Feldenkrais and the Healing Power of Mindfulness

jeff headpng by Jeff Spence, Silver Sabre Publishing

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware, moment by moment, of the world around you and of your presence within it. It is the practiced, intentional habit of being aware of the present moment and location.

Mindfulness can help us to block unhealthy mental habits, to increase our enjoyment in life, our engagement with friends, family, and recreational activities – it can even transform your job into a more meaningful activity. Regardless of your habits, situation, or work, mindfulness can help you to improve your mental life in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

For most people, the practice of mindfulness begins after the realisation that stress is impacting health in a negative way. We know that high blood pressure, anxiety, and even physical ailments can result, and researchers warn that this is just the tip of the iceberg of serious health problems brought on by too much stress.

Feldenkrais and Mindfulness

One way to think of the Feldenkrais Method, is the addition of body-awareness to mindfulness. Moshe Feldenkrais was a scientist, engineer, and expert in body movement. He realised that there was a need to increase awareness of the way we each move, and to apply that awareness to improving our health and avoiding injury cause by habitual harmful movement. Just as being mindful can assist in the identification and treatment of stress and other mental burdens, being aware of your body and movement through Feldenkrais sessions can assist in identifying pain and habitual movements that cause harm over time.

The human mind adapts very quickly and attempts to adjust to whatever environment we place it in. Unfortunately, this does not always work in our favour. If we have a gradual pain that builds up slowly over a long period of time, our brains will adjust, downplaying it and keeping us unaware that we are just a little bit less comfortable than we were the day or week before.

Over time this can result in our carrying around a lot of unacknowledged pain. We may not be aware of this pain, but our bodies adjust to it, causing further imbalances to our gait, posture, and everyday movement. This pain and unhealthy movement in turn increases stress, which as we’ve said, can seriously damage your health.

Mindfulness alone often detects these pains in the body, but whereas awareness of mental stress is often enough to alleviate much of it, or to point our lifestyle habits that need to be changed, it does not provide a solution to most physical pain and damage caused by habitual movements that cause injury.

This is where the Feldenkrais Method adds the missing dimension.

Who can Benefit from the Feldenkrais Method?

It’s true that athletes, performers, and those recovering from injury all find the Feldenkrais method extremely beneficial in meeting their specific goals, but it is not just for reaching the peaks of performance or for overcoming obvious injuries. In fact, most people who practice the Feldenkrais Method are everyday people who simply want to improve the way they feel, and to prolong a healthy, active life.

Feldenkrais provides relief from tension and muscular pain, promotes fuller, easier breathing, each of which helps the practitioner to maintain a more relaxed state and a strong feeling of well-being.

Just as it helps elite athletes, it can help those who have physical demands at work, whether this is the obvious physical work of construction workers or nurses, or the less obvious physical work of those who sit in one position at a desk or console for hours at a time, or those who stand on hard surfaces with little relief. Because we tend to specialise in a particular type of work, we tend to extend a particular activity over many hours per day, rather than go through a variety of rest and work activities. Any of these situations can mean that an unhealthy movement or function is repeated many thousands of times, resulting in pain and even injury.

Regular Feldenkrais sessions, whether in a group, privately, or (for those who are more experienced in the methods) on your own, can help to identify and correct these harmful habits and promote those that will allow you to improve your physical strength, grace, and vitality.