PILATES AND FELDENKRAIS by Geri Taylor
I’m a Pilates thief and I freely admit it. I steal exercises, images, cues, modifications, variations and sequences from teachers, workshops, conferences, websites and other modalities. But, I prefer to call it appropriating, assimilating, and being inspired, to share, disseminate, educate and inspire. Along with Pilates I take inspiration from Feldenkrais, Yoga, The Franklin Method, and Fascial Fitness.
Today I would like to talk about Feldenkrais, introduce you to my teacher and show you an exercise that I have modified from a Feldenkrais movement, adapted to Pilates, and teach in both mat and studio classes. Moshe Feldenkrais worked at the same time as Joseph Pilates and there are many similarities in their journeys.
WHAT IS FELDENKRAIS?
The Feldenkrais Method is a universal method for improving human life through better movement, sensation, posture and breathing. Neuroplasticity is central to the effectiveness of the Feldenkrais Method.
Trained practitioners use touch, movement, guided imagery and mindful body awareness to stimulate the brain to make useful and lasting improvements to movement and posture. These improvements can be directed towards assisting problems like pain, injuries and neurological issues, as well as assisting peak performance in sports and the performing arts.
Feldenkrais practitioners deliver two types of movement lessons.
In Awareness Through Movement® (ATM), a practitioner guides you through a planned sequence of movement explorations, encouraging you to pay close attention to the sensations of each movement. The movements are practiced gently and slowly, ensuring that you feel safe and comfortable throughout.
In Functional Integration® (FI), you will lie or sit, comfortably clothed, on a low padded table. Your practitioner will physically guide your body through safe, effortless movement, and will use precise touch to bring unfamiliar parts of your body into awareness.
THE HISTORY OF FELDENKRAIS
The Feldenkrais Method of somatic education was developed by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984). Born in Russia, Feldenkrais immigrated to Israel at the age of thirteen. After receiving degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, he earned his D.Sc. in Physics at the Sorbonne in Paris. He subsequently worked for a number of years in the French nuclear research program with Joliet Curie.
Physically active, Feldenkrais played soccer and practiced martial arts. He studied with Jigoro Kano, the originator of Judo, and in 1936 became one of the first Europeans to earn a black belt in that discipline.
A chronic knee injury prompted him to apply his knowledge of physics, body mechanics, neurology, learning theory and psychology to a new understanding of human function and maturation. His investigations resulted in the formulation of a unique synthesis of science and aesthetics, known as the Feldenkrais Method. Dr. Feldenkrais wrote five books about the method as well as four books on Judo. He also invented the foam roller which is used extensively in Pilates studios at this time.
He conducted three professional trainings during his life, in Tel Aviv, Israel, and San Francisco and Amherst in the US. He trained approximately 300 Feldenkrais practitioners, and today there are over 10,000 Feldenkrais practitioners worldwide.
IN THE WORDS OF ANITA DOUGHTY – PHYSIOTHERAPIST, FELDENKRAIS TEACHER, PILATES TEACHER
“Back in the mid ‘80’s I was a newly graduated Physiotherapist working at Albury Base Hospital. I knew a bit about human movement and Physiotherapy techniques but there were huge gaps in my knowledge and more questions than answers, particularly around how to teach people to help themselves.
By some twist of fate (isn’t it always the way?), a medical student who was studying the Feldenkrais Method was on placement at Albury. He offered an in-service on the Feldenkrais Method to the Physiotherapy Department. He taught an Awareness Through Movement lesson and there it was… this elegant, intelligent, gentle system of learning, with movement as the portal. I experienced how the lessons could have impacts well beyond the musculoskeletal system and I saw how this method could give an individual control over their own health. I have been on a journey with the Feldenkrais Method ever since.
What are the benefits of The Feldenkrais Method?
The Feldenkrais Method helps to develop awareness of our physical body (muscles, joints, bones, nerves) and how we use our bodies to meet the demands of life. Lessons in the Feldenkrais Method address a wide range of functions, including posture, breathing, skill development and pain management.
The Feldenkrais method also has a powerful effect has on self-image. Movement is an expression of our self-image and self-image is informed by movement. It doesn’t take much practice of the Feldenkrais Method to glimpse how movement can help us become more potent in this world through our actions (because action requires movement).
I include this quote from the Australian Feldenkrais Guild website, where you will find much more information.
“Besides these specific benefits, people often find that improving their movement and posture improves their overall health and well-being, leading to better attention, thinking ability, emotional resilience, coordination, balance and easier breathing”.
How do Pilates and the Feldenkrais Method work together to help movement?
Once you have looked through the Feldenkrais lens, all movement becomes fascinating. Awareness Through Movement classes develop an ability to pay attention to many different parts of the body quickly, to identify relationships in your body (for example, when I move my foot this way, my pelvis moves that way and my breathing gets easier) and to respect limitations. One obvious benefit of this is injury prevention. That has been important for my practice and teaching of Pilates – learning to pay attention to sensations other than “strain”.
Pilates and the Feldenkrais Method both use constraints as a teaching tool. The equipment is particularly effective in limiting some movements to enhance others. Pilates gives physical strength and control. The combination of Feldenkrais and Pilates makes for strong and flexible bodies and minds. I am grateful to be able to practice both these methods developed by two people who were ahead of their time.”
BABY ROLLING (video)
If you want to see more Pilates exercises and classes with movements, images, and cues that I have absorbed through the years check my website: http://www.vivapilates.com.au. And if you have comments, questions, feedback or ideas for further articles, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, full of love, friendship, gratitude, happiness, food and Pilates. All the best. Geri Taylor