Category Archives: Theory

Re-Wiring Your Brain

Why Feldenkrais Works

We humans are experts at learning. We don’t need to show babies how to learn. As soon as they’re born, they begin.

Movement is key to learning. The Feldenkrais Method® works by inviting us to attend to small differences between movements and assess which are preferable: which use less energy, are more direct, and feel better. At any age we can notice these differences, learn, and improve.

Neuroplasticity: More than Just a Buzz Word

Literally our brain grows new neural connections: dubbed neuroplasticity, this ability of our brain to change has become a buzz word. Buzzy or not, it’s still true we can learn and improve. It’s pretty darn cool.

Feldenkrais teacher Rich Goldsand just produced a nice video demonstrating with several clients how the method helps them. Watch it below.

More about Strength

Strength from the Ground

In my teaching over the past year, uncovering inherent strength has become the organizing principle.

Tennis player in motion

© International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Robert Golden

My mentor Jeff Haller, PhD, first pointed me in this direction. It’s the central theme of his advanced training program. He said, “if I train myself in any exercise system, and I’m sloppy in the way I provide support for myself, all I will do is train muscles based on supporting myself the way I am accustomed to.

In other words, if I don’t improve my relationship to the ground, I’ll strengthen habits of self-use which don’t serve me and might actually harm me—which is how I sprained my ankle playing squash. (By the way, I then got up and finished the game: don’t do that!)

(Find the complete interview with Jeff here.)

Are Humans Machines?

Image shows cover of Mass Psychology of Fittism: Michaelangelo's depiction of human strengthRecently I’ve begun reading an excellent book which delves into the question from a slightly different angle: how do we define fitness? Author Edward Yu answers the question in depth. He looks at how the West has defined health, fitness, beauty, and the human body over a period of centuries, to see how we’ve arrived at the point where for many these are synonymous. As a martial artist, runner, and Feldenkrais practitioner, he asks, what are we fit for?

He writes: “If I am considered fit enough to be on a magazine cover, does that also make me fit for the rest of life, which occurs outside of the confines of 8 1/2 x 11 inches? Should Albert Einstein, who probably never performed a single push-up, be deemed unfit?

How we came to equate our physical selves with machines (thank you, Descartes!) is key to Edward’s analysis of the contemporary conflation of fit/health/beauty.

Read the prologue to his book, The Mass Psychology of Fittism: Fitness, Evolution, and the First Two Laws of Thermodynamics, here.

Learning More about the Pioneer of Feldenkrais

To learn more about the pioneer of the Feldenkrais Method®, Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc., there’s no better source than the recently published first volume of his biography, Moshe Feldenkrais: A Life in Movement.Cover of the biography of Moshe Feldenkrais, pioneer of the Feldenkrais Method

At 566 pages (including footnotes), the book is a remarkable achievement. Author Mark Reese worked closely with Dr. Feldenkrais, and was himself a teacher of the method, as well as a scholar.

Describing Moshe Feldenkrais, Norman Doidge, M.D., writer of two bestsellers on neuroplasticity writes in the book’s preface: “Genius of the magnitude possessed by Moshe Feldenkrais, defies categorization. . . [it’s] a fastidiously researched, exciting, profoundly insightful story, that gets deep inside the mind of the swashbuckling, theatrical, brilliant integrator, as he lived through many of the greatest intellectual, political, and scientific events of the the 20th century. . . who in his struggle to overcome his own major injury, pioneered a unique way of teaching people to learn how to learn, and to change their brains, by increasing awareness of whatever they did. . .”

May 6 is Moshe’s birthday. I never met him in person, but am forever grateful to have discovered his work. Here he is teaching a public workshop, speaking about good posture and Campbell’s soup. Happy birthday, Moshe!

Moshe Feldenkrais: South Bend, Indiana Feldenkrais Method Workshop

Watch the Video
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Interoception: Awkward Word for Important Phenomenon

2 seated women explore Awareness Through Movement.

Awareness Through Movement lesson.

One of you recently shared interesting research into what happens physically when we attend to ourselves during meditation and mindfulness practices such as Awareness Through Movement®.

Being able to attend to, and learn from, how we move and other physiological states has critical survival value. Scientists have labelled this interoception, “the process of receiving, accessing and appraising internal bodily signals.”

Particularly important: there’s a link between well being and interoception. When we attend to ourselves in the specific ways invited by practices like Feldenkrais®, there’s potential for improving physical and psychological health.

Find the complete article here on the Frontiers in Psychology website.

Pelvic Health

Here’s an informative blog I discovered about the value of freeing your pelvis. It’s especially important to address pelvic health when you consider how much we sit in contemporary life. A sedentary lifestyle is antithetical to a freely moving pelvis.

Lise Wood of Women's Health Foundation

Lise Wood of WHF

On the fundamental properties of good movement, Lise Wood of the Women’s Health Foundation writes: “If the body forms angles to the main line of action, some of the force generated by the pelvis will become absorbed in the tissues and fail to be transmitted toward the goal of the movement. The tissues that absorb this force may be the muscles, ligaments, tendons or the joint itself.”

In other words, when movement travels optimally through our skeletons, it follows the lines of our bones. The pelvic muscles—the biggest of the body—can do their job efficiently. If force is absorbed in the tissues, over time this can lead to inflammation and joint instability. This applies to both women and men.

Read the rest of her blog here.

Core Principles of Feldenkrais: Norman Doidge’s Perspective

Adapted from The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge, MD, 2015, pages 168-176.

How the Feldenkrais Method facilitates neuroplastic healingThe cover of The Brain's Way of Healing by Norman Doidge, MD

1. The mind programs the functioning of the brain.

We are born prepared to learn. We can adapt our brains and movement to particular surroundings. Even when we damage our brains, usually plenty of brain remains to take on damaged functions.

2. A brain cannot think with motor function.

Just thinking of a movement triggers that movement, changes tone in that part of our body. Using our brains triggers four components: motor movement, thought, sensation, and feeling.

3. Awareness of moving is the key to improving movement.

Doidge writes: “It may seem ‘magical’ to think that movement problems. . . can be radically changed simply by becoming more aware of the movement, but it seems magical only because science formerly thought of the body as a machine with parts, in which sensory functions are radically separated from motor functions.”

4. Differentiation—making the smallest possible sensory distinction between one movement and another—builds brain maps.

5. Differentiation is easiest to make when the stimulus is smallest.

The less effort we use, the more we can notice. If you’re lifting a piano, you won’t notice if a fly lands on it; if you’re lifting a feather, you will.

6. Slowness of movement is the key to awareness, and awareness is the key to learning.

If you leap too quickly, you can’t look before you leap.

7. Reduce effort whenever possible.

If you are straining, you aren’t learning: if strain, no gain. No pain is gain.

8. Errors are essential, and there is no right way to move, only better ways.

If you don’t make mistakes, you won’t learn. No one speaks her native language perfectly from day one.

9. Random movements provide variation that leads to developmental breakthroughs.

Sometimes it’s useful to wander!

10. Even the smallest movement in one part of the body involves the entire body.

When you’ve got a ball of yarn, whichever part of the yarn you take hold of, the whole ball comes along eventually.

11. Many movement problems, and the pain that goes with them, are caused by learned habit, not by abnormal structure.

Often there’s nothing to “fix.” Improvement can come from changing your movement patterns.

About Norman Doidge, MD

Norman Doidge, M.D., is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, researcher, author, essayist and poet. He is on faculty at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry, and Research Faculty at  Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, in New York. He is the author of two New York Times bestselling books on neuroplasticity. Learn more about Dr. Doidge on his website.

Read about Feldenkrais: Going deeper with the method

Some of you expressed interest in learning more about the theory behind the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education®. I’d recommend two books by Moshe Feldenkrais:Case-of-Nora-cvr

  • Awareness Through Movement: Health Exercise for Personal Growth. The first part describes the theoretical foundation of his work. The second is 12 Awareness Through Movement lessons to explore yourself.
  • Feldenkrais’ only extended case study, Body Awareness as Healing Therapy: The Case of Nora. Beautifully and simply written, the book describes Feldenkrais’ successful work with a woman recovering from a severe stroke. What emerges is his systematic, scientific approach. “Structure and function are tied so intimately that one cannot easily separate them nor deal with one without involving the other (p. 9). What also emerge are his compassion, patience, and respect for human dignity.