Israeli physicist Moshe Feldenkrais (1903-1984) developed a method of neuro-motor re-education that has profound implications
for human movement and learning.
Feldenkrais Method: difficult to explain, wonderful to experience – a practical and scientific way of addressing
aspects of movement we seldom even think about or worry about… until we have a problem.
Feldenkrais, a scientist with degrees in physics, mechanical and electrical engineering from the
Sorbonne, and a student of Jigaro Kano (founder of Judo) who became European Judo champion. Also extremely widely read
in physiology, anatomy and neuro-psychology, he was well-acquainted with the development of other movement modalities
by pioneers such as Elsa Gindler, Jacques Dalcroze, Gerta Alexander and most important of all, Mathias Alexander with
whom he studied in London in the late 40’s.
Feldenkrais was aware that movement is controlled by electrical signals from the brain, and that every movement
exists as an image in the brain before it actually happens. His unique contribution to science is his discovery of a
way to interact directly with these neuromotor processes, literally reprogramming the brain to improve its movement
organization. The ramifications for this are immense and still unfolding.
Feldenkrais Method brings improvement to:
The movements in a Feldenkrais session are exceptionally small and gentle, sometimes even imperceptible. The client
often wonders what is going on because she is not used to perceiving the fine differences in sensation on which the learning
process of Feldenkrais is based. But that’s the secret of Feldenkrais’s success: instead of using the grosser amounts of
energy that make a muscle actually contract (think of the amount of electricity needed to light an incandescent light bulb),
it works with the extremely low-energy signals coming from the brain to the muscle (like the signal a computer key sends
the processor). An Awareness Through Movement® lesson is not a lesson in movement as we know it at all, but a fine-tuning
of the neurological control mechanisms of movement.
Here’s the kicker: the practitioner accesses those neuromotor processes through the client’s skeleton.
When bones are out of alignment, muscles work hard to keep the skeleton in place, and they are not so free to generate
movement. When bones are well-aligned, the muscles hold less and move more: movements feel easier but are stronger.
If the practitioner moves the client’s body paying attention to the skeletal mechanics within, he begins to be able to
differentiate, by sensation, between the bones, muscles and nervous impulses. A physiotherapist will move an injured leg
through various configurations to restore the leg’s sense of moveability and limberness. The Feldenkrais practitioner moves
the same leg a miniscule amount, and senses how well the bones line up to transmit a force through. He feels with high
sensitivity even the smallest resistance, the smallest possible interference from muscles that hold instead of help.
But the practitioner doesn’t then plough through that resistance. The more you resist, the more it persists! Instead the
practitioner ‘nudges up’ against the resistance and then backs off again. He makes the brain more aware of what it’s doing.
He brings the resistance into the brain’s sensory picture of that part of the body. We are talking of miniscule, virtually
imperceptible movements here – movements so small that they are not perceived as intrusive but inquisitive. After some time
the neuromotor system miraculously begins to ‘wake up’ and respond to these slight stimuli – the brain literally gets curious,
and lowers muscle tone to better perceive the practitioner’s input. The quality of this relaxation is profoundly different
from the relaxation of massage or Yoga – there’s a specific neurological component to it that is unique to Feldenkrais.
And the brain returns to the state all our brains possessed in infancy – it actually becomes neurologically more plastic
in its efforts to respond intelligently to these tiny but precise and meaningful stimulations. The neurological controls of
movement are created anew.
Alan Fraser discovered Feldenkrais Method in 1987 and by the following year, decided it was the key to developing a new
approach to piano technique. He is now a practitioner with long experience who works with many people outside of, as well
as within, his own musical discipline. The Feldenkrais Method is an integral part of every Alan Fraser Piano Institute.
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