What is the Feldenkrais method?

First and foremost, Feldenkrais is not an exercise: it is cleverly applied neuroscience.

The method, founded by Moshe Feldenkrais, is well established with thousands of practitioners worldwide. Good summaries of the method can be found at, for example, Wikipedia and the New Zealand Feldenkrais Guild. Fine summaries of the method include this article by Dennis Leri, and this talk by Jacek Paszkowski. Other useful articles are here and here. And if you understand Italian or don't mind subtitles, try this.

The many other web pages on the method are of varying quality, so I recommend reading the literature on the subject: a summary is kindly provided by Amazon's Quick to look inside feature on, for starters, and Feldenkrais's Awareness through movement, and Wildman's Busy person's guide to easier movement.

Many tube clips relating to the Feldenkrais Method including group classes (known as awareness through movement) - albeit of varying quality and relevance - are available at YouTube. These might give you an indication of what's involved in a group class, and the huge variety of class lessons.

A personal favourite is a video advertising the Alexander technique, the first seven minutes of which is an excellent introduction to how the way we hold and use our selves deteriorates over time. In my view (I've tried both), Feldenkrais is a much more effective (and interesting) method to strip away those bad habits and reset your self, but see at least the first seven minutes of this video. And here is a shorter classic: how we learned to move as infants is, fundamentally, how we need to re-learn to move effortlessly as adults.

It is difficult to describe the Feldenkrais Method uniquely and concisely, because there are so many dimensions or facets to it. So here's one:

It's all about sensitivity

It is a scientific fact that that the smallest difference in stimuli we can discern is proportional to the magnitude of the larger stimulus (the Fechner Weber law). This is the reason why slow gentle movements are emphasized in the Feldenkrais method. When you are doing movements with very little effort, your brain (technically, your whole central nervous system) is easily able to register differences between various movement options and to pick the one that is most efficient. If you only do movement with effort, then your central nervous system is unable to distinguish the small differences between movement variations, and thus is unable to learn to improve the movement.

As an athletic, goal-focused male this took me some time to realise! But now I do - if you want to be able to go fast and strong, spend some time going slow and gentle, which is what Feldenkrais lessons (group classes) are.

But all said and done, the Feldenkrais Method is experiential - you have to experience it to appreciate it. My best advice: try it. It's changed my experience of life in ways that I literally could not image before.

The Feldenkrais Method has two modalities: