Feldenkrais and Neuroplasticity
The concept of neuroplasticity is one that helps to define human life; how we move, think, learn, live. By definition, “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.” Plainly, it’s the process with which the brain uses to grow and react to environmental stimuli over time.
In that way, the brain is truly incredible. It’s the only part of our body that changes throughout our lifespan, creating the wondrous cycle of neuro construction and deconstruction that guides us through a wildly diverse range of experiences and emotions. This is seen most drastically in individuals whose learned skills are lost due to brain damage, only to relearn them using a completely different part of the brain. In order to reconnect, though, neurons must be stimulated in a way that alerts our brain to the existence of a new lesson to learn.
Coursework with the Feldenkrais Method is one vehicle with which we have developed a way to facilitate that refined, or redefined, learning. Focusing solely on neurological connections that govern movement, Moshé was able to decode parts of the complex natural relearning process into the simple movements and poses that make up the method in his namesake. In taking a hands-on approach with human alignment and range of motion, he taught the body, a willing and capable learner. In our practice, with his recorded lesson plans, we do the same.
The Feldenkrais Method was developed, in the 1940s, by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. He developed the Method as a way to improve his knee injuries. Today, it is used all over the world by dancers, athletes, and people of all ages.
Moshe Feldenkrais, a physicist, mechanical engineer, and martial artist, developed this approach to learning in the early 1940s, determined to overcome a debilitating knee injury of his own.
Feldenkrais’ theory is that “thought, feeling, perception, and movement are closely interrelated and influence each other.”
What is Awareness Through Movement?
Awareness Through Movement® consists of verbally directed movement sequences presented primarily to groups. A lesson generally lasts from thirty to sixty minutes. Each lesson is usually organized around a particular function.
In Awareness Through Movement lessons, people engage in precisely structured movement explorations that involve thinking, sensing, moving, and imagining. Many are based on developmental movements and ordinary functional activities. Some are based on more abstract explorations of joint, muscle, and postural relationships. The lessons consist of comfortable, easy movements that gradually evolve into movements of greater range and complexity.
A major goal of Awareness Through Movement is to learn how one’s most basic functions are organized and improve. By experiencing the details of how one performs any action, the student has the opportunity to learn how to:
attend to his/her whole self
eliminate unnecessary energy expenditure
mobilize his/her intentions into actions
learn and improve
Source: The Feldenkrais® Educational Foundation of North America
What is Functional Integration?
Functional Integration® is a hands-on form of tactile, kinesthetic communication. The Feldenkrais practitioner communicates to the student how he/she organizes his/her body and hints, through gentle touching and movement, how to move in more expanded functional motor patterns. Functional Integration is usually performed with the student lying on a table designed specifically for the work. It can also be done with the student in sitting or standing positions. At times, various props are used in an effort to support the person’s body configuration or to facilitate certain movements.
Just as Feldenkrais practitioners can guide people through movement sequences verbally in Awareness Through Movement group classes, they also guide people through movement with gentle, non-invasive touching in Functional Integration individual lessons. In Functional Integration, the practitioner/teacher’s intention is instructive and communicative.
The Functional Integration lesson should relate to a desire, intention, or need of the student. The learning process is carried out without the use of any invasive or forceful procedure. Through rapport and respect for the student’s abilities, qualities, and integrity, the practitioner/teacher creates an environment in which the student can learn comfortably.
In Functional Integration, the practitioner/teacher develops a lesson for the student, custom-tailored to the unique configuration of that particular person, at that particular moment. The practitioner conveys the experience of comfort, pleasure, and ease of movement while the student learns how to reorganize his/her body and behavior in new and more effective manners.
Michigan State University
Michigan State University’s Community Music School offers musicians’ wellness classes that complement instrumental or vocal instruction. They allow students to study different aspects of music through movement, listening, or conversation.
University of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health has a healing-oriented philosophy on less invasive therapies to help remove barriers that may be blocking the body’s ability to heal.
Professionals Leading the Way to Better Health
Among other professionals, providers of the most reliable cancer and multiple sclerosis treatment information provide information about a variety of bodywork techniques, including the Feldenkrais Method.
American Cancer Society
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
What we know about MS Treatments
National Institutes of Health
NIH has ongoing research into the effectiveness of the Feldenkrais Method. A 2010 study concluded, “…Feldenkrais exercises are an effective way to improve balance and mobility, and thus offer an alternative method to help offset age-related declines in mobility and reduce the risk of falling among community-dwelling older adults.”
“A Concise Biography of Moshe Feldenkrais” by Mark Reese
“Introduction al Metodo Feldenkrais” by Professor Marilupe Campero