Awareness Through Movement lessons are designed to improve ability, that is, to expand the boundaries of the possible, to turn the impossible into the possible, the difficult into the easy and the easy into the pleasant.”
– Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc.
The Feldenkrais Method can best be described as an intelligently structured “learning-to-learn” approach. Its characteristic playfulness is modelled on natural learning-processes as found in childhood. ‘Making mistakes’ is encouraged since they may lead to unexpected discoveries and surprising results. Predetermined goals are avoided because they tend to inhibit real learning. Feldenkrais used to say:
“In knowing what to achieve before we have learned how to learn, we can reach only the limit of our ignorance”.
Dr. Weil often recommends trying the Feldenkrais Method for the treatment of any kind of neurological injury or insult, especially since it claims success in training the nervous system in developing and utilizing new pathways around areas of damage. Feldenkrais has specifically demonstrated success in helping to rehabilitate stroke victims. It is also effective with head injuries and other neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Feldenkrais can be an effective part of an integrative-medicine approach to any painful condition from degenerative arthritis to fibromyalgia. Because it can help a person feel more comfortable within his or her body, Dr. Weil also feels that Feldenkrais can be an effective adjunct to psychotherapy and the treatment of mood disorders.
- Our nervous system senses fine differences best when the level of stimulation is small. Sensing these differences creates the most potent and lasting neuromuscular change appropriate to the individual, and it’s why there’s a strong emphasis on movement quality (light, easy, soft, slow, smooth) over quantity (we don’t do many rote repetitions or use big ranges of motion very often).
- So to dispel a common misconception: Feldenkrais lessons aren’t gentle to be nice. They’re gentle so they can work, and so that your attention won’t be distracted by stretch, strain, or pain and thus diverted from the new, very refined sensations that will lead most rapidly to your improvement, short and long-term.
- Under these healthy learning conditions, our nervous system will spontaneously begin to approximate the improved biomechanical organizations that the lesson structures point to. This process becomes fascinating and pleasurable and self-reinforcing—in or out of a Feldenkrais lesson, consciously and unconsciously. Quality of life improvements will follow by necessity as awareness improves.
- Over time (even within one lesson) a new self awareness arises. (Awareness is simply a practiced and automatic attention.) Through awareness we begin to spontaneously move more efficiently, pleasurably, and sustainably in the lesson movements and in our own activities.
- Eventually we can even consciously call up an easier image of self use when we notice we’re in pain, straining, or frustrated in our activities. Self-confidence rises as we feel we are real agents of change for ourselves through improving our comfort and effectiveness in the world.
- Given the choice, our nervous system rewires to be able to choose simpler, more efficient self organizations in any activity. This capacity to change how we function is called neuroplasticity.
- Muscles are dumb, by the way. Nearly all of them only do what our brains tell them to do. It’s just that much of the telling has become unaware habit. Feldenkrais reintroduces awareness and choice.
- Finally, we so often lie down to study because it reduces the load on the nervous system dramatically. Some studies show as much as 90% of our brain function is related to not falling when we’re standing. By doing lessons in a non-habitual orientation to gravity we have a chance to address aspects of self that were far too locked into habitual postural work to uncover new options safely.
- Our self: brain, body, consciousness, spirit if you will…it’s all operated by one nervous system. It functions as a whole at all times. We cannot separate out aspects or parts to “work on.” Fascinatingly, as we effect change in any sphere of the self image (Moshe Feldenkrais said the self image was composed of thinking, feeling, sensing, and acting), the others all change too. This leads to other applications of the method. Though movement is our “way in” and the primary language of the brain, Feldenkrais can lead to surprising psychological improvement. Many students come to stem anxiety or unlock their creativity.
If I hold a twenty pound weight, I cannot detect a fly landing on it because the least detectable difference in the stimulus is half a pound.
On the other hand, if i hold a feather, a fly landing on it makes a great difference.
Obviously then, in order to be able to tell the differences in exertion one must first reduce the exertion.
Finer and finer performance is possible only if the sensitivity, that is, the ability to feel the difference is improved.
Find your true weakness and surrender to it. Therein lies the path to genius. Most people spend their lives using their strengths to overcome or cover up their weaknesses. Those few who use their strengths to incorporate their weaknesses, who don’t divide themselves, those people are very rare. In any generation there are a few and they lead their generation.