What is The Feldenkrais Method?
It is a method of learning, and in Feldenkrias the learning is through movement. How we learn a movement is probably how we learn everything. Looking at how we learn, and drawing awareness to that, can change how we learn. The Feldenkrais Method can be about movement, but it can also be about much more.
From Learn to Learn by Moshe Feldenkrais:
“I do not intend to “teach” you, but to enable you to learn at your own rate of understanding and doing. Time is the most important means to learning. To enable everybody—without exception—to learn, there should be plenty of time for everybody to assimilate the idea of the movement as well as the leisure to get used to the novelty of the situations. There should be sufficient time to perceive, and organize oneself. No one can learn when hurried and hustled. Each movement is, therefore, allotted sufficient time for repeating it a number of times. Thus, you will repeat the movement as many times as it suits you during the span of time allotted.”
In Awareness Through Movement lessons, a class setting and one in which the teacher or practitioner is guiding the class through verbal instruction without visual demonstration, participants or students will take instruction and interpret it in their own way, through their understanding of the instruction. As the class continues, the practitioner will guide students with verbal cues and images yet not with corrections. It’s not helpful to correct when it’s not clear yet what we’re doing in the first place. Plus, what a correction means to each (Sit up straight! Don’t slump!) will be different. Even if we narrow down the correction (Pull your shoulders back! Chin up!) each correction implies a different meaning to each individual—a meaning based on experience and association, or lack of these, with the implied correction. Also and just as importantly, these corrections (Sit up straight! Don’t slump! Pull your shoulders back! Chin up!) are ideas and not movements, and they involve many smaller, finer movements, which happen to result in sitting straighter or with shoulders further back.*
It’s in this way that a Feldenkrais teacher doesn’t teach. A practitioner will introduce movements and possibility and each student takes those movements and possibilities and experiments with them. Is this what I do? What happens when I do this? Does this hurt? (If the answer to this is yes, then do less or rest.) Am I hurrying? Am I breathing? Am I letting go of the movement before I try it again, maybe in a different way? Each student takes responsibility for their own learning by asking themselves questions and with the answers, maybe alters their movement.
Each class is another introduction to learning and this kind of awareness to oneself. Maybe what I thought was unhurried movement a few weeks ago seems hasty now. Maybe what I thought hurt me yesterday was actually my discomfort with the novelty of the movement, or the other way around.
Teachers of the Feldenkrais Method are learning too and make mistakes. Perhaps a practitioner rushes you on to another movement. Or unconsciously gives a correction rather than an alternate way of moving. It’s up to you as a student to remember that you are in charge of your learning. You don’t have to do what a teacher says. You can recognize the instruction as a correction and note it or resist it. You can rest when you need to or stop moving completely and do the lesson in your imagination** or simply rest your attention. If we give this right to discernment away to our teachers, we’re missing important opportunities to learn and develop aspects of ourselves.
Though we live in a culture and society of quick and easy changes and fixes, most good and lasting changes actually take time. Learning is certainly no exception and is likely the most important and encompassing change. We learn “at [our] own rate of understanding and doing.” This is true in each class and over the course of many classes. And how we learn in class is probably how we learn in life.
* This brings up another important piece of the Feldenkrais Method, which is that there is no such thing as “good posture.” There is posture for a particular activity, movement, or moment. Dr. Feldenkrais referred to this idea as “acture,” coming from the word “act.” Rather than “posture,” which has at its root in the word “post.” This will be discussed more in another piece of “What is the Feldenkrais Method?”
** This brings up another important piece of the Feldenkrais Method, which is that our nervous systems, our brains, we, are affected by doing things in our imagination. This will be discussed more in another piece of “What is the Feldenkrais Method?”