body from certain illnesses and chronic conditions. Because changing the neurological processes involved with movement also effect other aspects of a person’s life, such as greater emotional stability, greater mental clarity, and reduced stress and anxiety, the Feldenkrais method is regarded as a form of integrative, or complementary, medicine.
What To Expect During a Feldenkrais Session
Feldenkrais sessions can be experienced in an individual format, as well as a group format. In individual sessions a client will either lie, sit, or stand, while the practitioner gently moves and manipulates various parts of the client’s body, giving instruction, and calling attention to the nature of movement that the client is experiencing. This process helps a client to develop greater awareness of how they may be moving and holding their body in a way that is potentially causing physical, mental, or emotional dysfunction. Group Feldenkrais sessions are comprised of simple exercises that are aimed at increasing student’s range of mobility and bodily awareness. “Homework,” or take home exercises are often suggested to help students and clients integrate the new functional patterns of movement into their everyday life.
The Research On Feldenkrais Method
A 2006 study conducted at the University of California of Northridge, showed the Feldenkrais method to be effective in reducing chronic pain and increasing mobility in adults suffering from low back pain. Another 2006 study published in “Alzheimer’s Quarterly” showed the Feldenkrais method to be effective in helping patient’s with Dementia improve cognitive functioning, as well as increase levels of confidence and self-esteem. Studies have also shown this technique effective in helping post-stroke patients increase balance and motor skills.
Choosing the Right Feldenkrais Practitioner
When choosing a Feldenkrais practitioner it is important to find someone who is trained and certified by a recognized Feldenkrais institution. In order to become certified, Feldenkrais practitioners must complete 740-800 hours of training. The training requires a practitioner to go through their own process of relearning patterns of movement and deepening self awareness. Training programs integrate physics, Newtonian mechanics, neurophysiology, learning theories, and biology to create a comprehensive understanding of how the mind-body connection functions, and how to effectively change patterns of movement and thought to create natural healing. The Feldenkrais Guild of North America is a helpful resource for connecting with trained and certified Feldenkrais practitioners in your area.
The connection between the mind and body is profound, and is still being uncovered today. It’s important to remember that while any somatic practitioner or teacher can help uncover greater self awareness, each one of us has the ability to investigate and explore alternative ways to think and move to increase everyday functionality and well being. Feldenkrais provides a foundation and structure to begin the journey of deeper bod-mind awareness, and can be a powerful catalyst for positive change in your life, and natural holistic healing.
Russian born Moshe Feldenkrais was inspired to develop his system of somatic education following a crippling knee injury that left him immobilized. Through his research, Feldenkrais was able to heal his knee and regain the ability to walk. He even went on to become a Judo master after studying with Jigaro Kano, the creator of modern Judo.