This somatic body-mind approach asks you to slow down, very slowly, to really understand how you are moving.
The Feldenkrais Method is a subtle somatic practice that uses small, gentle movements to encourage improved function and awareness, and can provide many health benefits.
Throughout the day, your body makes many movements, big and small, to adapt to your environment, whether you are aware of it or not. Some of these movements, however, can prevent you from feeling nimble and mobile, and lead to increased tension and pain. For example, if you have a habit of curling up on your desk to type emails or clutching your phone between your ear and shoulder to take calls, you may experience chronic tension in your torso and lower back. The good news ? There are somatic movement exercises to promote greater awareness and potentially improve unconscious patterns.
Along with practices such as tai chi, qigong, and yoga, another tool, the Feldenkrais Method, can help improve alignment, relieve pain, and soothe other physical issues.
The Feldenkrais method is a type of somatic education. Somatic therapy uses the mind-body connection perspective to work with “the living body as a whole”. In other words, somatic education is “getting to know the body from the inside out”.
The Feldenkrais Method focuses on discovering how your body moves. It is often practiced in a group, but also one-on-one with an instructor. You perform extremely slow and introspective movements throughout the session, interpreting the teacher’s instructions as you find best and most intuitive. This method uses gentle movements and directed attention to help people learn new and more effective ways to live the life they want.
The potential benefits of practicing the mindful movements of the Feldenkrais Method are many, from pain management, better balance, to improved artistic and athletic performance. Here are some ways the Feldenkrais Method can help you find deeper healing by identifying binding movement patterns and creating conscious, practiced adjustments.
1. May Help Manage Lower Back Pain
The Feldenkrais Method aligns with similar goals to physical and occupational therapy, in that it teaches you to become aware of your movement patterns and consciously change them. Awareness through movement, which is a specific type of the Feldenkrais method, guides you to move differently in a way that does not cause pain, which can potentially alleviate this discomfort.
In a 2020 trial published in Clinical Rehabilitation, researchers found that among a group of 60 people with chronic low back pain, those who took classes in the Feldenkrais Method twice a week for five weeks had improved quality of life and reduced their disability, compared to a control group who practiced core stability exercises at home. Separate research has shown that the Feldenkrais Method also improves interoceptive awareness (the ability to respond to internal sensations). Previous research mentioned in the study has shown that Feldenkrais can help improve feelings of pain control and management, which can decrease pain sensations. The mind-body approach also activates core muscles to support the back and helps people learn their body’s biomechanics and create pain-free movement patterns, the authors point out.
2. May Help Improve Balance and Reduce Fall Risk
Balance is important at any age, but especially for older people. Loss of balance and falls are a real risk for seniors and the elderly. This is one reason why balance training can be taken seriously.
Compared to control groups in a meta-analysis of seven studies, the authors found that the Feldenkrais Method helped boost balance in aging adults, improving measures such as timed rise and lie tests and reach, both of which require static and dynamic balance and can predict a person’s likelihood of falling. Also, according to one study, a decline in performance on a timed stand-up and lie-down test may indicate sarcopenia, a loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging. Research has also shown that older people with sarcopenia are at an increased risk of falling.
Although further high-quality research is needed, the authors of the Feldenkrais meta-analysis concluded that the method may be useful for balance training and is a well-suited tool for people with specific risk of falling.
A more recent meta-analysis came to similar conclusions. Three of the four trials showed that adults performed better on a timed uphill and downhill test, and older people reported better mobility and gait (walking patterns), d less fear of falling and a better quality of life. These benefits may be due to a focus on connecting the brain and body to promote better movement patterns, increased awareness, and the confidence to stay on your feet.
3. May help with rehabilitation
Whether you have suffered an injury, surgery, or stroke, or are trying to rehabilitate from a neuromuscular disease such as multiple sclerosis, the Feldenkrais Method can play a role in improving and maintaining your function. physical. The Feldenkrais Method is a learning model for brain and body. For example in the case of a joint problem. An injury requires strength work as part of rehabilitation, but it also takes stepping back and looking at how the joint moves to rebuild the connections between the brain and the body.
Take the example of a knee prosthesis. With the Feldenkrais Method, the main goal is to reintegrate your repaired knee into the rest of your body and restore its function with efficiency and less pain. Feldenkrais can also help you relearn to trust your knee and trust your joint.
When it comes to chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, some initial research indicates that a Feldenkrais practice can help people feel less stressed about their condition. For Parkinson’s disease, the practice can also improve balance, mood, mobility, speed, and quality of life.
Similarly, a pilot study and case series of four stroke patients with chronic neurological deficits showed that a six-week Feldenkrais program improved measures of walking by 55% and 11% balance. The authors also hypothesized that offering Feldenkrais in a group setting may have enhanced its effects due to the emotional and social support offered.
4. Can help you perform
Do you feel like something is wrong when you’re on the dance floor, on stage as an actor or musician, or on the court as an athlete? Feldenkrais practice through movement can help you find a connection within yourself, improve self-awareness, and unlock mental blocks.
5. May Support Healthy Aging
Arguably, the Feldenkrais Method isn’t considered an exercise per se, but it can encourage maintaining a movement practice as you age, according to research. In a small study, eight elderly participants were asked what they liked about this practice. They responded that it allowed them to exercise smoothly, move and pay attention. Older people signed up for classes to improve their performance in daily activities, and some reported better functionality, noting they had an easier time climbing stairs.
The study participants also appreciated the type of movement offered by the method: For the majority of them, the method does not increase the heart rate or require heavy breathing, which makes the Feldenkrais particularly attractive. In addition, the non-competitive nature of the classes, conscious movement without expectation or judgment, has proven to be particularly beneficial for the well-being of the participants.