What is the Feldenkrais Method?
The Feldenkrais method is different from most modalities that exist when it comes to dealing with pain and musculoskeletal problems such as lower back pain, neck pain or any pain for that matter.
You may have found this page because you are suffering from lower back pain, or pain in your spine or neck or back due to pregnancy, or any other form of musculoskeletal pain.
What do we do when we start suffering from back pain? We usually consult a doctor, physio therapist, chiropractor or osteopath to name a few. We get advice and usually medication from the doctor and the others massage and adjust our spine and body.
The osteopath, physiotherapist and chiropractor may give us a few generic exercises to practice at home. We usually avoid doing them and rely wholly on the manipulations, medication and adjustments to do their work and “cure” us or at least make us feel better.
It may not be lower back pain or sciatica that has brought you to this page, but a desire to function more optimally. In either case you are in the right place. The Feldenkrais method uses both “table work” and “exercises” done on a soft mat to bring about a change in ones body image and function.
Awareness Through Movement
Awareness through movement is the term that Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais coined to represent the guided exercises that he developed. These lessons are also called Feldenkrais ATM classes. Moshe created more than a thousand lessons to address every human function and he taught them regularly in Israel where he lived. His classes became so popular that he recorded them and played the tapes to groups so that more people could benefit from his work.
Awareness through movement consists of small movements that are practiced initially slowly and then at various speeds to become acquainted with different areas of our bodies. The lessons can take place lying down on ones back, one ones front, one the side, sitting or even standing. Some lessons focus more on one position and others include many changes of position.
A Feldenkrais practitioner guides the students that are taking the ATM class through a whole series of movements aimed at reducing the muscular tension and making the participants become aware of how they initiate movements and how much effort they put into generating the movements. This awareness that they gain is then felt for several hours after the class or even several days. After repeating this process many times over the person will start to adopt the easier pathways and less energy consuming movements and thus function better thereby reducing effort, fatigue and wear and tear.
Awareness through movement lessons or Feldenkrais ATM classes should ideally be practiced when we are pain free and fit. If this is done it will ensure that we avoid maintaining habits and patterns that are harmful to us. Unfortunately we wait until we hurt ourselves before we look for something that will help us be pain free and function well.
Some professions like actors, dancers and singers practice awareness through movement ATM classes on a regular basis to help them perform more efficiently. They may have initially have practiced Alexander exercises which are better known than the Feldenkrais method and by chance come across the Feldenkrais method. It is in these professions that the method is best known and many of the practitioners who teach ATM classes are themselves actors, singers and dancers.
Dr. Feldenkrais started off first seeing people one on one and practicing what he termed Functional Integration. Functional Integration usually takes place on a low lying table or a chair. A Functional Integration sessions consists of a Feldenkrais practitioner gently guiding a client through a series of small movements to highlight to the nervous system what is going on with it on a muscular level at that instant. It is a communication with the nervous system of the client through the muscles and bones and fascia.
To be able to reach more people Moshe Feldenkrais developed lessons that he could speak out loud and guide a large group through similar movements. This time it is the client themselves that are actively moving their limbs and actively moving and listening to themselves. This is Awareness Through Movement and is a very powerful way to enter into communication with ones nervous system and create an expanded body awareness map.
The Feldenkrais Method Exercises – Feldenkreis?
People refer to the Awareness Through Movement classes as exercises. Though they can be seen as being exercises as they do involve moving the spine, the rib cage and the limbs, they are not exercises as we understand the term to mean. They are a dialogue between the individual and their brain or nervous system. This dialogue uses as it’s language movement.
Movement is a language that the central nervous system understands well. The Lessons of Awareness Through Movement are different chapters of a story. Some practitioners will arrange them in the sequence of development. Starting with birth and moving through all the stages of development from baby to standing adult. Other Feldenkrais practitioners will choose to work with different functional areas of the body.
The name Feldenkrais if often misspelled. The most common misspelling is Feldenkreis, or Feldenkraiss or Felkenkraiss. It is not a common name and often elicits the Felden What! remark. Feldenkreis, I mean Feldenkrais method is truly something remarkable and I highly recommend that you go and attend an Awareness Through Movement Lesson with A Feldenkrais practitioner.
Somatic – Somatics Movement Education
Dr. Thomas Hanna coined the term Somatics in 1976. The word Somatics is derived from the Greek word for the living body Soma, and is the study of the body experienced from within. He studied with Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais and invited Dr. Feldenkrais to the United States to teach his method there. This is why today the method is referred to as the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education. It is also referred to as Movement Education and is considered learning method and not a therapy. In fact clients of Feldenkrais practitioners are called students and not patients.
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