27 November 2009


by Alternative.Health

Kathy James

The Feldenkrais Method® is unusual, unusually deep, subtle, and powerful. It’s a revolutionary approach to understanding how we function both physically and mentally, as well as providing tools for our improvement. So for example, if you are someone who experiences pain and have been told to exercise it is a step but it may not be enough. Our tendency to move in the same ways, guided by the same postural habits, sensory cues and mental images are strong. What an individual needs to learn is how they are moving and how their way of moving may relate to their pain or problem. Feldenkrais Practitioners are trained movement specialists, who help people move and live with greater comfort, flexibility and ease.

Before being introduced to Feldenkrais in 1975, I had spent about twenty-five years getting ready for it. I started with dancing— tap, jazz, ballet, whatever. I danced through my entire childhood, compelled by the sheer pleasure I experienced through movement. I didn’t think much about the importance of movement for health or well-being when I was young; I just knew that it made me feel good and gave me a sense of confidence.

In college I became interested in science, but continued to dance off and on. I yearned to find a way to combine the two, somehow. Then I took this workshop consisting of simple but unusual movement sequences that seemed so trivial—yet after each class I felt great! I still remember one of the classes, just turning our heads around to look behind us and then back to the front, repeating it several times. We then turned our heads while moving our eyes in the opposite direction, still very gently, repeating each movement. After a series of these strange variations, we were asked to repeat the original movement: I was shocked to discover that my range of movement had doubled with almost no effort, just be paying attention to my movement in new ways. This was my introduction to The Feldenkrais Method®.

After completing my degree in Zoology, I continued dancing, while looking for ways to integrate my two passions—scientific inquiry, and movement. When I heard about a training program with Moshe Feldenkrais, I knew that I had to do it. The four-year program began in Amherst, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1980, and culminated in Tel Aviv, Israel, where Moshe Feldenkrais lived.

That was almost thirty years ago. Today, most people have still not heard of the Feldenkrais Method®, but many folks have tried it, and have been helped by it. The Feldenkrais Method® consists of two basic forms—one on one individual sessions, called “Functional Integration®,” and group movement classes known as “Awareness Through Movement®.”

In Awareness Through Movement® classes, the Feldenkrais practitioner verbally guides people through a sequence of gentle movements. Many of these movements focus on simple daily actions such as reaching, looking behind yourself, breathing, sitting, improving balance, bending down, walking, or more complicated patterns such as yoga postures. Regardless of the specific movement, the point is always to move gently, and work at your own level.

Functional Integration® is the one-to-one, hands-on session in which the Feldenkrais practitioner and client work together to increase the client’s movement awareness and capacity, in supportive and non-invasive ways. Usually, the practitioner works with the client (fully clothed) on a low table, using gentle touch and verbal direction to guide the movement sequences that encourage new awareness and learning. The result is improved pain-free movement and improved performance in almost any area—be it sitting, walking, running, playing tennis, playing piano, gardening—whatever involves movement.

Moshe Feldenkrais was a true innovator, developing thousands of movement lessons that produce impressive changes. Worldwide there are more than 6,000 Feldenkrais Practitioners, using movement awareness to help people with all sorts of challenges, ranging from back, neck, shoulder, knee, hand or foot pain, to neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy; head injuries from accidents or strokes; chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia; to musicians and athletes who wish to improve their performance. Some practitioners have even applied their work to animals with impressive results. My favorite quote from Moshe Feldenkrais sums up our approach nicely: “To make the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy elegant.”

Kathy James is a Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, in private practice in Petaluma.

Email: kathytjames@att.net

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