An Introduction to the Feldenkrais Method: Functional Integration and Awareness Through Movement
Dec 28, 2012 01:01AM
By Donna L. Bervinchak
Most people find out about the Feldenkrais Method because it has a good reputation for helping people gain relief from neck and back pain, recover from joint injuries and surgeries and enhance artistic and athletic performance. The method is also very popular for children with special needs because many surpass their medical expectations by learning in this way.
When Thomas Hanna, an American pioneer of the Somatics Movement, witnessed Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais work with George, a 53-year-old man with cerebral palsy, he instantly made a decision to study with Feldenkrais. In his book, The Body of Life, Hanna describes the results of the Feldenkrais, Functional Integration session that day in 1973: “[George] could not believe what was happening, nor could I. I realized that my cheeks were wet. Fifty years of fitful, nightmarish breathing had vanished in 20 minutes. Fifty years of presumably deeply enrooted habit, impossible to eradicate, disappeared in a few minutes. And how? By one human being helping another human being move in a certain way.”
Because of that moment, Hanna organized the first Feldenkrais teacher training in the U.S., which led to thousands of Feldenkrais practitioners working today. They are helping people of all ages and ability levels to gain awareness, empowerment and transformation through movement.
The method consists of two teaching modalities: individual, hands-on sessions called Functional Integration, and group classes named Awareness Through Movement. Both use the principles of teaching individuals to move gently through developmental sequences to produce better human functioning and awareness.
Feldenkrais closely observed the learning process of infants and noted how babies typically roll, crawl, sit, stand and walk all on their own if uninterrupted. During this rich developmental period, an infant’s curiosity will engage them fully—physically, mentally and emotionally—with their environment. This process, he explains, helps to advance the child’s intelligence, self-image and self-understanding.
Feldenkrais discovered that revisiting this way of learning—using movements developed in the first year of life—is vital to helping a person function well. When applied, these concepts can help highly trained musicians and athletes enhance their performances and assist persons dealing with brain injuries to improve their lives.
Many of Feldenkrais’ devoted practitioners have created methods of their own. Examples include Child’Space; Pregnant Pauses; Bones for Life; Embodied Life; Sound Sleeper System; Anat Baniel Method; and Change Your Age.
Donna L. Bervinchak is a Feldenkrais and Child’Space practitioner who practices in Lancaster. Connect with her at 717-285-0399 or FeldenkraisBlog.com. For more information about the Feldenkrais Method, visit Feldenkrais.com.