What is Feldenkrais?

The Feldenkrais Method is named after its originator, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, a physicist, judo expert, mechanical engineer and educator, born at the beginning of the last century. The Feldenkrais Method uses gentle movement and directed attention to improve human functioning.

What improvements will I see if I do Feldenkrais lessons?

Feldenkrais can reduce or eliminate pain, increase your ease and range of motion, and improve your flexibility and coordination. Improvements often spread, so that Feldenkrais students notice better functioning in other parts of their life. For instance, a student’s neck stiffness may lessen or disappear, and then the student notices that his running speed has increased.

How do I prepare for an Awareness Through Movement lesson?

Wear loose, comfortable clothing and bring whatever will make you comfortable. Many students bring a pillow, blanket, or towel; others are comfortable with nothing. Some lessons are done seated in a chair and the student may want a support under the feet or a pillow behind the lower back. When lessons are done on the floor, a mat or blanket to lie on and a small pillow or towel for under the head or neck is nice. You can do the lessons right after a meal; they aren’t strenuous.

What will I do at an Awareness Through Movement lesson?

Moshe Feldenkrais created hundreds of Awareness Through Movement lessons. Some lessons involve large movements of the arms and legs; some focus on a single, small movement, varied slightly over the course of the lesson. Each lesson is designed to improve a function, such as walking, breathing, speaking, or turning.

The lessons are led by an instructor who describes a series of movements to be considered by the student. Sometimes the student performs the movement as described, sometimes less is done, sometimes the movement is simply imagined by the student. The movements are often extremely easy to do, but many of them are quite unusual. During the lesson, students attend to what they are experiencing, how they move, and how they feel. Usually students choose to close their eyes during the lesson, as most people find it is easier to pay attention to their movement and sensation with the eyes closed. The instructor is usually the only one who speaks during the lesson. During the lesson there are frequent rests, when students lie or sit comfortably.

Anyone can participate in, enjoy, and learn from an Awareness Through Movement lesson – young, old, disabled, those with chronic or acute pain, and those who perform physically at an elite level, such as musicians and athletes. The lessons are usually between 30 and 60 minutes long.

Is it like yoga?

No. There is no stretching or straining during an Awareness Through Movement lesson. “Less is more” is the approach for Awareness Through Movement lessons. Also, each class lesson is unique – you will seldom go through the same series of movements in any two classes.

In an exercise class, you become more familiar with movements you already know, and your muscles become stronger. During a Feldenkrais lesson, you experiment with new movement patterns, which improves your movement and function, while creating new neural pathways, so both your physical movement and your brain function improve.

What can I expect to experience right after a Feldenkrais lesson?

It isn’t uncommon for a student to get in her car after a lesson and have to adjust the rearview mirrors, because she is holding herself so much more upright. Feldenkrais students report feeling relaxed, lighter, taller and more balanced or solid on the ground. Pain may lessen or disappear. Some people feel energized or have an increased sense of vitality; some notice that they are breathing more freely and more fully.

Will there be exercises or work that I am expected to do between classes?

No, the classes are self-contained. However,you are likely to notice benefits from the classes developing in the hours and days after your class. If you are interested in working on your own between classes, there are interesting movement sequences you can experiment with, including those available for download on this site.

Who can be helped by the Feldenkrais Method?

Anyone! Feldenkrais is useful for those experiencing chronic or acute pain of the back, neck, shoulder, hip, wrist, legs or knee, for those with impairment of the central nervous system, as well as for healthy individuals who want to move more efficiently and more gracefully. Even very young children have benefited from Feldenkrais lessons. There is nothing to study or remember.

How can the Feldenkrais Method give relief from pain?

Humans naturally avoid pain. If you feel pain when you move, you will change the way you move. Over years of moving in particular patterns, we become set in our ways. There may be better, less painful ways to move, but we continue to automatically walk the same way, stand the same way, reach the same way.

Awareness Through Movement lessons introduce the student to new and unaccustomed ways of moving. The movement experimentation leads to ways of moving that are comfortable and pleasant. The central nervous system naturally prefers a way a moving that is comfortable and this basic set of facts produces a profound effect – old movement patterns are changed, and so is the pain that goes with it.

Can the Feldenkrais Method enhance balance?

Moshe Feldenkrais developed the Feldenkrais Method after he suffered a debilitating knee injury and then recovered by learning what movements would allow him to function. Dr. Feldenkrais found that people of every age and description could learn to function better through better movement.

Awareness Through Movement lessons can help you learn how to use the strength and stability of your skeleton to balance yourself easily and gracefully. The lessons help you to become aware of the movement patterns you rely on, and what other options for movement you have. After a Feldenkrais lesson, people often will have a sense of being more solid on their feet and will be
more aware of how they can move safely and smoothly.

How does the Feldenkrais Method improve sleep?

People in pain or under stress may have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. Often they hold unnecessary muscular tension and try to remain still when they are trying to fall asleep. These efforts can lead to stiffness, further pain, and more sleep problems, so that the cycle continues and worsens.

In each Awareness Through Movement lesson, students are directed to pay attention to their physical condition and to the quality of the movements they make. This exercise of directed attention strengthens your ability to move when you want to, and to relax when you want to. Students can be taught very small, gentle movements to do when they are sleepless. The movements can be done in bed and often change the way a person goes to sleep and the attitude the person has about sleeping. Once the worry about sleeping is gone, real changes can
occur easily.

What benefits does the Feldenkrais Method have for elders?

So many people are told that they have arthritis or degenerative disc disease and should expect pain and increasing loss of function as they age. The diagnosis often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as people restrict activity to avoid pain, and then become stiff. The stiffness and pain interfere with sleep, which exacerbates the situation.

Moshe Feldenkrais often worked with elders, and his goal was not only to increase mobility, decrease pain, and increase independence, but also to help seniors to “get growing again.” He emphasized that the Feldenkrais Method often produced surprising results and was particularly well suited to senior citizens. While younger people, when trying to learn something new, may use too much effort, people with lots of life experience have the wisdom to go slowly and learn well.

The Feldenkrais Method, with its slow, gentle movements is a great fit for older people. For those who have difficulty lying flat on the floor, lessons can be done while sitting in a chair.

What does an individual Feldenkrais lesson look like?

In this video, Eli Wadler is giving an individual Feldenkrais lesson. Mr. Wadler was a member of Moshe Feldenkrais’s first teacher training class in 1969, in Israel.