Curious to know more about how a Feldenkrais practitioner helps clients reduce or eliminate chronic pain without drugs or surgery?
Here are four fundamental strategies that a Feldenkrais practitioner uses—and most of us use others as well. But for introducing this work to people who don’t know about Feldenkrais, here’s a start.
A practitioner will mix and match these, depending on their client’s needs. Feldenkrais clients benefit from feeling valued and respected as individuals and are never subjected to a cookie-cutter approach.
1. Quiet your nervous system with supportive touch.
Feldenkrais touch is different from traditional massage and other bodywork practices. It is non-invasive and has a clarity that is unique to Feldenkrais. This light, but potent touch is a specifically honed skill that Feldenkrais practitioners are taught during their training.
Why is Feldenkrais touch so light?
Most of us are aware that holding stress in our bodies is a problem. We’ve tried for years to relax, to no avail. The truth is, it can be nearly impossible to release deep tension on our own because most of us only feel the outer layers of chronic tension.
With supportive, non-invasive touch, a human nervous system begins to let go of some of the protective work it’s doing. When deeper muscles soften and breathing becomes easier, a person begins to sense comfort and safety.
This important fundamental, of quieting a client’s nervous system, is the beginning of how a Feldenkrais practitioner creates neurological change to reduce chronic pain.
2. Learn Movement Awareness.
Learning self-awareness is a building block for reducing or eliminating chronic pain.
Chronic pain is complicated, but it is not a necessary byproduct of the aging process, even though someone may have told you that it is.
For many people, inefficient movement habits are an important contributing factor of chronic pain. Inefficient movement habits come from too much sitting, too many hours staring at a screen, or living with chronic stress that constricts our muscles (to name a few). And these habits add up over years.
To move out of pain, we need to change the habits that have been keeping us in pain. And to let go of the old habits, we need to become aware of how we move.
“This focus on self-awareness and monitoring of experience . . .reveals him (Moshe Feldenkrais) anticipating the current Western interest in mindfulness meditation by about fifty years”
Norman Doidge, “The Brain’s Way of Healing.”
Using words or touch, a Feldenkrais practitioner helps clients become aware of their movement habits. When they grow this awareness, they know what they are doing and can change how they move. They become empowered to carry healing strategies with them.
And, what people often don’t expect is that this can be a lot of fun! Feldenkrais students often re-discover delight in moving that they forgot they ever had.
3. Learn the Basics of Better Body Mechanics
Once a client has made some room in their nervous system to move differently, a Feldenkrais practitioner will spend time educating their client on principles of healthy and efficient movement. Chances are you haven’t encountered this information in most traditional gym settings.
Here’s a list of some of the movement principles that Feldenkrais practitioners will help you understand and incorporate into your exercise—
Distributed Tone – Squeezing, holding, tensing your muscles can make you feel strong, but only creates “work” rather than “strength.” Feldenkrais works because people re-learn to use their entire bodies to support movement. The muscles all work proportionally and there’s less wear and tear, a contributing factor to chronic pain.
Counterbalance – using the principle of “equal and opposite” to distribute the effort in a healthy way throughout your muscular and skeletal systems.
Reversibility – A good test of movement clarity is whether you can reverse a movement at any moment. You’ll really get to know yourself in movement when you discover whether you take the same path back and you did forward!
Lift – The idea of coming away from the floor rather than sinking into the floor. This uses the physics principle of the ground force opposite to gravity and you may discover a whole new way to find your easy upright.
Uninterrupted breath—Held breath is the enemy of healthy movement. The human diaphragm muscle is BIG! And when we constrict it by holding our breath, it can interfere with healthy movement in our spine, hip joints, neck and ribs.
4. Feldenkrais Homework is Important.
During a session, my clients will remark that they’ve experienced a change that feels magical to them. And this change stays with them anywhere from a few hours to days.
And sometimes they feel a let-down when the improvement fades.
Not to worry. That is natural.
Our nervous systems want to return to what is familiar and safe – the habits we’ve done for years. So when a client feels that familiar discomfort, it’s their body doing what nervous systems do.
Our bodies are living systems with the ability to change and improve—and to also lose improvements. It’s important to keep offering our brain fresh alternatives, novel patterns and interesting movement puzzles to solve.
Remember, Feldenkrais changes your brain, and your brain changes what your muscles are doing.
A Feldenkrais practitioner will recommend certain movements or parts of lessons that are based on what they sense would help you create change.
That part’s up to the client—to own the process and do their part at home . . the payoff is worth it!
I hope this post has helped you understand how Feldenkrais practitioners combine their skills to understand the unique needs of each client.
They listen carefully, observe closely, touch with intelligence and teach generously.
The mechanical approach of traditional rehab environments short-changes people’s dreams of a healthy and pain-free life.
If you know someone whose life is controlled by pain, yet who still believes there is something better out there for them, please tell them about the Feldenkrais Method.
I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.