I’ve been working with the Feldenkrais Method® for almost 6 years now. Since that time, I’ve come across many misconceptions about the Feldenkrais Method®, which I want to address, so you can reap all the benefits! The four misconceptions are (1) that the method is not scientific, (2) it’s only for pain, (3) it’s only for a certain age group or ability, (4) The Feldenkrais practitioner is the authority.
Before we jump into the misconceptions, here is a great definition of what the method is and does. The Feldenkrais Method® is a type of movement practice for anyone who wants to reconnect with their natural abilities to move, think, and feel. Whether you want to be more comfortable sitting at your computer, playing with your children and grandchildren, or performing a favorite pastime, these gentle lessons can improve your overall well being. Now, let’s get into these misconceptions about the method!
1.Feldenkrais is not scientific
This misconception is a BIG one. If you look at the Feldenkrais Method® from the outside, you might think there’s no science behind it, but you couldn’t be more wrong.
Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais theorised the brain’s ability to learn new movements due to neuroplasticity. It is the incredible ability of the brain to change and learn new patterns. The old saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is no longer applicable. It is due to neuroplasticity that humans can and do change; no matter how old we are. This is exactly what the Feldenkrais Method® is about!
When Dr. Feldenkrais realized the brain has the capacity for change, he studied the foundational muscular patterns which create easy movement and the right conditions in which learning happens. The conditions are what is called proprioception; “the sense by which muscular motion, weight, position in space, etc are perceived” (Body and Mature Behaviour, 146). His studies lead him to believe that by noticing small subtle changes in sensation of gravity, humans can make changes to their habitual movements.
This led to the birth of Awareness Through Movement (ATM)®, group classes wherein you follow a set of movements that encourages you to feel how you are moving and Functional Integration (FI)®, individual lessons where a practitioner gently moves you. These lessons teach you to feel how you move so you can make a decision about how you want to move in the future – and your brain records it! His most famous quote, “if you know what you’re doing, you can do what you want” means that if you realize that your right leg is not touching the floor as much as the left in a laying down position, it means that you’re using muscular effort to keep it up. As you are doing the lesson, you or the practitioner can manipulate you in gravity to find a way to make your right leg touch the floor more. At the end of the lesson, you will feel more relaxed, more grounded, taller, wider and better. Behind all that is the brain’s capacity to learn!
2. The Feldenkrais Method is only for People in Pain
The idea that the Feldenkrais Method® is only for people in pain is widespread but far from the truth. Anyone can benefit from this method and students don’t have to be in pain to do it.
We don’t explore pain, discomfort or confusion, rather we focus on pleasure, simplicity and ease. Focusing on what feels easy effectively cuts the habit that is holding a student back and creates a new habit.
Anyone looking to get better at what they do could benefit from this kind of work. If you’re a musician who wants to play your guitar faster, an athlete that wants to run for longer, or if you are a singer and want to project your voice further, the Feldenkrais Method® can help you. There are tons of lessons for all these needs! Through either ATM or FI, a practitioner can help you hone your skills in whatever movements you use for your practice. They can also help you avoid learning movements which can lead to injury. We all know of the classic case of athletes who injure themselves at some point in their career; prevention is far better.
4. It’s Only For a A Certain age Group or Ability
A less common misconception that I’ve seen but still worth mentioning is that this work only benefits people between the ages of 16 and 50 or those who are able bodied people. And I can see why people believe this! Loads of our advertising shows big movements- like Judo rolls or head stands, but the idea behind these classes is simply to learn, not to perform.
When you can’t do the suggested movement, teachers always provide alternative movements. Whether reducing the movement or simply doing it in your imagination. Muscles still work when you imagine yourself moving, but just on a smaller scale. Simply imagining the shifting pressure on your back while doing the judo roll in your imagination can create incredible opportunities for learning. If your age or dis/ability doesn’t permit doing a judo roll, then you don’t have to do it for real and you will always gain with no pain.
4. The Feldenkrais Practitioner is the Authority
Another misconception is that the Feldenkrais practitioner is the authority on healing. We tend to look at practitioners as authority figures, while the client/patient/student plays a passive role. Rather, a Feldenkrais practitioner creates the conditions in which learning a new movement is easy and the rest is incorporated into the students brain and nervous system. Practitioners and students work together.
Dr. Feldenkrais was doing work that many people labelled as healing, however he was very adamant that he simply created the conditions for people to get better. Dr. Feldenkrais said this at his first training in North America:
I am going to be your last teacher. Not because I’ll be the greatest teacher you may ever encounter, but because from me you will learn how to learn. When you learn how to learn, you will realize that there are no teachers, that there are only people learning and people learning how to facilitate learning.”
The Feldenkrais Method has an incredible foundation in science, it is both beneficial and accessible to everyone regardless of age, ability or pain and Feldenkrais practitioners work together with students to facilitate learning.
To learn more about the Feldenkrais Method®, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or come to one of my online classes.