The Feldenkrais Method

What is the Feldenkrais Method?

The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic approach that was developed over 40 years of research by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais who was an Engineer, Scientist and Judo-master.Using gentle movements and directed attention, the method assists us to discover and let go of limiting patterns of movement, behaviour, thinking and feeling. The work allows neuronal pathways to change in a way that does not compromise the security of the participants. Using quiet curiosity and ingenious movement explorations, the participants learn how they are performing unconscious patterns of holding, (not) breathing, tensing or flabbiness and begin to create alternative modes which are simple, comfortable and pleasant.

Moshe Feldenkrais

Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) led a remarkable life. He was born in the Ukraine and lived the majority of his life in Israel. At the age of 13, he left his family and travelled with fellow villagers to Palestine. One story on this journey immediately expresses some of the character of the man. One day pork was being cooked on an open fire. The smell was wonderful and Moshe was hungry. Having been raised in a kosher home, he was forbidden to partake. Somehow, though so young, Moshe began to question this restriction.

"Why," he said to himself, "should I forbid myself this food simply because my parents had certain beliefs? Can't I make a different choice?" Moshe proceeded to take a portion of the meat and subsequently vomited. Insulted by this inability and his apparent lack of internal freedom, Moshe went back for another portion; again he couldn't keep it down. After a few more rounds, he finally was able to digest the food. His idea was not that it was bad to be Kosher or that dietary restrictions are inherently wrong, rather that human beings should be able to freely choose their path in life ! Placing freedom and choice high on the scale of qualities that 'make a human, human', is central to understanding Feldenkrais. To be able to question our motives and historical conditioning and then to make a choice in freedom is one of our highest values. (We will see later how this relates to posture, breathing and other functions).

After moving to France to study Physics and Engineering, Moshe escaped from Paris during World War II and went to work in Great Britain for the allies. After badly reinjuring his knee and being told that surgery gave him a 50% chance of having a limp for life, he studied anatomy, physiology and the evolution of movement to teach himself alternative ways of moving. He added these new studies to his understanding of mechanics and gravity from his scientific training, and to his understanding of movement he had gained from judo training in order to facilitate his own healing.

Approach and Benefits

Feldenkrais placed the ideas of freedom, creativity, and spontaneity at the centre of his work. He saw life and maturation as processes that work to expand our potential, reduce limitations (whether they be in movement, behaviour, thinking, or emotion) and allow us to learn in an organic way. This learning involves the whole person. He believed that when we work with someone we are always working with the whole person and not just with ‘the body’ or ‘the emotions’. 

In this way, perhaps the greatest benefit in a therapeutic context is the attitude of the practitioner to the person. Using the Feldenkrais method we present a listening space free of judgment. Our approach is to the whole person though we are looking at how this unity exists in the movement and body tensions of the person we are working with.

Feldenkrais identified two ways that his technique could be applied. The first was in a group setting as part of a class, and the second was in a one-to-one setting with the therapist. The group classes are sophisticated and enjoyable movement explorations. These are carried out while lying, sitting, or standing, often taking a particular function as a theme. The intention is to add new possibilities of movement, action and thought, to regain ease in our movement, reduce tension, eliminate pain, and deepen self-awareness. The one-to-one modality of the work and is generally a more profound way to experience the method. Here the practitioner can create sessions for the individual needs of the person. This is mostly hands on work carried out in a respectful, gentle manner. The client is fully clothed and often lying down for a good part of the session. 

A central aim of the work is to reduce  body tension and also gives the participants a tool to help them discover their own particular way of creating tension and the key to releasing it. The sessions or group classes are also enjoyable in themselves. Rather than attempting to “fix” the person, we are interested in discovering the habitual body patterns and presenting alternative possibilities to the person, which will become part of their repertoire of action and behavior.
In this way the method provides a safe atmosphere in which to change patterns of holding and tension that are associated with emotional difficulties, pain or day to day stress and strain. Our beliefs and habits of thinking and feeling intimately affect our posture, our way of breathing or holding our breath and all manner of muscular actions. Working with the Feldenkrais Method assists us to discover new modes of moving, thinking and feeling. The Feldenkrais Method assists us to move closer to our human potential. It is used to reduce and eliminate pain and discomfort by people with minor to serious pains and limitations or by people whose injuries never cleared up satisfactorily.
My experience has shown it to be an excellent way of handling stress and can assist greatly when working through emotional challenges. One does not have to be in pain to benefit from the method. Anyone with curiosity and a desire to enhance the quality of their movement, deepen their self-awareness and improve their well-being will gain from using the method.
About the author: 

Mark has been a Feldenkrais practitioner for 10 years. He completed his training in Basel, Switzerland and since that time has practiced both in Switzerland and Ireland. He currently practices in Dublin and also specialises in working with children with special needs using the Anat Baniel method. For more information or to get in touch go to

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