The Feldenkrais Method is a type of exercise therapy devised by Moshé Feldenkrais (1904–1984).
Feldenkrais and F. M. Alexander
Moshe Feldenkrais had lessons in the Alexander Technique with Walter Carrington in the 1940s. When Feldenkrais’ book, Body and Mature Behaviour, came out in 1949, F. M. Alexander was alerted to it, and upon reading it, realised that many ideas were based, unacknowledged, on Alexander’s books and work. Alexander had a brief conversation with Feldenkrais about it, and decided that Feldenkrais could have no more lessons. For more details see Moshé Feldenkrais.
Differences between the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method
Given that Feldenkrais had lessons in the Technique during the time he developed his own method, there has been much discussion over the years as to the similarities and differences between the two methods. Several of the articles below address the distinctions, dissimilarities and agreements.
Mark Reese, the author of the biography, Moshe Feldenkrais – A Life in Movement, suggests the following commonalities and differences.
Feldenkrais ‘disliked and disagreed with the concept of giving directions’ and with conscious control, believing it interefered with spontaneity and responsiveness in action. He considered rigidity of thought and action to be the root of the problem (whereas for Alexander rigidity of thought and action was a symptom, not a cause).
Feldenkrais adopted the concept – though not the name – of faulty sensory apprectiation, but unlike Alexander he was keen to stress the emotional components of posture and movement, the psychological attitude to movement. He also adopted the concept of end-gaining when giving instructions such as ‘cease intention to get up’ (from a chair) and ‘separating action from intetion’. Other Alexander Technique concepts which inspired Feldenkrais were inhibition and non-doing.
Whereas Feldenkrais agreed that pulling the head back on the top of the neck was counterproductive, he eschewed the concept of primary control, of the heading leading in all circumstances, of a general movement pattern, and instead maintained that there a myriad ways of organising oneself in movement.
Feldenkrais agreed that any lengthening would necessitate having to stop shortening rather than forcing a length. However, he would use imagery, visualisation and believing that a change in self-image, would be a necessary component of changing movement patterns.
Feldenkrais preferred a trial-and-error, ‘bottom-up’ approach which is relying on the pupil’s self-exploration, rather than the method preferred (in those days) in the Alexander Technique where a teacher gave instructions in a formal, prescribed way.
Feldenkrais did use, however, especially in his early days of teaching, the traditional non-doing hands-on work used in the Technique to guide his students in movement. He also used chair work, but not in the idealized, symmetrical way traditionally used in the Technique.
It appears that Feldenkrais’s method evolved in its own direction: the Alexander Technique teacher Judith Stransky observed Feldenkrais giving some forty lessons over a month-long period in the early 1970s, and reported that she observed no resemblance in those lessons to the Alexander Technique.
- ‘Interview with Mia Segal’ relates the similarities and differences between Feldenkrais’s and Neil’s work; Mia Segal had work with both Feldenkrais and Charles Neil [misspelled as ‘Neal’ in the article].
- ‘Moshe Feldenkrais and F. M. Alexander’ by Penny Auburn compares the two methods, and concludes that Feldenkrais took ideas from Alexander, applied to them his own way of thinking, and came up with an entirely different concept of bodywork as a result.
- ‘A personal comparison’ by Sue Kaufman, who is a pupil of both Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique, compares the two methods, and thinks that the differences disguise fundamentally similar aims and concepts of correct movement.
- ‘The pursuit of poise’ by David Hall; the author is a practitioner of Feldenkrais and a teacher of the Technique and here explains how he uses each method to re-educate a person’s co-ordination.
- ‘An interview with Mark Reese’ by Mark Reese, David Hall is an interview explaining what the Feldenkrais method is, what it does and how it works.
- ‘Musings on the methods’ by Michael Johnson-Chase compares differences in approach and differences in the communities of Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique.
- ‘ATM lesson’ by David Hall is a talk-through of an ATM (awareness through movement) lesson, lying on the floor, rotating, rolling.
- ‘A Feldenkrais practitioner looks at the Alexander Technique’ by Jack Heggie argues that the differences between the two methods stem from certain differences in the approach used by the two originators, and do not represent fundamental differences in understanding.
- ‘Alexander technique and Feldenkrais method: A critical overview’ by Sanjiv Jain, Kristy Janssen, Sharon DeCelle in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, discusses the indications, contraindications, and patient selection, and reviews and identifies what research has been completed and what areas need further investigation.
‘Letter to the editor’ by Carl Ginsburg complains of Walter Carrington describing Moshe Feldenkrais’s work as ‘trial and error’.
See also Moshe Feldenkrais.