Functional Integration is a sophisticated art form requiring a high degree of sensory acuity and the unusual ability to join ourselves with another. During Dr. Feldenkrais’ first training program in Tel-Aviv, he focused exclusively on developing his student’s Functional Integration skills.
Dr. Feldenkrais demonstrated manual techniques, worked with each student individually, and provided detailed in-the-moment feedback while they practiced on him and with each other.
The students who graduated from this training became outstanding Practitioners.
To my mind, Functional Integration has an ‘outside’ aspect and an ‘inside’ aspect.
The outside is concerned with the way a lesson is composed, the way it is adapted, which functions are embedded in it, what developmental and neurological dynamics are involved, etc.
The inner aspect of Functional Integration is concerned with the ways we use our own thoughts, images, intentions, organization, dialogical understanding and actions to communicate biologically important information to another person’s nervous system.
I believe that in order to achieve the “magic” of Functional Integration, we must fully understand and engage with this inner aspect.
There is little doubt in my mind that the motor function, and perhaps the muscles themselves, are part and parcel of our higher functions. This is not true only of those higher functions like singing, painting and loving, which are impossible without muscular activity, but also of thinking, recalling, remembering and feeling.
The advantage of approaching the unity of mental and muscular life through the body lies in the fact that the muscle expression is simpler because it is concrete and easier to locate. It is also incomparably easier to make a person aware of what is happening in the body, therefore the body approach yields faster and more direct results. On acting on the significant parts of the body, such as the eyes, the neck, the breath, or the pelvis, it is easy to effect striking changes of mood on the spot (…)
“When I begin to work with someone I never think it will not work because the thing in which I have an absolute confidence, more than anything else, is … the perfection of the human brain. A few days ago a doctor interviewed and asked me: “What do you do with people? … You better their brain?” And I thought it was an idea quite ridiculous. If God or the evolution does not improve our brain (…) I have never found anyone who said that our brain is not good enough. And, of course, perhaps it will evolve again, become better … but I’m not making brains better. I improve their function, I improve the use of the brain, this is but … to improve the brain? Who can improve the brain? Who would dare to think that it can improve the most wonderful creation that is in the earth? So you can not improve it, but you can find people who can learn, change the way they use their brains. ” Moshe Feldenkrais, Amherst Training, August 1981
In his exciting new book, The Brain’s Way of Healing, Norman Doidge, M.D. introduces Dr. Feldenkrais as an early “neuroplastician” who had a sophisticated understanding of the human brain that was decades ahead of his time.
Today, as people become interested in accessing their own brain’s “neuroplastic” abilities, the Feldenkrais Method® is ready to help with hundreds of effective user-friendly Awareness Through Movement® exercises and a gentle hands-on approach that can be used to engage the brain’s plasticity to bring about improvements in the body’s comfort and function.
The emphasis in the Feldenkrais method® is in the learning process that brings the student to increase his/her awareness about his/her inefficient way to move the body caused by habitual patterns and discover new alternatives which result in a better flexibility and coordination. The Feldenkrais Method® is a learning process that can last for the entire life and it is based on the idea that everyone can learn how to use his/her body in a more functional and efficient way through the neuroplasticity of the brain, the ability to replace old and ineffective habits with new ones which are functional and useful for one’s life.
By Massimo Galli