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The Feldenkrais Method - often referred to simply as "Feldenkrais" - is a somatic educational system designed by Moshé Feldenkrais (1904–1984). Feldenkrais aims to reduce pain or limitations in movement, to improve physical function, and to promote general wellbeing by increasing students' awareness of themselves and by expanding students' movement repertoire.
Moshé Feldenkrais taught that increasing a person's kinesthetic and proprioceptive self-awareness of functional movement could lead to increased function, reduced pain, and greater ease and pleasure of movement. The Feldenkrais Method, like the Alexander Technique, is therefore a movement pedagogy as opposed to a manipulative therapy. The Method is experiential, providing tools for self-observation through movement enquiry.
Feldenkrais is used to improve habitual and repetitive movement patterns rather than to treat specific injuries or illnesses. However, because habitual and repetitive movement patterns can contribute towards and in some cases cause injury, pain, and physical dysfunction, the method is often regarded as falling within the field of integrative medicine or complementary medicine.
Moshé Feldenkrais also asserted that finding easier and more pleasurable ways to move could greatly improve quality of life, and have a direct influence on cognitive and emotional function: "what I am after is more flexible minds, not just more flexible bodies". In particular, he wrote extensively about the connections between dysfunctional movement patterns and anxiety.
Moshé Feldenkrais' background as a physicist, engineer and judo master deeply informed the development of his method. Other major influences included Gustav Fechner, Gerda Alexander, Elsa Gindler, Jigoro Kano, G.I. Gurdjieff, Emile Coué, William Bates, Heinrich Jacoby, Mabel Todd, and F.M. Alexander.
Somatic disciplines influenced by Feldenkrais include: Hanna Somatics (Thomas Hanna), Rubenfeld Synergy (Ilana Rubenfeld), Tellington Touch (Linda Tellington-Jones), Anat Baniel Method (Anat Baniel), Bones for Life (Ruty Alon), (ChildSpace) (Chava Shelhav), Sounder Sleep System (Michael Krugman), Zen Bodytherapy (William S. Leigh), Psychophysical Method (Robert Masters), Relaxercise (Mark Reese & David Zemach-Bersin), The Embodied Life (Russell Delman), Core Movement Integration (Josef Dellagrotte), FlexAware (Steven Shafarman), Change Your Age (Frank Wildman) and others.
In a Functional Integration lesson, a trained practitioner uses his or her hands to guide the movement of a single student, who may be sitting, lying or standing. The practitioner uses this "hands-on" technique to help the student experience the functional connections between various parts of the body. Through the teacher's precision of touch and movement, the student learns how to eliminate excess effort and to move more freely and easily.
Lessons may be 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 may inform the lesson. Issues such as chronic muscle pain may resolve themselves as the student learns a more relaxed approach to his or her physical experience—a more integrated, free, and easy way to move.
In Awareness Through Movement lessons, students engage in precisely structured movement explorations. Unlike Functional Integration lessons which are taught to a single student using touch, ATM lessons are taught through verbal instructions given to one or more students. Each lesson consists of comfortable, easy movements that gradually evolve into movements of greater range and complexity.
Awareness Through Movement lessons attempt to make students aware of their habitual neuromuscular patterns and rigidities and to expand options for choosing new and more functional ways of moving.
During his lifetime, Moshe Feldenkrais taught more than one thousand unique ATM lessons. The types of movements used in ATM are therefore extremely diverse. The difficulty and complexity of lessons vary widely, covering all levels of movement ability.
Few published empirical studies have been undertaken to assess the effectiveness of the Feldenkrais Method.
In another study, a randomized controlled trial investigated whether physiotherapy or Feldenkrais interventions would reduce the complaints from neck and shoulder pain and disability. The participants were randomly assigned to 1) physiotherapy treatment, 2) the Feldenkrais program, or 3) a control group. The physiotherapy and Feldenkrais interventions were given over 16 weeks of paid work. The Feldenkrais group showed significant decreases in complaints from neck and shoulders and in disability during leisure time. The two other groups showed no change in complaints (Physiotherapy group) or worsening of complaints (Control group).
In 2004, a study was undertaken to determine both the efficacy and cost effectiveness of the Feldenkrais Method for treatment of Medicaid recipients with Chronic pain. This preliminary inquiry represented an uncontrolled, unblended investigation, but the results showed that patient costs dropped from an average of $141 per month to $82 per month, a 40% saving.[unreliable medical source?]
A study of 579 patients with chronic or recurrent lower back pain found that posture and movement lessons are an effective, cost-effective, and lasting way to treat back pain, although Alexander Technique rather than the Feldenkrais Method was the pedagogy used in that study.
To obtain the qualification of Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner (CFP), Feldenkrais teachers complete 740–800 hours of training over a 3 to 4 year period. Professional standards are set internationally by the International Feldenkrais Federation. Feldenkrais practitioners are certified by a regional Feldenkrais Guild in one of seventeen countries, and each guild maintains lists of practitioners.