Have you ever felt sick before a big presentation or a job interview? There’s little doubt that there’s an almost direct mind body connection. We don’t fully understand how the brain can affect the body. Moshé Feldenkrais sought to improve this connection and developed the Feldenkrais Method in the 1950’s. The Feldenkrais Method involves working with the nervous system through a series of over 1,000 movements intended to improve the mind body connection. The goal is to repair broken connections between your brain and your body through repetitive motions intended to train the brain. The Feldenkrais Method was designed to provide stress relief, lower fatigue, improve coordination and ease chronic pain.
Moshé Feldenkrais was a Ukrainian born engineer and physicist who fled Eastern Europe during World War II. He worked as a science officer for the British developing anti-submarine weaponry during the 1940’s. Slipping on a submarine deck he aggravated an old knee injury which would require surgery. He refused the operation and decided to use his knowledge of physics as well as his Judo training to rehabilitate his knee. This was the beginning of the Feldenkrais Method which Moshé spent the next few decades perfecting after moving to Tel Aviv, Israel. The method was intended to increase awareness through movement and thereby improve wellbeing. The therapy is designed to improve muscle memory by encouraging the body to perform specific rehabilitative movements.
The Feldenkrais Method has become very popular with retirees because it promotes balance, mobility and pain management. Seniors with chronic pain and joint swelling often take up the therapy because it is gentler than yoga or intensive physical therapy. Students of the Feldenkrais Method are taught movement with mindfulness. Being aware of your own body mechanics and posture are an important aspect of the method. There are currently numerous classes and seminars for seniors all over the United States that feature the Feldenkrais Method.
The Feldenkrais Method has been somewhat controversial due to the mixed results of clinical testing. In a study of 53 people with lower back pain U.S. News and World Report determined that subjects saw improvement in flexibility and reduced chronic pain after a few weeks of Feldenkrais. In 2015 the Australian Government’s Department of Health studied the Feldenkrais Method and determined that “no clear evidence of effectiveness was found.” The Australian Department of Health went a step further and declared that the Feldenkrais Method would not be covered by insurance. One 2016 study found that four weeks of participation in Feldenkrais improved cognitive skills for the majority of the 30 subjects tested. This would implicate that the mind body connection was improving. The only issue is that the subjects were trying to reduce chronic pain, not improve their cognitive skills. Feldenkrais was also shown to reduce depression in people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
To date there is no definitive evidence that Feldenkrais works. However, there’s also no definitive evidence that it doesn’t. It may also depend on the type of injury or chronic pain you are experiencing. Some have called Feldenkrais “glorified yoga” and others claim that it’s changed their lives. The only way to see if works is to try it. As stated earlier, there is no doubt that there is a direct connection between your mind and your body. The mystery of how the connection works has yet to be unraveled.
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