Some Feldenkrais Basics

Cliff Smyth, MS, GCFT

People often ask us, 'How does it work?', 'What makes Feldenkrais unique?'. As an experiential and exploratory process, it is best to get to know Feldenkrais for yourself. Here are some of the ideas that underlie the Method.

The Feldenkrais Method makes use of the inherent ability of your nervous systems to sense your and your environment - and use this information to learn how to move in new ways. Improvement comes in two ways:

  • your nervous systems selecting and directly learning ways of moving that are more efficient, less effortful and less painful,
  • conscious awareness of your movement habits and new options for action.

Feldenkrais lessons utilize the intimate and essential relationship between sensation and movement. Through touch and movement in Functional Integration, and directed attention and movement in Awareness Through Movement, people can regain sensation and gain a more precise sense of position and movement of your bodies. Feldenkrais lessons use both functional and novel patterns of movement, along with directed attention.

We think of the Feldenkrais Method as a method of somatic education. By 'learning' in the Feldenkrais Method, we mean embodied, experiential learning - the kind of learning you did as children when you first learned to do things and explore your environment - rather than academic learning. 'Somatic' education is about the lived, experienced body.

Feldenkrais can be seen as an awareness practice. Becoming aware of our habits of movement and perception can create new possibilities. The ability to know what you are doing as you do it is the basis of awareness. Moshe Feldenkrais often said, 'If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want. Learning to attend to yourselves in Feldenkrais lessons can create new habits of being aware of yourself in all of life. Learning how to shift your attention can give you tools to notice how you make movements (whether you want to reduce strain or pain or achieve higher performance), when you are uncomfortable or fatigued, how you are breathing, how you are responding to your current situation and much more. It is an essential life skill.

In Feldenkrais, we emphasize learning to move in ways that reduce effort and strain. We often start with slow, small and gentle movements to you can increase our sensitivity to ourselves, reduce unnecessary effort and reduce the risk of strain or pain. A unique aspect of Feldenkrais work is that it makes use of the Fechner-Weber law of biomechanics. The Fechner-Weber law shows that using less force allows for more sensitivity to our actual level of effort. Finding how to use only the necessary amount of force, and really rest in between activities, can help you improve all your activities.

Our habits can include the ability to move with great ease and comfort. Unfortunately, our habitual patterns of movement and perception can also lead to injury and pain. Feldenkrais allows you to experience the principles underlying good bodily movement.

Because moving, sensing, thinking and feeling are inseparable in reality, our students and clients often report that improvements in habits movement and perception lead them to feel move flexible, responsive and expressive in their thinking and emotional lives.

Awareness is the key: improving how you act, and how you interact with your environment is the deep change that makes life easier. As Moshe Feldenkrais said,'Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of movement and we improve the quality of life itself'.

Cliff Smyth, 2007