When Israeli physicist Dr Moshe Feldenkrais found himself struggling to walk due to a serious knee injury, he tried a new approach to heal himself combining physics, physiology and neurology. Today his Feldenkrais (rhymes with “rice”) classes are changing the lives of everyone from nippers to nonagenarians. Interested?
What Is It?
Feldenkrais is moving with awareness. It’s about learning to perform any kind of movement, be it running, playing the piano, lifting weights or hanging out the washing with minimum effort and maximum efficiency.
According to Sydney teacher Christine Heberlein, the most common response at the end of a class is: “How can such a small movement make such a big difference?”
The idea is to make us more mindful of our personal possibilities and retrain the mind and body, establishing new neural pathways and ways of moving.
Who Shouldn’t Do It?
Feldenkrais is particularly beneficial for older people and those challenged by stroke, injury or arthritis as it’s great for regaining lost movement and improving balance. Young children with developmental issues also benefit. However, anyone who wants to feel functionally stronger, more body aware and move with greater freedom and lightness will enjoy it.
“I also wish more people would try it as a preventative tool,” Heberlein says. “Becoming aware, for instance, that your left heel flicks out when you run might prevent hip issues 20 years down the track.” Pregnant women who do Feldenkrais can find it helps prevent back pain.
What Happens in a Typical Class?
Every class, even with the same teacher, will be different each time, with the focus on other body parts or movement. As an example, you might focus on the feet, how you stand, where your body weight is, if one foot has more flexibility ortakes more weight than the other.
You might try moving and adjusting a part of the foot you usually pay little attention to, such as the heel. By the end of a class you’ll probably be astonished at how more balanced and relaxed your body feels.
The beauty of Feldenkrais is that there’s no wrong or right way of performing each movement, so teachers instruct instead of demonstrate, and you find your own way to discover the connection between your body parts and the path of least resistance. And there are rests between each movement so you can absorb what you’ve just practised.
How Do I Find a Teacher?
Australian Feldenkrais Guild practitioners complete a professional training program over four years. Many are also physiotherapists.