Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) began his career as a mechanical engineer in Tel Aviv and then went on to France where he obtained his Doctor of Science from the University of Paris. For recreation he played semi-professional soccer and was a practitioner of the martial art of Jiu Jitsu. After his move to France he began to study Judo and was given the title of movement expert by his own Judo Master. These focal points of Moshe’s higher education, careers and recreational activities are important to the elders in the Feldenkrais community. I believe it is because it gives credible scientific meaning to the comprehensive educational method that Moshe introduced to the world and creates devotion to the patterns of learning within this educational system.
While listening to a trainer in the community I learned that Moshe was the first to introduce a Martial Arts Program into the Israeli Army. His focus was on the two principles of minimum effort and maximum efficiency, and instinctive survival reactions. These later became basic principles in the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education. This method was developed after his own experience of knee injuries and career as a scientist, yet included his earlier focus of minimum effort and maximum efficiency, and instinctive survival reactions. His curiosity was motivated by his injury, yet his inspiration came from observing newborn babies and toddlers in his wife’s family doctor practice. Moshes inquisitive nature led to becoming the first to connect physical function to the development of neuroplasticity in the brain. Recently it has been suggested that his students could call themselves neuroplasticity practitioners.
I have experienced and witnessed dramatic functional transformations due to this system of learning. It has shown therapeutic benefits that compliments medical care and enhance a lifestyle.
The Feldenkrais® Method is a method of LEARNING, that gives the participant an opportunity to tap into a deeper felt sense of the patterns of function. These patterns encourage one to set aside pre-existing labels, diagnosis and judgements that interfere with minimum effort and maximum efficiency. This means it redirects ones attention to the actual patterns and away from thoughts. In a nutshell it retrains ones thinking patterns to become more active in the moment versus attaching to old thoughts and belief systems. Moshe expressed it in these three words, “unlearning to learn.” Going beyond what you know activates new neural pathways that result in a change.
Moshe didn’t design this system so it could be compared to other modalities as each one has a different perspective at its core. Two modalities that people like to compare Feldenkrais to are yoga and physical therapy. Yoga can’t be compared due to the focus of yoga and the dogma attached to it. Feldenkrais isn’t about adopting a cultural experience or its self-image. It is is about increasing functional capacity and going beyond the constraints created by one’s culture. Unlike physical therapy it isn’t a solution to fix a problem. Many people arrive to a lesson with an attachment to finding solutions for problems. This is a cultural phenomena. The focus on finding an outside solution involves giving someone else a higher authority. Not only does this interfere with the development of new neural pathways and cells, it takes away one’s power and free that could replace the current cultural tendency to blame and shame others. Moshe demonstrated how taking back personal responsibility through simple self-connection techniques could increase a range of life experiences.
Photo Courtesy Feldenkrais Institute, Tel Aviv, Israela higher
The only way to change is action
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1st Phase of Integration – Getting Started (Introduction & Pattern)
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