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What is The Point of Feldenkrais?

In this repost of her blog – first posted on The Moving Brain – professional classical musician and Feldenkrais teacher Emma Alter cuts to the crux on the matter on Feldenkrais as an experiential learning method.

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By Emma Alter Published: 31 January 2022 | 4:01 PM
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Feldenkrais can be used reducing anxiety levels on or off the stage. Photo credit: Shutterstock

This question came up in my last MU session, and I wanted to address it here. This one is the crux of many questions I’m asked.

Feldenkrais is an experiential learning method.

Which is what’s tricky about explaining it. I can describe to you what a mango tastes like. But no matter how detailed my description, you don’t know what a mango tastes until it’s in your mouth.

But here goes.

Feldenkrais is a learning method: teaching you to learn how to learn. How to unpack your habits, and discover which you need to keep, and which habits no longer serve you. Everyone has an innate ability to learn new ways of doing things.

Feldenkrais is about improving action: and action is not movement alone. It’s always combined with three other strands: sensation, emotion and thought. Every single thing we do we accompany with those four pieces of the “Action pie”, whether we are aware of them all or not.

Feldenkrais is about improving efficiency and efficacy; the effectiveness of everything you do. Because, at the end, everything we do is movement. We move to perform any kind of action.

Which is why it’s effective for so many things, but also why it’s difficult to pin it down. We could say Feldenkrais = better posture but it’s much, much, more than that too.

Learning to make better choices

As it’s about movement, it has many applications.

On one hand, we can teach Feldenkrais for rehab. On the other, it can be high level performance enhancement. We can use it to help people recover from strokes, or for improving child development.

I’ve used it to help people with childhood abuse or trauma feel at ease in their bodies again. Musicians improve their technique and comfort at their instrument/voice. Or people who have had lots of operations gain self acceptance and self-confidence. I also use Feldenkrais for reducing anxiety levels on or off the stage. So those people can be more of themselves in the world, and feel comfortable being that.

How can you improve what you’re doing? How can you learn to do less, so you can sense more? So you can make better choices.

At the same time, it’s the best way I’ve seen of improving the quality of our aging. There’s an assumption that as we age, we have get ‘rusty.’ But some of that deterioration isn’t necessary; if we’re prepared to look at how we’re doing what we do.

It’s a self-improvement method for ourselves, based on science-based strategies:

Through Feldenkrais, we can also explore the space between our human potential and limitations we’ve added. Often, ones that aren’t, or are no longer necessary. i.e. Where’s the gap between objective reality and our subjective reality? Feldenkrais practice can help us discover these things, and lessen the space between what we think we’re doing, and what we are actually doing.

It’s mindfulness in action. Whether that’s playing a violin, or an everyday activity.

Looking at solutions for common areas of discomfort

What can it do for your playing?

  • You’ll develop science-based strategies to learn what virtuosi just ‘do’.
  • Change your movement patterns and improve your playing
  • Address your habits of moving and thinking, and create space for new ideas.
  • Make choices with awareness whilst practicing
  • Begin having greater choices, and less compulsion.
  • How doing less can get you more
  • Better co-ordination, focus and comfort with yourself, your instrument and onstage.
  • Feel how the smallest movement in one part of your body changes the whole body.

MU Feldenkrais for Musicians Friday sessions: we’ll be looking at solutions for common areas of discomfort, and finding greater ease. The last Friday of the month is a three-hour workshop. See upcoming events.

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