"What I am after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains....what I am after is to restore each person to their human dignity"
How does Feldenkrais work?
Feldenkrais is a somatic movement method which means the way something feels and how you move is more important than the shapes you end up making. This skill creates options for restoring pleasurable, efficient moving and allows you to tap into a felt sense of wholeness - a sense of knowing what makes you, you.
In general, the Feldenkrais Method is about knowing how you are doing something you do every day and incorporating more movement variations into your daily repertoire. This enables you to do what you want in a way that is pleasurable and meaningful to you and not driven by external messaging.
Central Principles of Feldenkrais
To move with ease and quality in a way that is pleasing to you. When we are at ease we are more likely to notice more about how we move and be aware of the subtle shifts taking place. When we have more of these experiences our physical, feelings and mental states can shift and we then have more choice about how we feel. If something feels pleasing, we are more likely to be in a state in which we can take in new information – a learning state for our nervous systems– and more likely to stay with it.
For this reason, in classes you’ll hear prompts to:
keep the movement slow
stay within your comfort range
make the movement smooth and easily reversible
And cues to notice if:
your breath stays free while you do a movement
you can pay attention to other parts of your body while you make a seemingly unrelated movement
Moving more slowly helps you to sense how you’re moving and to get under your habits by intervening in the spaces where movement would ordinarily become tricky and to choose a different movement option. It’s difficult to catch these places if you move too quickly.
Moving gently also helps to influence your nervous system by finding a sweet spot where moving feels better and pleasurable. This also gets under habits by avoiding any flight, fight, freeze or collapse responses and/or pain.
These types of cues help you to learn to notice the markers of quality in movement and to tap into them more often. It’s not about creating perfect coordination but the ability to pay and shift attention to how you move that can impact your wellbeing and personal agency in the world.
"...the human nervous system is eminently suitable for change" - Moshe Feldenkrais
Pain and Feldenkrais
If you’re in chronic pain, your attention can become swept away by the part of you that hurts until you cannot focus on anything else and your experience of yourself shrinks. In Feldenkrais classes you learn to expand how you sense yourself, so the pain becomes incorporated into a larger experience of yourself. Mindfully paying attention to your whole self while moving helps your nervous system settle which in turn helps turn down the dial on pain.
Psychologically, you untangle the overidentification of you “as pain” and learn that a large component of pain is about your habits of movement and attention. Once that is experienced, you then have a capacity to state shift.
The habitual shapes you make can also reinforce your emotional states. So by playing with movement variations, developing curiosity and the ability to shift your attention you learn via direct sensory feedback that these emotional states that can feel as if they are your identity aren’t. They can be felt as a grouping of habits and from this place you can play with them and have creative state shifts.
If you enjoy an unfolding exploratory process skip these paragraphs and immerse yourself in a session instead. However, if understanding the architecture of sessions motivates you, read on to learn how and why sessions are structured the way they are.
What happens in a group class?
Feldenkrais classes are modelled on functional movements that have been decontexualised (usually by lying on the floor) so that you have an opportunity to sense how you move with freshness and an opportunity to create multiple habits for the movements you engage in everyday.
The general idea is that you differentiate all the micro elements of the movement and then integrate them into a whole at the end of the class. That way all the elements have a chance to be included in your movement creating ease and preventing strain and overuse.
Classes start with a body scan, often lying down, where you sense how you are lying on the floor, specifically the pressure of different parts on the floor, parts that don’t contact the floor, your breathing and the shapes you are making.
you notice your boundaries (what is you and what is not)
these can offer a felt sense of safety help you to settle and notice your internal landscape
provide a reference to compare the changes during and after the lesson
One element of the movement is then introduced:
you are invited to explore for yourselves and encouraged to be your own authority –
you can always ask for guidance;
however, the teacher usually doesn’t demonstrate so that you get to discover how you personally like to make this movement.
You scan again to notice how the movements have affected you:
you know this by changes you sense lying on the floor
Another element of the movement is explored.
This process is repeated until the whole functional movement has been built up.
There is a final overall scan/noticing of yourself to sense and compare how you are different pre and post lesson
Classes often finish in standing where you’re invited to notice how these changes affect you in gravity as well as any other felt sense of transformation, in particular, how you could take this into moving in daily life.
What Happens in a One on One Session?
One on One In Person sessions are similar to group classes; however instead of being guided by the practitioner's voice, you will be guided in comfortable movement by the practitioner’s hands.
Clients remain fully clothed and depending on ease usually lie on a wide, padded table often with very comfortable supports.