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The Feldenkrais Method is an educational system centered on movement, aiming to expand and refine the use of the self through awareness. It is intended for those who wish to improve their movement repertoire (dancers, musicians, artists), as well as those wishing to reduce pain or limitations in movement, and many who want to improve their general well-being and personal development. Because it uses movement as the primary vehicle for gaining awareness, it is directly applicable to disorders that arise from restricted or habitually poor movement. But as a process for gaining awareness, it can expand a person's choices and responses to many aspects of life: emotions, relationships, and intellectual tasks; and it applies at any level, from severe disorder to highly professional performance. The Feldenkrais Method holds that there is no separation between mind and body, and thus learning to move better can improve one's overall well-being on many levels.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
The Feldenkrais Method is often regarded as complementary medicine. However, Feldenkrais practitioners generally don't regard their work as "treatment" or "cure," because they are not working from the medical model. Instead of directly working a change to the physical body, they are working with the nervous system and enabling discovery of new choices.
The Feldenkrais Method was originated by Dr Moshé Feldenkrais (1904-1984), a Ukrainian-born Jewish physicist and judo practitioner who moved to Israel and eventually became an Israeli. He presented a view that good health means functioning well---working well, having satisfying relationships with emotional maturity, able to access a full range of responses to any situation ("Awareness Through Movement") - this is opposed to the medical health as in not 'sick or disabled' or health in any abstract sense. He asserted that his method of body/mind exploration leads to improved functioning (health) through individuals becoming more aware and finding improved use; this focus on exploration and awareness is typified by his statement "What I am after is more flexible minds, not just more flexible bodies".
This goal is reflected in the code of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America which states that practitioners of the method do not undertake to diagnose or treat illness of any kind. Most proponents of the Feldenkrais Method consider it to be a form of self-education and mind-body development, rather than a manipulative therapy.
Feldenkrais' approach was more experiential, using self-discovery rather than manipulation. Some of the influences on Feldenkrais' work include Gustav Fechner, Gerda Alexander, Elsa Gindler, Jigoro Kano, G. I. Gurdjieff, Emile Coué, William Bates, Heinrich Jacoby and Mabel Todd, all of whom were more concerned with awareness than with simple physical exercises.
The Feldenkrais Method is applied in two forms by practitioners, who generally receive more than 800 hours of formal training over the course of four years:
Awareness through movement
Template:Advert In an Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lesson, the teacher verbally directs students through movement sequences and various foci of attention. Usually this occurs in a group setting, although ATM lessons can also be given to individuals, or recorded. There are more than a thousand ATM lessons available, mst of them are organized around a specific movement function.
Moshé Feldenkrais gave the name "Awareness Through Movement" to a series of demonstrations he devised as he was learning to walk normally with a seriously damaged knee. His lessons were intended to provide concrete directions, both for learning new movements and for attending in a new way to the physical experience associated with the movements. The goal was to increase the students' awareness of the mechanical details and the physical experience of movement.
Feldenkrais taught that changes in the physical experience could be described as changes in the self image, which can be conceived as the mapping of the motor cortex to the body. (Such a body image was depicted by Dr. Wilder Penfield in the form of a homunculus). Activity in the motor cortex plays a key role in proprioception (the sense of body position). Feldenkrais taught that changes in our ability to move are inseparable from changes in our conscious perception of ourselves as embodied. Feldenkrais aimed to clarify and work therapeutically with this relationship, with instructions that involved both specific movement instructions and invitations to introspection.
An example of an invitation to introspection is given below:
- Make a quick list of body parts you know you have but which you cannot feel consciously and compare it with a list of those you can feel. Which list contains the members you can move?
In a Functional Integration lesson, the practitioner uses his or her hands to guide the movement of the student, who may be sitting, lying or standing. The practitioner also uses the "hands-on" technique to help the student experience the connections among various parts of the body (with or without movement). Movements are developed from the habitual patterns of the student, thereby tailoring the lesson to the individual. This approach allows the student to feel comfortable, and to experience the movement in detail. Through precision of touch and movement, the student learns how to eliminate excess effort and thus move more freely and easily.
Lessons may be very specific in addressing particular issues brought by the student, or can be more global in scope. Although the technique does not specifically aim to eliminate pain or "cure" physical complaints, such issues are treated as valuable information that may inform the lesson. Issues such as chronic muscle pain may naturally resolve themselves as the student learns a more relaxed approach to his or her physical experience, and a more integrated, freer, easier way to move.
Influence on somatics
Somatic disciplines influenced by Feldenkrais include: Hanna Somatics, Rubenfeld Synergy, Tellington Touch (for animals), Anat Baniel Method, Sounder Sleep System, Bones for Life, Liberation Through the Body, and others.
- Feldenkrais, Moshé (1981). The Elusive Obvious, 7–9, Cupertino, Calif.: Meta Publications.
- Feldenkrais, Moshé (2002). The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion, Frog Publications.
- R.Strauch An overview of the Feldenkrais Method.retrieved 14 May 2008
- Use of Complementary Therapies Among Primary Care Clinic Patients With Arthritis
- International Feldenkrais Federation (official organisation for coordinating the Feldenkrais Method internationally)
- Feldenkrais Guild of North America (online lessons, background of the Feldenkrais Method, and practitioner listings)
- Australian Feldenkrais Guild (practitioner listing, professional training, and general information on the Feldenkrais Method in Australia)
- The Feldenkrais Guild UK (practitioner list, classes and workshops in the UK)
- AchievingExcellence.com (source for Feldenkrais Method articles, books and cds.)
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