All people are more or fewer slaves to their habits. We have some kind of habitual way of life, thinking, outlook on things, and a set of movements. Moreover, depending on our usual childhood actions, movements and thoughts, certain neuronal circuits are formed in our body, muscle groups develop, and, unfortunately, disorders appear in the functioning of organs and systems of the body. Diseases can be associated with certain pathologies in the nervous, musculoskeletal systems, or be the result of our thoughts, emotions, and perception of the world – the so-called psychosomatic etiology. All this creates certain patterns that are often very difficult to change.

How can you break this vicious circle and find freedom of thought and movement?

The Feldenkrais Method is a holistic approach to the robot of the body and brain as a single system, so-called somatic approach.

This method provides an understanding of all the implicit patterns of movements and reflex reactions, stops the automatism of movements, and teaches the brain the ability to consciously avoid patterns and maximize the full range of movements and reactions. Also, thanks to the change in movements and awareness of every moment and reaction, our thinking changes, we begin to perceive the world around us differently and react to it differently.

The holistic approach to health according to Feldenkrais method

The Feldenkrais method was developed by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984). The biography of Dr. Feldenkrais shows his diverse fields of study and hints at the sources of the genius of the method he developed. 

Today, the Feldenkrais method is one of the smartest and holistic approaches to working with humans. It helps to explore our body and our capabilities, shows the close relationship between our body, thoughts, emotions, and reactions, teaches us how to use the flexibility of the brain to make the most of bodily capabilities, improves the quality of life by increasing self-awareness and control over every moment and movement.

This method is not a familiar approach to treatment, as it involves teaching the brain new capabilities through changes in bodily patterns, that is, we teach the brain through the body. Science has long proven how important touch is to us. For example, at an early age, it is precisely touching a child’s body and hugging that activates his mental and physical development, self-confidence and curiosity, and reduces the incidence rate.

The Feldenkrais method from the scientific point of view

From the scientific point of view, the Feldenkrais method of somatic education has a huge treatment potential. It is a practice, a process, and a system for self-improvement. It is a form of “somatic education,” which means it uses movement and real-time awareness of your body sensations to guide you toward the positive changes you seek (1). But is there any scientific explanation of this method’s mechanisms?

The Feldenkrais Method can be particularly explained by the theory of neuroplasticity as it applies to the acquisition of new skills and modification of maladaptive, pain-perpetuating, and inefficient movement patterns. Neuroplasticity is the ability of neurons to modify the strength of existing synapses, as well as form new synaptic connections (2).

This way it can be suggested that activation of the skin receptors and formation of the new nerve impulses results in a subsequent change happening in the nerve fibres at the cortical level (3). Firstly, a nerve impulse leads to functional transformation in the cortical network by carrying out the excitability of the nerve fibres. Furthermore, this functional transformation enhances plastic changes in the nervous system leading to neuroplasticity (4). Defined in this way, neuroplasticity includes changes in the strength of mature synaptic connections, as well as the formation and elimination of synapses in adult and developing brains. In addition, neuroplasticity includes the regrowth (or sprouting) of new synaptic connections following central nervous system injury.

That is, using the Feldenkrais Method, we train our brain to act differently, or to restore lost actions.

Is there any evidence for Feldenkrais method effectiveness?

People often say, well, the ideas sound great, but is there any research to back this up? In fact, there are hundreds of studies, published in legitimate scientific journals that validate the efficacy of the Feldenkrais method in various applications, from ageing well to high performance. The Feldenkrais method is based on decades of research in physics, neuroscience, biomechanics, learning theory, and human development to give you the means to help yourself. That’s why there are more than 80 articles within PubMed (a free search engine accessing primarily the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics) found using the search term Feldenkrais (5). 

For example, the effectiveness of this innovative approach was researched in different diseases:
1. Health-related Outcomes of the Feldenkrais Method in Children and Adults: State of the Art and Future Perspectives.  A one-page overview of research studies presented in an easy-to-read format with graphs and pictures (6). 

