Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) was both a scholar and.an athlete. His inquisitive mind led him to become an expert in several different fields. He trained in engineering and physics in France. As a young pioneer in Israel, he worked in construction and developed methods of self-defense that he taught to his fellow pioneers. In France, he was the first Westerner to obtain a black belt in judo and to establish a judo training center. Throughout his life, Dr. Feldenkrais was interested in the connection between mind and movement. His inquiries and experience in learning the martial arts led him to conclude that efficient use of the body depended crucially on training the brain.
Feldenkrais knew that the ultimate organizer of body movement is the brain and that most of that organization occurs unconsciously, that is, a person is not aware of exactly what muscles must engage and in what fashion in order to perform a movement. Feldenkrais' major contribution was to realize that, in order to train the brain to achieve the most efficient movement possible, it was necessary for a person to consciously direct awareness to the way in which he or she moved when repeating a movement slowly and with as small effort as possible in a safe and relaxed context.
Having suffered a serious knee injury that impacted the way in which he moved, Feldenkrais noticed how pain and discomfort led him to develop new habits of movement that were counterproductive. With his knowledge of biomechanics and ways of influencing the mind, Feldenkrais trained himself to change those habits and, in the process, protect both his injured knee and the rest of his body from further injury. His approach was holistic. Because Feldenkrais realized that by trying to protect his injured knee, his brain was directing movement in such a way that more pressure was being put on other parts of the body, pains that seemed unrelated to the knee injury would arise. Therefore, in trying to heal himself, he did not focus exclusively on the injured knee but rather on how his whole body dynamics responded to the pain that the original injury produced.
Having tested his approach on himself and having experience in training other people in self-defense and judo, Feldenkrais began to help friends and acquaintances in addressing physical problems related to movement, whether those problems arose from outright injuries or disease and from poor habits developed over a lifetime. Being a scientist, Feldenkrais decided to systematize his approach and thus developed the method that bears his name.
There are two interlinked strands to the Feldenkrais Method. Feldenkrais named them Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration® . They both have the same goal: to provide a person with a safe and relaxing way in which to experience different ways of moving so that, by focusing a person's awareness on the sensations that novel movements arise, the unconscious brain is given a chance to reprogram itself and learn how to direct movement more efficiently, discarding counterproductive habits.
Feldenkrais would recommend that those new to the practice of the method experience both Awareness Through Movement (ATM) classes and Functional Integration® (FI), because the two approaches reinforce each other. The Fl sessions, where a practitioner focuses on individual issues for an hour, provide the student the opportunity to get personalized guidance. However, different persons have different needs or preferences and many people benefit significantly from engaging exclusively in ATM sessions in a consistent manner.
Usually, people try the Feldenkrais Method after they have suffered an injury, are experiencing pain or already have reduced mobility as a result of counterproductive habits developed over a long time. In any field of learning, gaining a moderate level of proficiency takes time and commitment. Training one's unconscious brain to develop more effective movement habits is no exception. Counterproductive habits that have taken root over many years, cannot usually be dislodged in a week or a month. When dysfunction or pain has already set in, change may come by slowly. If you are in one of these categories, you should expect to practice the Feldenkrais method consistently for at least a few months before you experience sustained benefits. However, many Feldenkrais students are surprised to find that even after a few ATM classes they experience positive effects.
The following are service marks or certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America: Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Functional Integration®, Awareness Through Movement®, ATM®, FI®, and Guild Certified Feldenkrais PractitionerCM.
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