The most basic element in the Feldenkrais Method is faith — faith in our human ability to learn, and to improve our situation through learning. We use movement as the medium for learning, and the benefits of Feldenkrais include improvement of our comfort and skill in movement, but they also extend into areas of our emotional and psychological life.
Whatever else we are, as human beings we are built for learning. We learn (usually) to look where we want, to reach for what we want, to crawl, sit, stand and then to walk and run. We learn this without being told how, without the pressure of schools and exams, but in response to our own innate curiosity and pleasure in accomplishment. We learn well enough to satisfy our need at the time. Afterward, things may change: what we want may change, or the accidents of life may have altered our selves or our environment. How can we learn to cope with the new situation? As adults, we are usually very far from our original childlike pleasure in movement and learning. The Feldenkrais Method is a way of re-awakening that original pleasure, then bringing it to bear on our present needs and desires.
This kind of learning has a special quality. When we first learn some new skill, its freshness means that it isn't automatic. It won't be our first, instinctive action; our memory will need to be jogged in order to choose it. We may also have to think about each separate step as we do it, and that thinking will slow us down. But when we have truly learned a skill, it no longer consists of different steps; it fits together as a whole. It will even happen automatically, like reading: can you look at printed text without automatically knowing what it says? All the things that we truly know, we know in this immediate and complete way.
That's how we know to walk and reach and talk and do all the things that we learned in the first years of our lives. When we want to walk, we don't think about how to do it, we don't separate it into smaller parts, we simply do it and do the whole thing — or else it doesn't work. And this is the crunch of the matter: what can we do when things don't work as we want them to? What we tend to do is, at worst, a completely different kind of learning than the childhood way, a kind of learning that is guided by ideas of right and wrong, judged by an external 'expert' to whom we surrender our inner source of adequacy and autonomy. It can be very like our worst experiences of school.
Feldenkrais believed that movement learned in such a way was always tainted by the muscular tensions that attend shame, anxiety and inadequacy. So he looked for a way that our learning could be directed first and foremost by our inner sensation, and by our own pleasure and judgement. For him, this was the most important step toward becoming a truly capable and free human being.
Moshe Feldenkrais was born in 1904 to a Jewish family living in the Ukraine. Shortly after the end of the First World War, at the age of fourteen, he emigrated to Palestine, then under the British Mandate. He worked there as a labourer on building sites and as a surveyor until he was able to go to Paris to study at the Sorbonne; first engineering, later physics. At the outset of the Second World War, he was working with Nobel Prize-winner Frederic Joliot-Curie. He was also a keen athlete, and while in Paris became intensely involved in Judo; he was one of the founders of the Judo Club of France.
His sports interests contributed another vital element, the element of necessity. Playing soccer as a young man, he damaged one of his knees. This was a manageable irritation until, several years later, the damaged knee worsened. Surgery didn't offer a very promising solution; instead, he pursued the investigation that eventually led him to abandon his career in physics in favour of a much less clear (and much less socially acceptable) path.
Perhaps Feldenkrais was made bolder by his contact, through Judo, with a culturally different sense of what might be possible. He certainly achieved an astonishing synthesis of western physics and eastern martial arts, fertilised by studies with other movement pioneers of that time (notably Alexander). His wife was a paediatrician, and it seems likely that she guided his interest toward the developmental movement patterns of children, including the work of Piaget on the developmental patterns of learning itself.
Feldenkrais never 'cured' or 'healed' his knees in a medical sense, but he learned how to move so that the damaged structure wasn't an obstacle, so that he could do what he wanted — including even Judo. In that sense, he found that function is much more important than the accidents of structure. Function, though, isn't an object and so we can't point to it as we can with structure; thinking clearly about how we function is much more challenging.
Returning to Tel Aviv in the 1950's, Feldenkrais left physics and turned his life toward teaching what he had learned about movement. He worked with people in all walks of life, and his home was increasingly a point of pilgrimage for people from across Europe who looked to him for help with everything from recovery from stroke or other injury, to management of MS or cerebral palsy. He began training students to be practitioners themselves, first in Israel and then in the United States. Although he died in 1984, such training continues in dozens of countries, on almost every continent; there are currently many thousands of practitioners of the Method that bears Moshe's name.
For the last forty years I have been working with movement, both for my own self-exploration and as a way of commuicating with others. I started by studying dance as an art form, and by teaching and performing, but then one of my first colleagues helped me to realise that the real dance — and the real art form — consists in how we live each day.
