Enhance learning, movement and client self-responsibility
The Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education works in collaboration with health, wellness, and medical modalities and professionals to enhance client care and self-responsibility.
One of the beneficial ways Feldenkrais intersects with chiropractic is kinesthetic learning, resulting in patients with improved posture, balance, and ability to move with more ease.
Feldenkrais lessons before an adjustment also can assist by helping a patient relax and let go of holdings that make adjustments difficult. After a chiropractic adjustment, Feldenkrais lessons provide support and education that can help patients’ adjustments stick. It can become a symbiotic process that blends neurological, spinal, and kinesthetic experience to everyone’s advantage.
People can experience two opportunities within the method:
1. Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement group class: An investigation into proprioception from the moment you lie down. The invitation to connect thinking, sensing, and even the emotions with movement is the aim of every lesson. Instructions are given verbally, without demonstration, with an emphasis on attention.
“Notice your contact with the floor. What parts of your spine are present to your awareness? Is one shoulder heavier than the other? Are there parts that rest more comfortably than others?” The movement is slow; so slow that watching a class has been compared to watching grass grow. The motto is “less pain, more gain.”
The teacher guides the class through a series of movement sequences designed to bring greater clarity to habits and self-image, while offering possible options for improved functioning. People have described awareness through movement as moving Zen, Tai Chi lying down, and mindful movement. Feldenkrais emphasized that his work was not just for “… flexible bodies. It’s flexible brains I’m after.” Some movements are exquisitely simple, while others offer opportunities to challenge coordination and improve mental agility.
2. Feldenkrais individual sessions, called Functional Integration lessons: The emphasis still is on movement, but now, the experience is tailored to you. From the minute you walk in the door, the Feldenkrais practitioner works with your movement, thinking, sensing, and emotions around the issue you have brought to your appointment. The work usually is done on a Feldenkrais table, although the movement can also happen on the floor, as well as when standing and sitting, depending on the needs of the client.
A Feldenkrais table is wider than a massage table and can be firmer so there is room to move and receive sensory feedback. In many cases, the practitioner does the moving of clients’ limbs, joints, etc., while the client’s job is to attend to the sensations. The practitioner attends to where there is resistance, discomfort, freedom, or restriction in either movement or breath, guiding the client’s awareness. In this way, the practitioner facilitates a learning process for the client, who do and that we treat more than back pain.
This enables a person’s nervous system to absorb kinesthetic information that can result in changes in pain and the ability to move more easily. The process and intention always remains focused on the client’s growth and understanding. Feldenkrais practitioners work with each person to provide self-directed information and do not claim to fix anyone. They teach people how to reorganize themselves to improve on their own.
Feldenkrais taught contemporary ideas
Terms such as neuroplasticity, brain map, and neural network have entered the contemporary vernacular. Yet Moshe Feldenkrais, who developed his self-named method, was teaching principles around these ideas more than 50 years ago. He firmly believed that learning never stops, that health really is defined by a person’s resilience, and that the brain and the body are not separate, but a unified system. Change one thing and you change everything.
Depending on the issues, lessons are tailored to serve an extremely varied population. Because of the neurological connection, Feldenkrais lessons are extremely helpful with many aspects of chronic pain, injury rehabilitation, and neurological difficulties.
Working with special needs children is a niche specialty for many practitioners. Seniors also embrace Feldenkrais lessons as a way to maintain quality of life and move more effectively. On the other end of the spectrum are high performers, such as musicians, dancers, and athletes who include Feldenkrais lessons as part of their regimen to maintain peak performance.
Becoming a Feldenkrais practitioner
Feldenkrais practitioners generally train well over 900 hours during the course of three to four years. The times in between training segments are for study, practice, and integration. A Feldenkrais training involves what Feldenkrais called “experiential anatomy.” Students learn hundreds of movements that provide a kinesthetic experience of their structure, musculature, and functions. There are more than 1,000 awareness through movement lessons that explore breathing, reaching, turning, balance, and more.
Feldenkrais practitioners are certified in the U.S. and Canada by the Feldenkrais Guild of North America. They are, in turn, regulated by the International Feldenkrais Federation.
Lavinia Plonka is the author of several books and audio programs about the Feldenkrais Method. She teaches internationally and maintains a private practice in Asheville, N.C. She can be reached at laviniaplonka.com.
Nancy Haller, MA, has been a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner for more than 20 years in the Seattle area. She authored the Feldenkrais chapter in the textbook Integrative Pain Management (Handspring Publishing, 2016). She can be reached at nancyhaller.com.
For more information and to find practitioners in your region, visit feldenkrais.com.