Acclaim: What leading authors are writing about Feldenkrais Method

Feldenkrais, Health, and Neuroscience
Norman Doidge, MD

The [Feldenkrais] Method can be used for a variety of conditions – back, neck, head and jaw pain, problems due to artificial hips and knees, fused spines, and arthritic conditions. It is useful to anyone who has to sit at a computer all day, or for those who have to be particularly physically active or aware, including athletes, soldiers, surgeons and actors.

[Moshe] Feldenkrais eventually used his approach... helping people with strokes learn how to read, speak, and walk again, or for treating people with cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.

Many well-known treatments for musculoskeletal pain treat the problem locally, by strengthening the affected area (physiotherapy), using surgery, or twisting the spine with force (chiropractics). Feldenkrais' Method focuses on general functioning. Regardless of the cause – an aching back, artificial joint, arthritis, or tension – Feldenkrais assigns exercises to make his pupils aware of movement. “Errors” of movement are not “corrected.” Rather, lack of flow is noticed. Then, in the low stimulus environment, barely detectable movements are prescribed. These minute changes induce the nervous system to lower the general tone of muscular contraction, so the sufferer can become consciously aware of the unconscious movement pat- terns that exacerbate or cause the problem.

Watching and listening… [Feldenkrais Method] classes I was amazed to see how many of the concepts are similar to those used in psychotherapy done properly – which is patiently. Feldenkrais knew, as did Sherrington, the great neurologist, that most of the brain’s activity is inhibitory: it stops, retards or modifies the actions of our more flowing primitive animal brain. Most bad habits include jerky inhibitory compensations or vestigial “defenses” that once protected an injury, but now are locked in. Instead of attacking bad postural habits directly (which often only makes them get worse), the master practitioner finds ingenious ways to release the bad habits.

For instance, new non-habitual ways of moving are introduced, to confuse the current pattern. People with bad posture secondary to knee problems might be asked to walk backwards for a bit, both to scramble the bad habit, and because bad compensations haven't yet attached themselves to backward walking. Then, having experienced what it is like to walk without bad posture, they relearn walking forward, spontaneously, in a re-organized, nimble way, so they don't hurt their tender knees. The aim is always to move without wasted energy or willpower. Often, at the end of a class, muscles have softened, eyes are more open, breathing is deeper and pain has decreased. People may stand an inch taller.

Feldenkrais also conducted one-on-one sessions, called Functional Integration, where he used his hands to diagnose movement problems, and then gently moved people's limbs, necks, and heads, teaching a suppleness that could be generalized to all movements.

From: New hope for aching, creaky yuppie bodies, National Post, October 6, 1999

Dr Doidge is the author of two books on neuroplasticity, The Brain That Changes Itself  (2007), and The Brain’s Way of Healing (2015) – which includes two chapters on the Feldenkrais Method.

Understanding the Feldenkrais Method
Mayo Clinic Health Letter Supplement

The chief goal of the... Feldenkrais Method is to help you become more aware of your posture and movement patterns, explore how you limit yourself, and enhance learning of new patterns. It's said to do this be re-educating your neuromuscular system. It is based on the theory that people over time develop patterns to compensate for pain and injury, but these patterns can become obstacles to healing and optimal functioning. Subtle changes to these habits can improve flexibility, balance, breathing, and coordination, easing tension, strain and pain.

The [Method] is offered in two forms. In the first you're verbally guided through gentle movements, typically while lying on the floor or sitting in a chair. The second form uses hands-on contact to address individual needs. To do this, your teacher may move your arms, legs, head or trunk in ways that enhance your awareness of movement patterns. With both forms, your teacher may draw attention to elements such as your breathing or the differences between the two sides of the body. Attention to these elements demonstrates how small differences in these aspects may change the quality of movement and the ease or difficulty with which it is accomplished.

Because the movements are gentle and involve no pain or strain, most people can participate and possibly benefit from the Feldenkrais Method. People who use Feldenkrais Method often notice changes in thought patterns when they change their movement patterns.

Feldenkrais Method is most often used for increased flexibility, coordination and balance; neck, back and joint pain relief; headache; neuro-muscular disorders and physical rehabilitation. It's also said to improve athletic performance and to help circumventing creative "blocks".

From: Special Report: Integrative Medicine, 
Supplement to Mayo Clinic Health Letter, June 2010.

Moving with Ease
Andew Weil, MD

Have your ever watched a baby learn how to crawl, sit, stand or walk? The Feldenkrais Method is based on the premise that we have all forgotten how to move with such natural ease and awareness. By paying close attention to the signals our bodies give us and gently exploring new ways of moving, claim practitioners, we can rediscover the free, effortless sense of movement we had in the first few years of life – and undo many of the aches and pains that plague us as adults who have literally become too set in our ways.

I have long been intrigued by this subtle form of retraining the nervous system, which I currently recommend to patients whose movement has been restricted by injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, fibromyalgia, or chronic pain. (I find it to be much more useful than standard physical therapy). I also believe the Feldenkrais Method can help older people achieve greater range of motion and flexibility, and help all of us feel move comfortable in our bodies.

(Moshe) Feldenkrais believed that most of us go through life using habitual patterns to compensate for past injuries or learned them on the job (through performing repetitive motions or sitting for long periods). Yet few of us really pay attention to how our bodies move until something hurts. The key to healing, Feldenkrais felt, is learning to be aware of these unconscious patterns of movement, and experimenting with new possibilities until your find ways to move with the least effort and strain. Through repetition you body "learns" these new, more efficient movements and can program the brain and nervous system to incorporate them into your everyday functioning.

Today, there are more than 1,000... practitioners working in the US and Canada, leading group classes to everyone from cab drivers and computer bound office workers to sufferers of arthritis and MS. It is a popular modality among musicians and athletes... who use it to improve coordination and enhance performance...

From: Self Healing [newsletter], May 1998. Dr Andrew Weil is the author of Spontaneous Healing (1995) and many other books.  He is founder, professor, and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.

Physical Habits and Emotional Habits
Tara Bennet-Goleman, PhD

Feldenkrais proposed that the habitual ways we move our bodies are ingrained in the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls motions. Most of us have a few habits of holding or moving that limit our potential or even cause us pain. To open people up to their full potential, Feldenkrais believed, requires breaking out of the rut of habit. And that, he said , means that changes need to occur within the motor cortex, so that new neuromuscular patterns can be formed that maximizes rather than limits our ability to use our bodies. 

Doing so, he proposed, could alter other habits, too, including emotional ones. He believed that making changes in the motor cortex would bring changes in the habitual conditioning controlled by other parts of the brain. "The only thing permanent about our behavior," Moshe used to say, "is the belief that it is so." 

His attitude toward habit change was refreshing and encouraging: much is possible if we allow ourselves to climb out of our familiar mind-sets and routines and so gain access to a greater range possibilities. ...when we do a familiar task in a novel way, we stir a fresh awareness. The dull, automatic routine becomes an opportunity for a small awakening. 

In this sense, breaking free from a habit, no matter how seemingly trivial, can bring a shift in our awareness, inspiring a fresh attitude: beginner's mind, seeing things as if for the first time. And that fresh look gives us the option of doing things differently.

From: Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind can Heal the Heart,
by Tara Bennett-Goleman (2001).

Original Methods, Striking Results
James S. Gordon, MD

Moshe Feldenkrais… initially developed his method to deal with his own disability – a knee that he had torn up playing sports. Feldenkrais, who was brilliantly analytic and wonderfully intuitive, discovered that he could create and teach movements that would re-educate the brain and in turn enable it to communicate in new ways with the rest of the body. He taught it in one-to-one, hands-on sessions, and in classes where students practiced movements...’ ‘Feldenkrais’ methods were original and dramatic, and the results were striking. Stroke victims and people with cerebral palsy often recovered functions they had been told were forever gone. Ordinary …people discovered they could expand their repertory of movements and, in the bargain, their own sense of psychological as well as physical possibility.

From: James S. Gordon, M.D., Manifesto For A New Medicine: Your Guide to Healing Partnerships and The Wise Use of Alternative Therapies (1996).

James Gordon is Director, Center for Mind-Body Medicine, Washington DC; and is the former Chair of the Advisory Council of National Institute of Health's Office of Alternative Medicine, and was founding Dean of the School of Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook University.

Physiology: The Avenue of Excellence
Anthony Robbins

The better you use your body, the better your brain is going to work. That's the essence of the work of Moshe Feldenkrais. He used movement to teach people how to think and how to live. Feldenkrais found that simply by working on a kinaesthetic level you can improve your self-image, your state, and the overall functioning of your brain. In fact, he states that the quality of your life is the quality of your movement. His works are an invaluable source for creating human transformation though improving physiology in a very specific way.

From: Anthony Robbins, Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement (1997).

Tony Robbins is a well known coach and inspirational speaker.