The method developed by Dr. M. Feldenkrais creates ideal conditions for organic learning making use of self-awareness and self-correction to organize our movements with greater ease and pleasure. The approach, given the primacy of motor functions for any human activity, can be applied to many situations and it is beneficial for every human being.
For instance it is used by musicians, dancers and actors to hone their ability to perform, by athletes who wants to improve their skills, but also by people who needs to recover lost basic motor functions, victims of strokes or accidents or after trauma.
Is is also widely used to help special needs children who are in need of support to learn motor skills and overcome their limitations.
One benefit of the method is also in reducing or eliminating chronic pain mostly through a redistribution of muscular tonus and better awareness of the contracted areas.
The method is currently gaining a lot of scientific recognition[1,2], as it anticipated many current discoveries on the functioning of the nervous system, and offers a direct and simple experiential way to make use of the vast potential of the central nervous system to reorganize itself.
It provides us with increased freedom, comfort, efficiency and pleasure in what we do, think, and feel.
Dr. Feldenkrais developed two different but intimately related approaches to practice the method:
Awareness Through Movement are virtually infinite series of different movement sequences to be explored gently. The lessons are structured in many different ways, and are always safe for the pupil. Many make use of mechanical constraints in the body and are extremely complex, but complexity is gradually built from very simple ingredients that are made clear to the students in many different ways, so that what initially seem impossible become not only possible but also easy and elegant. Gentleness, awareness and an almost infinite catalogue of rich lessons gives everyone the opportunity to greatly benefit from the method.
Functional Integration are a conversation in movement and are as unique as conversations can be. The practitioner gently guides the student to recognize familiar movement patterns and explore novel movements possibilities. This type of lessons are essential when it is virtually impossible to follow verbal instructions (e.g. with babies, or injured individuals) but they also provide a faster way to recognize blind areas in high performing individuals (e.g. performers, athletes, musicians, etc...) or discover ways to move away from pain.
Moshé Feldenkrais (1904 – 1984) was a man who pursued his passions to the highest level. His life was so full of events that it seems directly taken from a movie and the variety of his knowledges links him with the renaissance souls like Leonardo or Galileo.
Amongst his almost infinite list of passions we find physics and engineering, he was a member of the Joliot-Curie group working on nuclear research before World War Two, judo and martial arts, he was one of the first Judo black belt in Europe, a direct pupil of Jigor Kato, the creator of Judo, who deputized him to introduce the martial art in France.
An injury to his knee in his youth threatened him with severe disability in middle age and triggered his research on recovery of lost functions in humans.
His discovery was related to a serendipitous event, the observation that when the other leg also suffered an injury an extremely fast functional recovery occurred in the injured knee. This change was to sudden to be related to anything else than some change occurring in the brain, but this phenomenon was at odd with the description of how the brain worked in his days.
After studying all he could find on anatomy, physiology, and neurology, and completing all the basic medical school courses, Feldenkrais realized that there was no explaination for his observation, and he asked himself
Can I retrain my brain to do all that I could do prior to my injury?
He understood that changes in the body are reflected in the parts of the brain that is devoted to movements and sensations very quickly. What nowadays is termed "neuroplasticity". He used his knowledge in anatomy, physiology, psychology and engineering, as well as his mastery of martial arts, not only to heal his own knee, providing a resounding "Yes" to his own question, but to understand and speak the "language" that your nervous system needs to be used when learns a new skill or recovers a function.
This language is based on several ingredients, the main ones are : Awareness and Movement