The Feldenkrais® Method of Somatic Education

                                                     by Jandy Bergmann, MFA, GCFP

The Feldenkrais Method is a somatically based approach to education and self-inquiry. It is a unique and sophisticated approach to human understanding, learning, and change. Often applied as a holistic form of physical therapy, the remarkable effectiveness of the method lies in its ability to access the nervous system's own innate processes to change and refine functioning. The method is of benefit to anyone who wishes to live and move more comfortably, efficiently, and pleasurably, and to those who want to reconnect with their natural abilities to think and feel. It is helpful to diverse groups of people, such as those with restricted movement, chronic pain, psychological and neurological challenges, and to performing artists and athletes.  

Named for Russian-born Israeli physicist, mechanical engineer, and judo master Moshe Feldenkrais (1904–1984), the method emerged from Feldenkrais's own problems with his knee. When an old injury flared up in his forties, Feldenkrais began an intense study of human movement and behavior.  Drawing on his knowledge of motor development, biomechanics, psychology, and martial arts, Feldenkrais was able not only to heal his knee without surgery, he developed a method using awareness and gentle movement sequences to enhance communication between muscles and the central-nervous system, ultimately allowing greater freedom and fluidity of movement.  

At the age of fifty, Feldenkrais gave up his physics career to share his method with others, including early pupils Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and violinist Yehudi Menuhin. In the early seventies, Feldenkrais brought his teachings to the United States and in 1977 established the Feldenkrais Guild. Today the Guild has certified nearly 3,000 Feldenkrais teachers around the globe. 

The Feldenkrais Method is recognized for its demonstrated ability to improve posture, flexibility, and coordination, and to alleviate muscular tension and pain. Because the method focuses on the relationship between movement and thought, increased mental clarity and creativity, and improved emotional well-being accompany physical improvements.

Through personal experience, we adopt patterns of physical and psychological behavior to assure our biological and social survival. These patterns are deeply embedded in our nervous system and often become outmoded or dysfunctional. The Feldenkrais Method utilizes functionally based variation, innovation, and differentiation in sensory motor activity to free us from habitual patterns and allow for new patterns of thinking, moving, and feeling to emerge. The method expands the self-image through movement sequences that bring attention to parts to the self that are not habitually in awareness or involved in functional action. Better function is evoked by allowing a person to relearn how his or her whole self can cooperate in any movement and by establishing an improved dynamic relationship between the individual and gravity.  

The work consists of two versatile and compelling applications: Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration®. Both harness the nervous system's ability to self-organize towards more effective and intelligent action.

Awareness Through Movement (ATM) consists of verbally directed movement sequences, usually  presented to groups of students and generally lasting between 45-60 minutes. The lessons directly engage the students' natural intelligence in a gentle and pleasurable way. These precisely structured movement explorations involve thinking, sensing, moving, and imagining. Many are based on developmental movements and ordinary functional activities such as reaching, standing, turning, rolling from lying to sitting, etc. Some are based on more abstract exploration of joint, muscle, and postural relationships.  Moshe Feldenkrais developed many hundreds of ATM lessons, varying in difficulty and complexity and for all levels of movement ability.  

Functional Integration® lessons are a one-on-one application of the Feldenkrais Method. They are tailored to each student's needs.  The teacher guides the student's movements through skilled manipulation and touch.  The learning process is carried out without any use of invasive or forceful procedures.  

Regardless of which learning style one chooses, the Feldenkrais Method can help one overcome limitations brought on by stress, misuse, accident, or illness.

"What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I'm after is to restore each person to their human dignity." —Moshe Feldenkrais

Jandy Bergmann, MFA, GCFP, teaches the Feldenkrais Method in Arcata California. She helps adults, children, and infants as well as equines and other animals to experience greater ease, vitality, and clarity in their daily lives. Jandy was introduced to the Feldenkrais Method in 1988 by Nancy Lamp, MA, GCFP, professor of dance at Humboldt State University. Jandy has since studied the method with many of the world's most noted Feldenkrais trainers, all of whom were students of Feldenkrais himself in Israel and in the first teacher training programs Feldenkrais conducted in the United States. Jandy finished her Feldenkrais Practitioner's Certification in 2005 at the Semiophysics Institute in San Rafael, California, and has maintained a private practice in Arcata since that time. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance at Mills College in Oakland and has taught in the Dance program at Humboldt State University since 1998. She lives in Bayside with her family. Please contact her at 707-498-6374 or for more information about the Feldenkrais Method or to schedule an appointment or consultation.