The Feldenkrais Method is a system of movement education developed by Moshe Feldenkrais. This article discusses how the method uses movement as the medium within which people learn how to learn.
“As we become aware of what we are doing in fact, and not what we say or think we are doing the way to improvement is wide open to us.” (Feldenkrais).
The Feldenkrais Method is a system of movement education developed by Moshe Feldenkrais (Feledenkrais 1972). The method uses movement as the medium within which people learn how to learn (Maebori 2001). Learning is related to the environment as well as an individual’s experiences, culture and education. For an individual to learn to move with maximum efficiency and a minimum of effort in an ever-varying environment, requires they have a repertoire of strategies rather than one set of habitual patterns. This holds true for golfers! Golfers spend a lot of time trying to produce an efficient, consistent swing but as all elite golfers know, every shot requires that they make subtle changes to the way in which they produce the swing, fine tuning if you like, depending on the shot to be made, wind direction, condition of the fairways etc. Not only that, but too often golfers spend a lot of time trying to hit the ball further, trying to make their swings more efficient. The Feldenkrais method will start by taking a golfer out of their normal method of practising, which means the golfer can attend to the quality of each small movement segment. The functional movement can then actually become more efficient - by taking out the trying and achieving of trying to hit the ball further or with more power, your attention can go to the ‘ease’ of the movement.
The Feldenkrais Method employs exploration of functional movement related to the goals of an individual rather than specific, mechanical exercises that focus on strength, flexibility or local muscular endurance (Reese 2005). One aspect of the Feldenkrais Method is verbally directed movement classes known as Awareness Through Movement, or ATM, lessons. Each lesson involves the participants being guided through structured movement explorations related to a particular function which is often performed as a ‘test movement’ at the beginning of the lesson. For example, as a golfer, you may be working on trying to feel more comfortable over the ball at set-up. The ATM lesson may begin by getting you to set-up over the ball and by asking you to notice where your weight is in this position. Is it forwards or backwards? Towards the right side? The left side? You will then be guided through a series of structured movements with the aim of helping you achieve your goal, that is, being more comfortable over the ball. In every ATM lesson, the movements are carried out at the individual’s own pace; encouragement is given to move in a pleasurable, comfortable way with minimal effort. Thinking and awareness are used to bring attention and curiosity to the movement.
Some strategies used during a lesson include 1) directing the participant’s attention to macro and micro aspects of movement, 2) clarification of habitual and preferred movement patterns and 3) exploring other options in new and novel combinations and positions. These directed explorations could be considered to be factors to destabilize habitual movement behaviours and allow more efficient patterns to be identified sufficiently to enable participants over time to self-organize individual movement solutions (Buchannan & Ultrich 2001).
A clear sense of the method cannot be achieved by simply reading, but should be experienced by doing and thinking. I have therefore recorded an example Awareness Through Movement Lesson for this article which is available for download here.
Click here to listen to the Awareness Through Movement Lesson
Before you perform this lesson, swing your 5 iron. Notice where your weight is during set-up. Do you feel balanced? Notice whether the movement feels ‘easy’ or ‘free’. Notice whether you get to the top of your backswing comfortably. Notice the position of your arms at the top. Then, after the lesson, swing your 5 iron again and notice whether any of these things have changed.
For the lesson:
- Allow approximately 50 minutes for the lesson
- Do the lesson on a floor with carpet or use a mat. A folded towel under your head may encourage a more comfortable, neutral position for your neck
- When participating in this lesson please ensure you move only within comfortable, pleasant ranges of movement.
Further information on the Feldenkrais Method can be found at: