Doing Feldenkrais

Search ‘Feldenkrais’ on the internet and you’ll be treated to on-line lessons for the relief of RSI and the like. This is because the essence of this method is experiential. You can read about the method if you wish to know more. With titles like ‘The Potent Self: A Guide to Spontaneity’, and ‘The Body and Mature Behaviour: A Study of Anxiety. Sex, Gravitation and Learning’, Feldenkrais’ own books are a challenging journey. However, Awareness Through Movement (1972), his introductory text incorporates actual lessons and encourages the reader to get on the floor and have a go. In this method, knowing HOW to do something is of much more importance than knowing why.
One aspect of ‘doing Feldenkrais’ is the Awareness Through Movement lesson, or ATM. The ATM student lies down on carpet as the teacher gives simple instructions as to the movement of parts of the body. If the instructions are followed with attention the body gently learns how to do something different from what it usually does. These changes gradually become a permanent part of the student’s movement repertoire.

Head teacher at the Australian Feldenkrais Centre, Peter Binns, likes to tell the story of the high-powered New York lawyer who had a passion for ATM lessons. After vigorous litigation or some such courtroom drama he would take time out to roll and crawl as softly and deftly as a baby. It put the wrangling of his profession in perspective for him and this man continues to do Feldenkrais training segments around the world.

The other aspect of learning with Feldenkrais is via what Moshe termed the ‘functional integration’ lesson, or FI. This is a one on one lesson in which the teacher teaches the student’s body new movements by gently manipulating the limbs in non-habitual ways.

Feldenkrais himself explained the FI as being like dancing. If someone cannot dance no book or diagram is going to help. The only way is to dance with someone who knows how and sense the way it’s done. An FI lesson can teach even a student with cerebral palsy how to move, or a world class athlete how to move even better.