Introducing The Feldenkrais Method
Many people accept pain or stiffness as an inevitable part of aging. For some, finding pleasure in certain movements is like seeking the Holy Grail. But what if you could be more flexible, having greater mobility and feel stronger without painful exercises? Furthermore, what if those exercises actually mitigated the aging process?
For an entirely different viewpoint of exercise, take a look at Change Your Age: Using Your Body and Brain to Feel Younger, Stronger and More Fit by Frank Wildman, founder and director of the Feldenkrais Movement Institute. The book is based on the revolutionary work of Moshe Feldenkrais, who invented over a thousand movement lessons. Wildman was one of Feldenkrais’ students, and he now trains other people to become practitioners of the Method. “Many people believe that exercise is not really good for them unless they feel hyperstimulated or have some background fatigue, which they often identify as relaxing because they have worn out their muscles,” he writes. “Overexercising and the stresses that ensue lead to metabolic changes from the creation of more free radicals that age all our cells. We also get micro-tears in our connective tissue and micro-fractures in our skeletons, which contribute to lost mobility and can lead to premature aging.” The Feldenkrais lessons are done in an easy, comfortable way, thus avoiding this problem. It also stimulates the brain (and body) to learn to move in new ways and allows you to release painful patterns of movement.
Even if you are not in pain and consider yourself to be fairly fit, as I did when I took my first Feldenkrais lesson, the difference in the quality of movement before and after the lesson can be stunning. My teacher taught a classic side-lying twist, and halfway through the lesson, I marveled at how easy things were getting. By the end, I was amazed. This position not only felt completely natural, it was also long, fluid and elegant. Best of all, I had achieved it effortlessly!
Feldenkrais lessons can help you improve sport, musical or dance performance. The Method can make daily activities such as driving, sitting, walking, going up and down stairs easier. Many students report near miraculous results with chronic pain, and it is used to aid functional improvement for people with serious neurological disorders.
There are two ways to do Feldenkrais lessons: Awareness Through Movement (ATM), which is often done in groups, and Functional Integration, which is done one-on-one. In an ATM, a teacher gives verbal instructions for small, easy movements within a comfortable range of motion. Students are instructed to move slowly in order to notice what is happening as they move. Feldenkrais lessons are non-competitive. You go at your own pace, rest frequently and avoid any discomfort. If a movement is difficult, you can simply imagine you are doing it.
Functional Integration (FI) is similar to ATM except that a certified practitioner leads the student through gentle, pleasurable movements. Functional Integration is usually performed on a table and the student is fully clothed. This approach is often used for severe neurological problems and chronic pain, and also by professional athletes and dancers and people who simply want to feel good.
The 30 lessons in Change Your Age focus on walking, balance and sitting. There are also lessons called “Regaining Full Use of Your Neck,” “Releasing the Hips into Pleasure” and “Developing Longer Hamstrings the Easy Way.” Two personal favorites are “The Ultimate Walking Lesson” and “Improving Balance.”
Another great feature of the book are the tips and practical advice interspersed among lessons. For example, try this if you have trouble going up stairs: practice bending and extending your knees as though to jump. This will help you “bounce” up the stairs.
Change Your Age also has a detailed self-assessment questionnaire in the beginning of the book and suggested lessons to address tight hips, stiff ankles and knees, labored or shallow breathing, difficulty getting up from chairs, knocking into things, difficulty turning your head from side to side and other common problems.
Feldenkrais lessons teach people that they can feel good without undue effort or strain. It can reveal habitual patterns of muscular tension that can cause pain. Best of all, you can become your own best healing ally through your own awareness. Pick up a copy of the book, try a lesson, and see for yourself what a difference it can make!
For more information about the Feldenkrais Method, visit: