When Katherine shares that she teaches group classes and works with people in private individual sessions in the Feldenkrais Method®, she is often asked, “What is Feldenkrais?” Her answer typically begins with some questions in return, "What do you like to do - in your leisure time and for fun? What do you enjoy?" What she learns about the person helps her to respond to the question, What is Feldenkrais?
Katherine likes to dance Argentinean tango, and it is through Argentinean tango that she found out about the Feldenkrais Method. However, before she shares her story, she offers a more global response.
Learning is a gift of life, and a special kind of learning is that of knowing oneself. Feldenkrais is a learning system in which a person deeply explores his or her uniqueness, and develops understanding and awareness of how he or she engages in movement as well as daily action.
In Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais’ words, on a physical level, “the aim is a person that is organized to move with minimum effort and maximum efficiency, not through muscular strength, but through increased consciousness of how movement works.” Most importantly though, is his belief, “It is not about flexible bodies, but flexible minds. Until you know what you are doing, you cannot do what you want. When you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.”
Dr. Feldenkrais chose movement as the way to human improvement because he viewed movement as the most effective way to “restore each person to their human dignity.” Often quoted as the basis of the Feldenkrais Method are his statements, “Movement is life and without movement life is unthinkable. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.”
Only in language do we separate the four aspects of human experience - moving, sensing, thinking, and feeling. One or a combination of these is dominant in each action of our lives, but to some extent all four are involved. Improving one aspect (moving, thinking, feeling, or sensing) can lead to improvements in the other three, so the whole person is affected.
We each speak, move, think and feel in different ways, in accordance to the image that we have of ourselves which we have constructed over the years of our lives. In order to change, we must change this image of ourselves that we carry within. For Mia Segal (Dr. Feldenkrais’ first assistant, collaborator and associate for 16 years, and a master trainer with more than 50 years of experience), the core question is “How can you live differently?”
In Feldenkrais you simultaneously become a student and your own teacher as you focus on, pay attention to, and monitor how you move. The Feldenkrais practitioner, also a teacher, guides you through gentle and slow specific movements and encourages you to notice several things: how you begin to move, where movement is happening within you, where movement stops, and whether there are differences in sensations before and after movement sequences.
Why a sensory journey? Awareness of how you move illuminates your habits – your fixed and automatic ways of moving and spots where the harmonious movement conversation within you breaks into disharmony (resulting in more effortful movement than is needed which can cause excess wear and stress on joints).
Why sense for differences before and after movement sequences? Differences point out where and when learning, or change, is taking place. Careful attention to how you move and curiousity about exploring different options in movement allows you to examine your routine and automatic ways of moving, which might have components that offer interference to the movement you are intending and trying to do.
The gentle way of Feldenkrais leads to the possibility of different and more optimal movement. Additionally, since a shift in movement patterns often is accompanied by shifts in patterns in thinking, sensing, feeling, and social interaction, Feldenkrais teachers regularly remind their students to not be surprised if changes show up in other aspects of life.
Katherine thinks of the Feldenkrais Method as movement-based and embodied learning based on the beliefs that (1) movement is fundamental to life and (2) thoughtful attention to all that one does, thinks, feels, communicates, and senses provides the foundation for change and living the life one dreams to live.
Barely a few months into learning how to dance Argentinean tango, Katherine took a tango workshop co-taught by a local dancer and another dancer from the Netherlands who also was a Feldenkrais practitioner. In the few hours of the workshop participants alternated between learning basic tango movements and engaging in a mini-Feldenkrais lesson. With a dance partner and in close embrace everyone performed a turn around each other (called a molinete). Key to this tango step is maintaining one’s own balance without pulling the other off-balance. Then everyone was led through the Feldenkrais mini-lesson related to freeing movement in their center/the pelvis. Finally everyone returned to performing the tango step. In what appeared to be a magical and mysterious way, Katherine’s coordination in the tango movement dramatically improved. She had a better sense of where she was in space and how to be in connection with her dance partner in an easy and elegant way. The width of her smile bespoke her sense of pleasure. Everyone else at the workshop shared similar comments of dance improvement.
Katherine continues to relate her Feldenkrais experiences to dancing tango. She is a better Argentinean tango dancer because of what she has learned about herself through Feldenkrais. Through Feldenkrais she has also come to know more about her habits of being and living, and increased her vitality and enjoyment of life.
Some people might think that physical movement is the only focus of Feldenkrais - that moving well in a physical sense is the only goal. It is not. Movement is the gateway into a personal experience of awareness and learning that is often hard to describe in words. Feldenkrais experiences put attention and awareness in the spotlight, and open a door for possibility and transformation - if you will, a journey into living life to your fullest potential. Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, the creator of the Feldenkrais Method, said that Feldenkrais can help people to “make the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy elegant” and "to fulfill their vowed and unavowed dreams."
Moving + Sensing + Thinking + Feeling + Awareness => Change / Learning + Improved Movement Choices + Being Your Most Potent Self