FELDENKRAÏS Method

General overview

This method was developed in the 1950s by Moshe Feldenkraïs. Following a knee injury, he developed the method to heal himself, based on his knowledge of physics, neuroscience, anatomy and his practice of martial arts. He is particularly inspired by the way children who are beginning to move discover movement.

Moshe Feldenkrais can be considered a genius in the understanding of movement, linking his knowledge as a physicist and a martial arts specialist:
After a PhD in physics in Paris, he worked in the 1930s at the Juliot-Curie laboratory on nuclear energy. 
After his meeting with Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo, he became one of the first black belts of Judo in France and co-founded the first Judo club in France.
In the 1950s, he returned to Israel and worked alongside Ben Gurion in the army and then devoted himself entirely to the development of the "Feldenkrais Method".

He has created a library of over 1000 lessons (i.e. movement choreographies) to train Feldenkrais professionals to understand themselves, enabling them to teach others how to improve their ease of movement and how to function at a higher level. Today there are over 12,000 trained practitioners worldwide.

Main objectives of the method

The Feldenkrais Method allows children to experience what the brain has been missing, what it usually learns by trial and error, especially from :
- create a clear self-image, a clear perception of their whole body (this is not innate but the typical baby learns it during these first months of life, and children with motor disorders or neurodevelopmental disorders lack the exploration that allows them to map their bodies)
- differentiate all parts of their body (this is very difficult to create naturally, especially for children who have a lot of spasticity, they are like a block because they have not yet been able to differentiate the different parts of their body to be able to use them, and thus have little capacity for voluntary movement)
- connect the different parts of the body and create an understanding of how they function and move together, creating the library of experiences that the child has not been able to create naturally for him/herself, through exploration and many small movements in the early months of life
The results targeted by the method are :
An improvement in motor function (especially for children with cerebral palsy)
Emotional serenity and maturity (especially for children with ASD)
Language / communication development (especially for non-verbal children, Down's syndrome)
Strengthening of learning capacities (especially for children with dys-type disorders)

Specificities of the method

Some specificities of the Feldenkrais approach:
Avoid gravity (usually working in a long position) in order to create greater possibilities to feel and initiate the movement.
Use what the person already knows and create a lot of variation around it to make it even easier and create a stronger basis for reaching new possibilities.
Start with the unaffected side of the body, make the movement clear on that side and use it to teach the other side. 
Working a lot on the body centre, helping the brain to connect all parts of the body: the practitioner uses subtle touch to help the person feel the part of the body that is not yet clear to him/her and to teach him/her how he/she could integrate it more into the movement.
"You learn to walk by lying down": through subtle touch, body sensation and variation rather than effort and repetition...
The method is global: pain in the wrist can be resolved by working on the pelvis ...
May seem passive from the outside, but the person is very active in what he or she feels and participates in the creation of this self-awareness.
The Feldenkrais Method can be practiced :
In a group: Awareness through Movement (PCM)
Individual: Functional Integration (FI): which is generally the preferred modality for atypical children.

In an individual session (Functional Integration), the subject sits on a table (massage table type), the practitioner guides him through his touch.

This subtle touch allows him to become more fully aware of his body and to perform a large number of variations of movements so that the brain identifies and selects the most effective, the one that requires the least effort (as babies do when they learn to sit, to stand up, to walk...). 

This method is generally practiced in an intensive form, 6 to 10 sessions over a week, which allows the installation of new capacities.

Who is this method for ?

For children with motor disorders
Children with motor disorders have experienced far fewer random and then voluntary movements as babies, those that allow the brain to map their bodies and create a complete perception of self and differentiation of all parts of their bodies.
This approach allows them to better appropriate their bodies, to better differentiate the different parts of their bodies, to be less "blocky", to reduce spasticity and to have more dexterity of movement, to perform movements with less effort and to progress in their motor acquisition.

For children with Autistic Disorders or Dys or ADHD or Down Syndrome
There is often a lack of proprioception, less body at ease...
This method helps them to have a complete perception of their body image, a better understanding of their body, to feel better, and thus to have a better relationship with others, to better regulate their emotions, to decrease their anxiety...

What parents say about it

"By the end of the week, the posture was much more symmetrical, shoulders at the same level, 
allowing much more use of the left arm and hand."
"The ideal would be to do a Feldenkrais internship every school holiday at his school, because every intensive week he makes a lot of progress."

Scientific references

Few studies have been done on the effectiveness of these methods (Feldenkrais and Anat Baniel Method Neuromovement).

The Effectiveness of the Feldenkrais Method: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Susan Hillier, Anthea Worley, International Centre for Allied Health Evidence, March 2015
Meta-analyses could be performed with 7 studies, concluding in favour of the Feldenkrais Method to improve balance in aging populations (e.g., timed test and go MD -1.14 sec, 95% CI -1.78, -0.49; and functional range test MD 6.08 cm, 95% CI 3.41, 8.74). Single studies have reported significant positive effects on reducing perceived exertion and increasing comfort, perceived body image and dexterity. The risk of bias was high, tempering some results. Taken as a body of evidence, the effects appear to be generic, supporting the proposition that the Feldenkrais Method works on a learning paradigm rather than disease-based mechanisms. Further research is needed; however, in the meantime, clinicians and professionals can promote the use of the Feldenkrais Method in populations interested in effective physical performance and self-efficacy.

The Feldenkrais Method® in rehabilitation: a review, Jeffrey C. Ives, Gene A. Shelley, 1998
The increasing use of the Feldenkrais® Method by laypersons and professionals has been fuelled by extravagant claims and data published in non-peer-reviewed sources, as the effectiveness of this technique has been poorly documented in peer-reviewed publications. Therefore, the purpose of this review was to critically appraise the literature on the Feldenkrais® method in both juried and non-juried sources. Results generally indicated some improvement with Feldenkrais® interventions, however, these improvements are not as great as anecdotal claims suggest. Unfortunately, most of the findings and conclusions with or without a jury are questionable due to inadequately controlled studies and other methodological problems. As such, determining the effectiveness of the Feldenkrais® Method based on the literature is difficult at best, and the only justifiable conclusion is that further study is warranted.
           
Effects of Feldenkrais exercises on balance, mobility, balance confidence, and gait performance in community-dwelling adults age 65 and older, Gerhild Ullmann, Harriet G. 
These results indicate that Feldenkrais exercises are an effective way to improve balance and mobility, and thus offer an alternative method to help compensate for age-related declines in mobility and reduce the risk of falling among community-dwelling older adults. A long-term follow-up study of balance and mobility is warranted. Further research is needed to determine whether Feldenkrais exercises can have an impact on cognitive processes.

To know more about the topic

Reference books: Moshe Feldenkrais, Body Awareness, 1980

Link to the Feldenkraïs France website: https://www.feldenkrais-france.org/?p=524

Feldenkrais Practitioners Directory: https://www.feldenkrais-france.org/?page_id=212

Any remarks or comments ?

This work is based on a collaborative approach to sharing research and family experience.

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