“If you know what you do you can do what you want.” M. Feldenkrais
Awareness Through Movement (ATM) is the name given to group classes in the Feldenkrais Method and the title exactly describes the purpose and effect of this extraordinary and powerful work. Feldenkrais lessons are a space in which to increase and refine awareness in order to improve function in all areas of life. The Method belongs firmly in the world of learning, not therapy, and yet the eventual effect is often a sense of enhanced well-being.
The most obvious benefit of the Feldenkrais Method is that you discover and develop easier, more efficient movement in daily life. The learning process is playful, intriguing, non-competitive and a truly safe space to care for yourself, regenerate and rejuvenate. At the end of a lesson people often mention feeling taller, more spacious, more integrated, more ‘whole’. They sense an improvement, they feel better.
“It is magic!” says one of my regular clients.
In an Awareness Through Movement class you will typically lie on the floor and follow verbal instructions which lead you mindfully through a sequence of coordination riddles. You will be reminded regularly to move gently and slowly, respecting your own comfort, and to rest when needed. Your attention will be drawn to subtle sensations, your breathing, the quality of your movement, and your ability to take care of yourself while exploring unfamiliar movement combinations.
Feldenkrais classes having nothing to do with fitness, exercise or aerobics and they involve no imitation, stretching or straining. They are therefore suitable for people at any level of fitness and state of health. Individual accommodations will be made for those who cannot manage certain positions and each person follows the instructions according to their own individual needs and abilities. It is amazing but true that the movements can even be experienced in the imagination with equal power, which can be especially helpful if you have an injury or limitation.
You can also access the Method through individual one-to-one lessons (called Functional Integration) tailored to your specific needs and interests. Your existing habits are explored and experienced and then fresh movement possibilities and pathways are suggested via the teacher’s gentle touch, as well as via conversation.
A hallmark of both Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration lessons is the gentleness and subtlety of the work. You develop an ever increasing refinement in awareness of movement, sensation, feeling and thinking. You learn about your existing, possibly outdated or unhelpful habits, and experience alternative patterns and new options for healthier action. The lessons are designed to exploit our infinite capacity for learning on both a conscious and an unconscious level. Because the effects take place in the brain it can be particularly helpful to people who are recovering from injury or stroke impairment, or living with a nervous system condition such as Parkinson’s or MS.
Who was Feldenkrais?
Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) was an engineer, a Physicist, a polymath and a black belt Judo instructor. He originally developed his Method through rehabilitating his own injured knee, and then devoted his life to helping others move and function better. The Method synthesises a profound understanding of the human condition, the human brain, child development and the way our skeleton has evolved to function in gravity. Dr Feldenkrais was a pioneer in understanding and exploiting brain plasticity long before it became an established area of neuroscience.