2. The Effectiveness of the Feldenkrais Method: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. A classic and scholarly paper that gives a more in-depth discussion of research studies (7).

3. Changes in neural resting state activity in primary and higher-order motor areas induced by a short sensorimotor intervention based on the Feldenkrais Method.  A rare research study with 21 participants that used brain imaging to investigate the effects of Functional Integration® sessions done on the feet with the artificial floor while in a functional magnetic imaging scanner (8).

4. Feldenkrais Movement Lessons Improve Older Adults’ Awareness, Comfort, and Function A study of the effects of 12 Awareness Through Movement® lessons on older adults using both quantitative measures and the participants’ subjective opinions of change (9).5. Feldenkrais method and functionality in Parkinson’s disease: a randomized controlled clinical trial. A study of the effects of 50 sessions of a Feldenkrais-based exercise program on 30 participants with Parkinson’s, with functional measures done before and after (10).

What are the health benefits of practicing the Feldenkrais Method?

For what diseases and disorders will the Feldenkrais method be effective?

So, this method has been extensively researched and has many health benefits. But what kind of diseases will it be effective for? The Feldenkrais method will help people with: (7):

– with neurological conditions (dystonia, spasticity, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, stroke and spinal cord injuries, etc.).  Feldenkrais can help to calm an overloaded nervous system and begin making use of the brain’s plasticity to create new connections and help people regain control and ease of movement (11).  

– with chronic pain – Feldenkrais can help to start undoing those strongly established neurological pain pathways by giving people an experience of comfort in movement, teaching new movements patterns that don’t hurt as much and improving body awareness to give greater control over their experience (12).

–  with eating disorders (13), after myocardial infarct (14), and sleep bruxism (15).

– for preventing and recovering from injury – Feldenkrais can improve your awareness as well as teach you better body habits and movements that stop the tension from building up in the first place (16)

– who want to age well – Everyone wants to enjoy their retirement, but many people are not physically able to do the activities that they now have the time for.  Feldenkrais can work to ensure that you don’t lose your physical abilities as well as resolve poor movement habits that you may have been able to get away with when younger.  Even in old age, we can continuously improve, so Feldenkrais is perfect for ensuring that ageing isn’t the downward spiral many of us expect it to be (17).

– with stress and anxiety – In the modern world, we face all sorts of expectations and demands that can cause various levels of stress and anxiety.  Feldenkrais can help to calm an overloaded system and help take you out of the ‘fight or flee’ response and into a better space for healing and improvement.  It can help you become aware of your physical responses to stress and anxiety and help develop strategies to better deal with life’s demands (18).- with posture and balance disorders – Many of us suffer from the effects of poor posture, whether it’s a sore back from too much sitting and stiff or sore feet from poor walking or running styles.  Feldenkrais can help to not only reduce the discomfort from poor posture but help improve your posture and balance to prevent issues from reoccurring.  It can help teach you different postures for different demands and increase your awareness of your body so that you can avoid falling into poor postural habits (15).

How to find a Feldenkrais teacher?

The Feldenkrais Method can be easily integrated into psychotherapy or some physical practices – the key is to find a licensed and experienced professional with training in somatic therapy techniques. Also, it is important to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable speaking and who you feel understands you and the challenges you’re looking to overcome. Urška Potočnik, is exactly that person. She is one of the six teachers in Slovenia of the Feldenkrais method. After Urška got acquainted with this method, she was so impressed that wanted to help others with it and went to a four-year training in Vienna, studied in Chicago for a year, and later completed training for working with children in Germany. With as little effort as possible to maximize efficiency Urška performs exercises with participants in groups or individually, and she is especially pleased with their satisfaction.

