The Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education was developed over the course of 40 years of devoted study and experimentation by a brilliant physicist by the name of Dr Moshe Feldenkrais. Drawing on a background in martial arts (he was credited with being one of the first westerners to bring Judo to Europe after studying it in Japan with its creators), an understanding of the physics involved in the human frame, and a healthy intellectual curiosity, his method was born out of necessity when he aggravated an old soccer injury to one of his knees.  Western medicine told him that he would need surgery, and would probably end up in a wheelchair. 

Not content with that result, he turned inward and began using his own body as a laboratory of sorts, exploring the relationships of all the various parts, not only physically, but as they related to the self-image, thought, and feeling.  He was able to thoroughly explore the relationship between the body and the brain, creating a diverse body of movement lessons which is often capable of producing surprising results where other methods have failed.  Because each series of movements is carefully designed to have an impact on the nervous system, which then organizes the muscles in a more efficient manner, large changes are possible in all areas, freeing people from pain, inefficient or impractical movement habits, and just generally tuning the mind-body connection to be as efficient as possible.

Some key components of the method include:

1. Going Slowly - the things we do when we are rushed, we can only do because we've memorized them and they've become habits.  When we are in a hurry, we defer to habituated patterns which have been ingrained as a result of our environment, upbringing, or unique physical conditions.  By turning our attention to the slow, careful quality of the movement, the brain is able to take a moment to notice any change throughout the body. Noticing the change gives the nervous system a greater chance to adapt its behavior if the new pattern is more efficient than the old.

2. Being Aware - Building on the above, one of the important roots of the method is an awareness of what we are actually doing when we are moving.  Because there's so much else going on in life, most people are not that present with their movements, at least not until they've had their first Feldenkrais experience.  By tuning in to what's going on in the body, the awareness creates a condition for learning new patterns which serve us better.

3. Exploring Variation - when an infant learns to roll, crawl, stand, or walk, the brain is trying hundreds, perhaps thousands of different combinations until the day the child is capable of performing these movements. Each variation gives the brain new information, and during the time this is occurring, the brain is developing billions of new connections that eventually enable the child to do the movement.  As we get older, however, we lose that need to vary our movements in order to figure them out. We learn or are taught to do something one way, the "right" way, and we stick with it, even if it causes us pain or other problems.  By reintroducing variation and differentiation into our movements, we can rekindle this learning process dramatically no matter the age of the brain. Doing this gives us the benefits a baby experiences, namely the ability to figure out new movements or improve old ones. This can happen at any age - the brain is never too old to create new patterns.

4. Having Fun - You've probably noticed that things you enjoy are easier to learn, and movement is no exception. If we do a movement and it causes us pain or discomfort, the system gets overloaded and we focus on the pain.  By striving for pleasure, comfort, and minimal effort in all of the movements, the method creates an environment of playful exploration which enhances the brain's ability to learn the new patterns. 

5. Resting - when a new pattern is observed, it is important to give the brain a chance to absorb the new information into the existing system. By resting frequently throughout the lessons, we give the brain ample time to record changes. This helps to ensure that better patterns will be preserved for the future. 

These five keys, applied to a huge body of movement lessons, and executed by a trained and effective practitioner, can help you change patterns which inhibit you or cause you pain, leading to lighter, freer, more pleasurable movements in many areas, and you just might surprise yourself with the ones that the brain comes up with on its own based on all the new input! It is never too late to transcend your limits and make your movement more complete!