What is the Feldenkrais Method

What is the Feldenkrais Method:

Moshe Feldenkrais was an Isreali physicist who designed a system of exercise to improve human functioning by increasing self-awareness through movement. He taught his method in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. He died in 1984. He was a man ahead of his time. Todd Hargrove, a movement therapist, gives an excellent overview of the Feldenkrais approach in his book, A Guide to Better Movement (2014). In this book, Todd details some specific exercises based on the Feldenkrais’ method to retrain relaxed movement in different parts of the body. This is an excellent reference book, and is highly recommended if you are trying to integrate the principles of retraining the nervous system into your clinical practice. (www.bettermovement.org)

Therapeutically, we know and understand that changes which happen quickly are due to the rapid changes that can be made within the central nervous system. The Feldenkrais method aims to use this principle of rapid change within the nervous system in order to make positive changes to patient’s movement patterns. It takes practice and attention to accomplish this goal.

We ARE what we practice.

We need to get our patients to practice normal movement in a non-threatening way. What is normal movement? The training principles to consider are:

  • The mechanical stresses of a movement should be ideally shared across many joints versus focusing on one joint. The more we spread out the load of a movement across multiple joints, the less threatening that movement will be. This suggests that when we retrain movement we need to use whole body exercises versus isolated joint movements.
  • Coordination, flexibility and mobility are also very important for normal movement
  • Stability and balance should also to be considered when training normal movement by varying the position of the exercises that are prescribed
  • Position and timing of a movement can be trained by varying speed of the activity
  • When a movement is relaxed, it becomes more efficient

These training principles can be easily met by incorporating principles from the Feldenkrais method into your clinical practice.  As therapists we understand that retraining movement affects the tissues as well as the nervous system. The tissues (bones, muscles, joints) are the hardware; the central nervous system is the software.

“Change the software to create better outcomes in the way we move and feel.”

Perception is the interpretation of sensory information and assigning meaning to it; we can train and change perception. We also know that movement occurs based on prediction. We need to change the perception of movement (and the threat involved with movement) in order to change the default settings- and then we have to practice it often. You are what you practice. The more we practice tension, the tenser we become. The more we practice relaxed movement, the more relaxed we become.


How does perception/awareness change with re-mapping exercises:

Imagine the shape and position of your right knee: the exact position, the shape, how the patella is sitting on the femur.

Now use your hands to feel the knee, the way it is positioned, the femur, the lower leg, the patella. Feel the space behind the knee and the patella in front.

Take your hands away and imagine the shape and position of your right knee again.

Is it clearer than the left?

That’s due to your input to the mechanoreceptors around the knee; they sent signals to the brain and “lit up” the maps. It’s temporary right now, but what if you did that every day?

Ultimately we need to understand what our therapeutic goals are:

1. To increase awareness of non-threatening movements in order to change persistent pain.

2.  To change our patient’s body maps so that their default setting no longer “protects by producing pain” in that movement or activity.

The body mapping exercises in these audio file selections that reflect the training principles of the Feldenkrais method are:

  1. Sitting Body Map 1: Retrain relaxed sitting posture, and the threat associated with it
  2. Sitting Body Map 2: Retrain relaxed dynamic sitting, and the importance of movement in this otherwise static activity
  3. Lying Body Map: Retrain relaxed lying postures, and the threat associated with them