For more information follow the link: https://urskapotocnik.com/

Dr. Oksana Klymenko M.D., PhD, 
SNHS Dip. (Holistic Nutrition), Medical Doctor, Researcher in the fields 
of molecular physiology and pathophysiology, 
molecular biology, genetics, cell biology

References

  1. https://feldenkrais.com/hrf_faq/what-is-the-feldenkrais-method/
  2. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Neuroplasticity
  3. Stahnisch FW, Nitsch R. Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s concept of neuronal plasticity: the ambiguity lives on. TRENDS in Neurosciences. 2002 Nov 1;25(11):589-91
  4. Wang W, Collinger JL, Perez MA, Tyler-Kabara EC, Cohen LG, Birbaumer N, Brose SW, Schwartz AB, Boninger ML, Weber DJ. Neural interface technology for rehabilitation: exploiting and promoting neuroplasticity. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics. 2010 Feb 1;21(1):157-78.
  5. https://feldenkrais.com/research-2/
  6. Ullmann, Gerhild. (2017). Health-related Outcomes of the Feldenkrais Method in Children and Adults: State of the Art and Future Perspectives..
  7. Hillier S, Worley A. The effectiveness of the Feldenkrais method: a systematic review of the evidence. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:752160. doi: 10.1155/2015/752160
  8. Verrel J, Almagor E, Schumann F, Lindenberger U, Kühn S. Changes in neural resting state activity in primary and higher-order motor areas induced by a short sensorimotor intervention based on the Feldenkrais method. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 Apr 28;9:232. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00232. 
  9. Palmer CF. Feldenkrais Movement Lessons Improve Older Adults’ Awareness, Comfort, and Function. Gerontol Geriatr Med. 2017 Aug 15;3:2333721417724014. doi: 10.1177/2333721417724014. 
  10. Teixeira-Machado, Lavinia, de Araújo, Fernanda M., Menezes, Mayara A., Cunha, Fabiane A., Menezes, Thainá, Ferreira, Clecia da S. and DeSantana, Josimari M.. “Feldenkrais method and functionality in Parkinson’s disease: a randomized controlled clinical trial” International Journal on Disability and Human Development, vol. 16, no. 1, 2017, pp. 59-66. https://doi.org/10.1515/ijdhd-2016-0006
  11. Johnson S. K., Frederick J., Kaufman M., Mountjoy B. A controlled investigation of bodywork in multiple sclerosis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1999;5(3):237–243. doi: 10.1089/acm.1999.5.237. 
  12. Smith A., Kolt G., McConville J. The effect of the Feldenkrais method on pain and anxiety in people experiencing chronic low back pain. New Zealand Journal Physiotherapy. 2001;29(1):6–14.
  13. Laumer U., Bauer M., Fichter M., Helmut M. Therapeutic effects of the Feldenkrais Method (Awareness through Movement) in eating disorders Psychotherapie Psychosomatik Medizinische Psychologie. 1997;47(5):170–180. (Ger).
  14. Löwe B., Breining K., Wilke S., Wellmann R., Zipfel S., Eich W. Quantitative and qualitative effects of Feldenkrais, progressive muscle relaxation, and standard medical treatment in patients after acute myocardial infarction. Psychotherapy Research. 2002;12(2):179–191. 
  15. Quintero Y., Restrepo C. C., Tamayo V., et al. Effect of awareness through movement on the head posture of bruxist children. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation. 2009;36(1):18–25. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2842.2008.01906.x. 
  16. Vrantsidis F., Hill K. D., Moore K., Webb R., Hunt S., Dowson L. Getting grounded gracefully: effectiveness and acceptability of feldenkrais in improving balance. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 2009;17(1):57–76. 
  17. Hillier S., Porter L., Jackson K., Petkov J. The effects of Feldenkrais classes on the health and function of an ageing Australian sample: pilot study. The Open Rehabilitation Journal. 2010;3(1):62–66. doi: 10.2174/1874943701003010062. 
  18. Kolt G. S., McConville J. C. The effects of a Feldenkrais (ATM) Awareness Through Movement program on state anxiety. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2000;4(3):216–220. doi: 10.1054/jbmt.2000.0179. 

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