The Feldenkrais Method

Poor balance is a major cause of disability and defects in the older population. If you are not a part of that age, then you can not ignore.

The Feldenkrais Method is a unique mind-body technique which helps to improve balance, but can also help a wide range of other conditions, including chronic pain, depression, eating disorders, fibromyalgia, and even multiple sclerosis.

The Feldenkrais Method was developed by a Ukrainian physicist and judo expert named Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. His intention was to create a form of physiotherapy that thoroughly examined the relationship between body and mind to create. By establishing a better awareness of the communication taking place between the brains and physical activity, he believed that issues related to disability, pain and even certain mental disorders can be improved.

The actual practice, sometimes referred to as “Awareness by motion” shall be usually carried out in a group. The instructors will lead a series of movements with verbal cues and occasionally by supporting movements with hands-on approach. The combination of these three sensory techniques (visual, tactile guidance and verbal cues) allows students with basic movements in a simple but profound way. The mind-body connection that occurs is part of the reason why many actors and dancers use the Feldenkrais Method to improve on their work and presentation.

A study of the Feldenkrais Method (FM) was just published today in the journal Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine. The effects of the FM examined in a group of 26 seniors with an average age of 75 years. Seniors 36 additional seniors were recruited as a non-active “control group”. (1)

The 26 participants in the treatment group engaged in twice-weekly Feldenkrais classes specifically tailored to address the balance. The combination of exercises named “Getting Grounded Gracefully” and took a total of 10 weeks. A “specific actions” questionnaire, a physical test know as the Four Square Step Test (FSST), and “self-selected walking speed” (speed) were assessed before and after the process.

All measures of balance and mobility were improved in the treated group Feldenkrais. Moreover, most of the active participants noted benefits associated with self-esteem and a greater ability to participate in daily activities such as walking and pet ramps.

Another study published in January tested in exactly the same balance Feldenkrais program on a group of 55 senior volunteers. Half of the participants has an FM practice twice a week for an 8-week period. The rest have their typical daily activities. This study showed a lower risk of falling (based on the Modified Falls Efficacy Scale) and improvements in two measures of performance that mobility and speed of movement tested. Another positive finding was that “college visit” was very high (88%), and the results of the survey indicated high satisfaction among participants. (2)

FM appears to be well suited for issues relating to pain management. A 2002 study showed that 78 men and women with “non-specific musculoskeletal pain disorders” showed more relief using the Feldenkrais method, in contrast to “conventional therapy”. Another advantage was that the benefits of FM seemed to extend far beyond the treatment period as indicated by a one-year follow-up exam. Also mental aspects of the process function, the quality of life tests showed a significant psychological advantage compared to conventional treatment. (3) In a recent review article in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation included FM and other “body awareness therapies,” such seemingly cost effective ways of increasing health-related quality of life in people with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia.

Finding non-toxic and powerful methods to tackle mental disorders should be a goal of all medical models. The Feldenkrais method is a way of helping those who struggle with mental health problems. The proof is found in a number of seemingly unrelated studies.

  • In 1997, a study of 30 hospitalized patients with eating disorders discovered a profoundly positive effect on body image in involved in FM. The authors noted “greater acceptance and familiarity of their bodies”, “more spontaneous, open and self-conscious behavior, the decrease in feelings of helplessness and decrease the desire to return to the safety of early childhood”. (5) Some but not all, of these benefits can be attributed to the mood enhancing effects of FM. A 2003 study found that while FM is considered a “low-effort activity,” the positive mood promotes the same extent as other forms of exercise such as swimming. In that study, FM even better than aerobics. (6)
  • Sometimes called negative test results still provide constructive information. A study published in 1999 in the Journal of alternative and complementary medicine, no significant symptomatic improvement in a group of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) by means of the Feldenkrais method can be found. (7) But the researchers did note a significant reduction in anxiety and stress that the performance of FM. This study was relatively short duration (8 weeks of treatment FM). In the longer term, it is quite possible that FM can be a particular difference in the health of people with MS to make because of the stress reducing effect. Some studies suggest a direct link between perceived stress and MS progression. (8,9)

I think there’s something powerful about focusing on the internal workings and interactions of the body and mind. This is an area that is usually glossed over in our busy lives. There are simply too many other distractions that seem to distract our attention. Changing that dynamic can afford a powerful tool for retrieving the various aspects of health and the untapped quality of life.

Posted in Alternative Therapies, nutrition.