Mind over muscles

Practiced regularly, the Feldenkrais method can help relieve back pain, headaches and arthritis pain as well as improve posture, mobility, concentration and coordination. Unlike other physical regimens, Feldenkrais doesn’t require stamina, agility or even fitness, so the techniques are suitable for the elderly and infirm.

Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement was invented by the Ukraine-born Israeli mechanical engineer and physicist Moshé Feldenkrais, who died in 1984. When, in midlife, a painful knee injury impaired his ability to move, and the operation doctors suggested seemed less than promising, the judo practitioner resolved to cure himself.

Feldenkrais began testing ways of manipulating the joint until he discovered a sequence of motions that restored its function. While the brain controls our muscles, Feldenkrais argued, we can still use our muscles to send back messages to the brain. It’s the combined effect on body and mind that makes Feldenkrais so compelling. Bodily movements are represented in the brain by linked sets of neurons that fire together whenever specific movements are performed. While we usually acquire these firing patterns via our experiences during infancy and childhood, our brains and nervous systems change, both structurally and functionally, as a result of new experiences, in a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. So the mental image of our bodies can alter even in adulthood and old age.

The sensory input your brain receives during Feldenkrais sessions can create new neural connections. As these connections activate during the course of training, the pathways become stronger. Eventually, they become the default pattern, the preferred neural choice. The Feldenkrais method “is not just pushing muscles around but changing things in the brain itself,” says neuroscientist and Nobel Prize nominee Karl Pribram. “So the patient can gradually adjust his whole muscular dysfunction to what we call a normal image.”

The Feldenkrais method is useful in treating neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, stroke and cerebral palsy. Training the body in this way “not only changes the strength and flexibility of the skeleton and muscles,” as Feldenkrais put it, “but makes a profound change in the self-image and quality of direction of the self.”

This is a description of an article that appeared in the July/Aug 2012 issue of The Intelligent Optimist. Members can read the full article here. Non-members can become a member here.

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Mind over muscles

Practiced regularly, the Feldenkrais method can help relieve back pain, headaches and arthritis pain as well as improve posture, mobility, concentration and coordination. Unlike other physical regimens, Feldenkrais doesn’t require stamina, agility or even fitness, so the techniques are suitable for the elderly and infirm.

Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement was invented by the Ukraine-born Israeli mechanical engineer and physicist Moshé Feldenkrais, who died in 1984. When, in midlife, a painful knee injury impaired his ability to move, and the operation doctors suggested seemed less than promising, the judo practitioner resolved to cure himself.

Feldenkrais began testing ways of manipulating the joint until he discovered a sequence of motions that restored its function. While the brain controls our muscles, Feldenkrais argued, we can still use our muscles to send back messages to the brain. It’s the combined effect on body and mind that makes Feldenkrais so compelling. Bodily movements are represented in the brain by linked sets of neurons that fire together whenever specific movements are performed. While we usually acquire these firing patterns via our experiences during infancy and childhood, our brains and nervous systems change, both structurally and functionally, as a result of new experiences, in a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. So the mental image of our bodies can alter even in adulthood and old age.

The sensory input your brain receives during Feldenkrais sessions can create new neural connections. As these connections activate during the course of training, the pathways become stronger. Eventually, they become the default pattern, the preferred neural choice. The Feldenkrais method “is not just pushing muscles around but changing things in the brain itself,” says neuroscientist and Nobel Prize nominee Karl Pribram. “So the patient can gradually adjust his whole muscular dysfunction to what we call a normal image.”

The Feldenkrais method is useful in treating neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, stroke and cerebral palsy. Training the body in this way “not only changes the strength and flexibility of the skeleton and muscles,” as Feldenkrais put it, “but makes a profound change in the self-image and quality of direction of the self.”

This is a description of an article that appeared in the July/Aug 2012 issue of The Intelligent Optimist. Members can read the full article here. Non-members can become a member here.

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