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The Feldenkrais Method

By Walt Kilcullen

 

In September, 2008, Kathy Saul wrote a very enlightening article about the Feldenkrais Method. I urge readers to go back and read it because it is something that I think will benefit many. In this article, I will revisit the Feldenkrais Method and describe how stroke survivors have benefited.

 

The Feldenkrais Method was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais, a Russian physicist who in 1919 emigrated to Palestine. He later lived in Paris, the UK, and finally in Tel Aviv, Israel. He began developing his “Method” in the 1940’s which he then characterized as “Mind and Body.” By the 1950’s he began teaching his “Method” which we now know as The Feldenkrais Method.

 

The Feldenkrais Method is designed for anyone who wants to improve movement, flexibility, and physical function. Its purpose is to help reduce pain and limitations in movement. Lessons usually take place in a group led by a trained practitioner and last between 30 and 60 minutes. These group lessons are called “Awareness Through Movement.” There are hundreds of lessons, usually conducted while sitting in a chair or lying on the floor. The “Awareness Through Movement” lessons differ from massage and chiropractics. Where massage concentrates on muscles and chiropractics adjusts the bones, the Feldenkrais Method works with movement through the nervous system.

 

Using the group method “Awareness Through Movement,” lessons involve thinking, moving, and imagining. Each lesson consists of gentle, easy movements that gradually increase range and complexity. Awareness Through Movement lessons vary in difficulty from simple to demanding depending on how much the participant can handle.

 

It is worth the effort to watch some video demonstrations. Search in your search engine and/or view my faviorites. There are many available. My favorites are:

 

Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement Lessons

 

Mary Spire Feldenkrais Method

 

 

I found out about the Feldenkrais Method from Carrie Freed who gave a fifteen minute demonstration to our Support Group. Carrie is an occupational therapist and a certified Feldenkrais practitioner. The demonstration centered on the neck and shoulders. When finished, I had greatly improved range of motion in my neck. That was after just fifteen minutes. I Interviewed Carrie to get insight on how the Feldenkrais Method has helped stroke survivors.

 

WK: Stroke survivors have many different physical handicaps. What type of

physical disability responds best to the Feldenkrais Method?

CF:  With time and patience I have found all disabilities can respond to the Feldenkrais Method (FM). The lessons taught in both Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration help develop better awareness of oneself from a physical, sensory, and cognitive perspective. All change takes time. In my experience, it is the small changes over time that add up to big changes in the months and years ahead.

 

WK: How much success have you had working with stroke survivors using the Feldenkrais Method?

CF:  Success post-stroke is defined differently for everyone who has experienced a stroke. In the area of strokes, I like to think of success as CHANGE. If a person is not satisfied with how they are functioning, then being static is “bad” and CHANGE is “good.” The changes can be subtle (i.e. “I have a better sense of where my leg is today”) and over time, that can be built upon (i.e. I can place my leg a little better when I’m walking so I feel more steady.”)

 

WK: For stroke survivors, should the Feldenkrais Method be combined with physical therapy and/or occupational therapy?

CF: Physical Therapy and Occupational therapy use a medical approach to stroke rehabilitation. FM focuses on experiential (experience) learning combined with research, science and medicine.

 

Title: Carrie Freed

Carrie Freed

The stroke survivor may receive different ideas from the PTs and OTs than from the Feldenkrais practitioners. The combination of knowledge is valuable, especially since the recovery after a stroke is not a straight line or a recipe. What works for one person may not work for another.

 

WK: For stroke survivors, should the Feldenkrais Method be combined with physical therapy and/or occupational therapy?

CF:  Physical Therapy and Occupational therapy use a medical approach to stroke rehabilitation. FM focuses on experiential (experience) learning combined with  research, science and medicine. The stroke survivor may receive different ideas from the PTs and OTs than from the Feldenkrais practitioners. The combination of knowledge is valuable, especially since the recovery after a stroke is not a straight line or a recipe. What works for one person may not work for another.

 

WK: For stroke survivors, does the Feldenkrais Method work better shortly after the stroke or can it be effective any time after a stroke?

CF: Our brains are changing all the time. It’s called brain plasticity. The idea that almost all recovery happens within the first year after stroke is an old idea. What does happen is that “habits” form. How we sit, how we walk, how we form our words, are strongly engrained in our nervous system and brain. As functions of the brain move away from the damaged area of the brain, FM is used to break these habits that were formed early on after the stroke.

 

 

Another source of information came from Barbara Natali, a member of my support group. She was a participant in a group taught by Carrie Freed. Barbara told me that she practiced Functional Integration (one on one) with Carrie for about two years. She believes the Feldenkrais method resulted in great improvement in mobility.

 

Barbara stated, “Prior to Feldenkrais, I was unable to roll over in my bed. Through my work with Carrie, I was able to roll over and get out of bed.” When I met Barbara several years ago, she was in a wheelchair. She now walks without even the use of a cane. She credits the Feldenkrais Method combined with intense physical therapy for this improvement.

 

Barbara Natali

 

 

 

Although the Feldenkrais Method was designed for those who want to improve the ability to move parts of their body freely, stroke survivors who have lost flexibility or suffer pain or discomfort when walking, turning, lifting, or just moving about, should give the Feldekrais Method a try.

 

 

Copyright ©July 2012

The Stroke Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009

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