Often this is an impossible ideal: to allow ordinary things to be comfortable and cheerful is hard enough, without mentioning beauty, growth, and transcendence. Fortunately the dance community was a crossroads for many 'alternative' approaches, and I studied Alexander, Rolfing, Laban and many other methods before encountering Feldenkrais thirty-eight years ago.
For me, Feldenkrais was a keystone that helped everything else make sense, and I enrolled eagerly on the first UK training in 1987. Since then I have been working with dancers and musicians, with people with severe pain or disability, but especially with ordinary people who want to live and grow.
Otherwise, my background is fairly diverse. I am originally from New Mexico, and took a BSc in mathematics before going on to an MA in dance. Though my first dance training emphasised theoretical aspects (especially the dance notation system called Labanotation), most of my work in the field was practical — performing in the US, the UK and on the Continent, and training professional dancers.
I was a founding member of the Siobhan Davies Dance Company and taught the company for its first six years. After completing the London Feldenkrais training — a four-year professional training accredited by the international Feldenkrais organisations — I began to introduce that work into dance training.
Twenty years ago I began teaching people in all walks of life, from office workers to musicians, of all ages and sorts of experience. I give individual lessons close to Old Street Tube Station and also in New Cross, southeast London, and teach regular public classes next to London Bridge.
My work also includes supervision of other Feldenkrais Practitioners, and teaching on Feldenkrais professional training programs in the UK, Europe and the United States. I am one of only two Trainers in the Feldenkrais Method based in the UK.
I am a member of the Feldenkrais Guild UK, the professional organisation responsible for maintaining standards of practice, and fully subscribe to their Code of Ethics and requirement of professional insurance. For three years I was the editor of the Guild's newsletter, for five years its Chair, for several years its Secretary. I now serve as the Guild's website manager.
Inspired by my love of sport and numerous injuries, I studied physiotherapy, graduating in Western Australia in 1997. My zest for the physiotherapy model, led by 'evidence-based' practice, waned as I continually observed that humans move so differently from each other and respond so differently to regimented treatment.
I was lucky enough to encounter the Feldenkrais Method in my early twenties. My first Functional Integration (FI) session was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before, it was magical. It prompted me to re-evaluate how I used touch to invite change.
This sparked a passion for Awareness Through Movement (ATM), which I maintain through an ever-inquisitive personal practice. Exploring ATM refines my actions and ability to work with others.
For some years I have had the reputation as a physiotherapist who specializes in applying the Feldenkrais Method. The method has increasingly permeated my practice. I now work as a Feldenkrais Practitioner, armed with extensive knowledge and experience of the physiotherapy field. This includes working with people in pain and understanding diagnoses and surgeries.
I frequently work with people who have not responded optimally to mainstream medical services, or who may have been disappointed by the experience, from people with chronic pain to elite athletes. The sensitivity and detail of the Feldenkrais Method can help people to discover new ways of doing things, streamline performance, rehabilitate injuries or facilitate recovery from grueling events.
The majority of my work consists of giving FI sessions — one-on-one interactions using touch and movement to help people improve aspects of their lives. I also run workshops, usually specifically for health professionals, introducing them to the Method.
I discovered Feldenkrais by chance when I was given a present of six yoga lessons 30 years ago. In fact it wasn't yoga but Feldenkrais although I didn't know that for another 20 or so years! I loved this 'weird yoga' so much I went religiously every Monday. Whatever I did the next day was characterised by a calm fluidity in my movements and a sense of wellbeing. When my wonderful teacher retired I found her teacher, Scott Clark, who recommended the Feldenkrais training in Switzerland with Elizabeth Beringer, graduating in 2009. My degree was in Russian and Spanish and I had been working in publishing but was looking for something else to do. At the time I met Scott I was studying Fine Art at Chelsea. Nevertheless I started the Feldenkrais training and had an epiphany during a class and recognised that what I loved to do, above all else, was Feldenkrais and so committed entirely to studying it and becoming a practitioner.
My practice in West London is thriving; I teach four classes a week, see clients individually and give workshops. I enjoy working with anyone who is curious and wanting to change and discover more about themselves. Feldenkrais percolates through all aspects of my life. I love applying the counter-intuitive principles to situations or predicaments — not even physical — and watching how the deeply humane, non-judgemental and empowering concepts of the Method can effect change.
Physically, my tango dancing is a constant challenge. As well as giving me all sorts of ideas to play with as I dance, the Method shows me my injurious habits and gives me alternatives. The learning is constant! I've started running again recently so there'll be more to learn there, too!
I work closely with Scott on the professional London Trainings. I am a member of the UK Feldenkrais Guild and abide by its Code of Ethics. For more information: