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What is the Feldenkrais Method?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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The Feldenkrais Method is a form of body awareness that is often thought of as alternative or complementary medicine. As designed by Dr Moshé Feldenkrais, in the 1960s, the goal of the Feldenkrais Method was to take a holistic approach to movement. Awareness of the movement of the body could promote subtle changes, enhance movement ability, and perhaps aid in treating those with injuries that inhibit movement.

Moving in a holistic way is called positive functioning. To Dr. Feldenkrais, positive functioning was key to being healthy. Positive functioning not only deals with the way we move, but the way we think about moving. Thus the Feldenkrais Method can be said to be a mind/body experience.

The Feldenkrais Method became popular in the US in the early 1970s. Dr. Feldenkrais taught at Esalen, and then offered seminars in San Francisco in the late 1970s, and in Massachusetts in the early 1980s. Essentially, two types of Feldenkrais method are practiced.

The first type of Feldenkrais Method can be taught in classes of numerous people, with a single instructor. These classes, called Awareness Through Movement (ATM), have students perform very simple exercises per the instructor’s directions. Unlike a calisthenics class, movements may be quite small and can generally be performed by people of all fitness levels. The goal is to connect mind and body by being aware of how the body moves.

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The second type of Feldenkrais Method is called “functional integration.” This may be a private lesson where the instructor moves the student’s body. Functional integration is often used to help people overcome specific movement problems, which perhaps might result from an old injury. The movements are again quite subtle, but are meant to teach the person how to move with greater ease. ATM may also be taught privately, but is more often taught to a small group of students.

Currently, practitioners of the Feldenkrais Method must have 800 hours of training before being certified in their profession. In the US, those trained in the method usually have certification with the Feldenkrais Guild of North America. Other countries also have certifying agencies, and it is important to work with someone who is actually registered with a guild.

Some with injuries or conditions like arthritis find the Feldenkrais Method to be of tremendous assistance. Others do not benefit much from the method. It does require a skilled practitioner, an open mind, and an extraordinary amount of self-awareness for some to find success.

Popularity of the Feldenkrais Method was highest in the early 1980s. Since then, other mind/body methods, especially some forms of yoga, have surpassed the Feldenkrais Method. Yoga and Feldenkrais can actually be quite compatible, and many find benefits from a combination of both practices.

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