Q: How would you describe the Feldenkrais Method? What is it (briefly)?
A: The Feldenkrais Method® is a unique approach to improve overall human function through movement. Now, that’s not going to mean much to most people. It’s a little like trying to explain gravity or electricity, everybody’s eyes glaze over two sentences into it, but if you point out their effects, one can begin to develop a notion what it is about. The Method is being used with athletes, musicians, dancers, martial artists to improve performance, with children to overcome developmental difficulties, with seniors to regain the mobility, flexibility and confidence necessary to live an independent life, with patients suffering from chronic pain, to MS, to cerebral palsy, to TMJ etc. to provide relief from their symptoms, and with the general public to restore the joy and vitality that comes with free and effortless movement.
The method is unique in that it doesn’t attempt to cure or heal people but to show them how to learn their way out of limitations and to provide them with the means to continue evolving themselves through a lifetime of continued and pleasurable learning so we can all become our own best teacher! In that sense the Feldenkrais Method belongs in the field of scientific inquiry concerned with how to make life more enjoyable, more satisfying, and more meaningful. It’s a methodical investigation of how to make the best use of our endowment as human beings. And I’m not giving away any professional secrets when I tell you that one of the things we found in the course of this investigation is that most of the physical and mental limitations that we consider permanent, solid and irreversible, in fact open up to change quite readily, once we learn how to do it. The range of conditions that can be improved through learning and through more developed skills in using ourselves is vast and the Feldenkrais Method explores the best conditions under which human beings change, evolve and learn. And it turns out these are not the conditions that most of us usually set for ourselves when we’re trying to change or learn.
Q: If we asked a student who had just completed a weekend Feldenkrais seminar to briefly describe what they got out of the class that they didn’t expect, what would they say?
A: Great question, because a lot of what happens in a Feldenkrais workshop fits in the category “new or unexpected experiences.” Participants literally discover new sensations, new feelings. They find that the most mundane actions like walking, turning, getting out of a chair can be imbued with an exhilarating sense of ease and pleasure; that’s why you usually see people with a smile on their faces at the end of a workshop. One can think of it as the tantra of everyday activities, people spend time and money in order to make their sex lives more enjoyable … why not do the same with walking – it’s something we do much more frequently.
Another unexpected benefit is that people discover that they are actually much more efficient and much faster learners than they ever knew, they often start pursuing new interests or begin actually doing things they’ve always wanted to do, but never attempted.
Q: How can the workshops benefit massage practitioners in their profession?
A: In a number of ways. First, every inefficient posture, every unnecessary effort is going to affect the quality of your work. It’s going to make your handling less precise, it’s going to create “noise” in your interaction with your client. In the long run it’s going to interfere with your ability to work at all, because all the unnecessary effort doesn’t just dissipate into thin air, it goes right into your joints, into your muscles, your tendons, your ligaments and one day they’re just going to go: enough! That’s especially true for those who do Swedish and deep tissue massage.
Apart from that, it will renew your motivation for your work and it will broaden your perspective on working with the body in motion.
Q: How does someone become a Feldenkrais practitioner?
A: To become a Feldenkrais Practitioner you have to complete a 4-year training program with 40 training days per year. In other words, if you consider running for president, I’d suggest taking the training instead, because by the time your term ends, you would have completed a very rewarding experience and just be about to begin a new and fascinating career – and you would feel younger and more vital than when you started, something that none of our previous presidents could claim. Joking aside, the four years are likely to be the most intellectually stimulating and personally transformative period in a student’s life.
It weaves functional anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics, evolutionary theory, and psychology into an intense process of movement exploration, a deepening of sensory awareness and increase in muscular efficiency. For many students the training provides not only the opportunity to learn a profession and to get to know themselves, but to begin to create the selves they want.
This interview was conducted by Lisa Nichols.