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:

Learning and doing

Studying the Feldenkrais Method has taught me to appreciate the distinction between doing and learning, or as I have seen it put, learning and enjoying the fruits of learning. For me, this is particularly relevant to sports. I used to think that the best way to improve performance was practice-practice-practice. Whether you want to walk, tramp, run or swim better; kick or hit a ball further or more accurately; propel a bicycle or boat faster; or improve your martial arts, then you push yourself with more and more practice.

It is of course true that the more you practice, the better you get. But I now know that practice-learn-practice is not only more efficient than practice-practice-practice, but takes you to higher levels than you could achieve with practice alone. By learn here I mean to learn to use your whole self more efficiently. The method by which a human learns to do this is as you did as a child - exploratory movements in a safe environment, at your own pace. You and I learnt amazing use of our body in our first years, and we need to continue that process afresh. This is the essence of the Feldenkrais Method. Such learning has the advantage too of taking not only your target sport to new levels, but also all aspects of your life.

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: