Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984)

Moshe Feldenkrais

Moshe Feldenkrais was an Israeli physicist who applied the study of physics to the field of psychology. His Feldenkrais Method attempts to reduce pain by increasing self-awareness.

Early Life

Moshe Feldenkrais was born in 1904 in Slavuta in what is now the Ukrainian Republic. At age 14, Feldenkrais journeyed to Palestine where he worked as a laborer before returning to high school in 1923. In 1925, he began working as a cartographer for the British survey office. He was an avid soccer player and began learning the martial arts of jiu jitsu in Jewish self-defense groups.

In 1930, Feldenkrais moved to Paris to study engineering. He continued on to pursue his ScD in the same field at the Sorbonne, where he studied under Marie Curie.

Feldenkrais continued to practice martial arts, studying judo under Jigoro Kano in 1933. He developed a close friendship with Kano, who is known as the founder of judo, and went on to become a second degree black belt. He was one of the founders of the Jiu Jitsu Club de France, a prominent martial arts school that remains active today.

Professional Life  

In 1940, Feldenkrais left France and went to Britain to avoid the German invasion. He served as a science officer in the Admiralty until 1946, working on anti-submarine weaponry in Scotland. During this time, he was instrumental in teaching martial arts self-defense tactics to his peers. While on a submarine deck, Feldenkrais exacerbated a previous soccer injury on his knee and chose to self-rehabilitate rather than undergo surgery. The self-awareness and examination that he used to recover would later form the basis of the Feldenkrais Method.

Feldenkrais moved into the private sector when he returned to London and remained active in the Judo community. He eventually published his introduction to the Feldenkrais Method, Body and Mature Behavior: A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation and Learning. He later returned to Israel and left the army to focus his efforts on advancing his method.

Contribution to Psychology

The Feldenkrais Method is Feldenkrais's process for decreasing pain and limited mobility by increasing self-awareness. The method serves as both a tool for teaching increased bodily and mental awareness and as a method of movement and training. 

Training sessions are called Functional Integration lessons, during which a teacher guides the movements of a student with gentle touching. This method is designed to help the student understand how various parts of the body rely upon and connect to one another. The goal is to help the student eliminate muscle strain and excessive muscular force and effort. For students who have injuries or specific pain, lessons might target a specific area, but other students use Functional Integration simply to learn more about how their bodies and muscles work.

Awareness Through Movement lessons, by contrast, are group lessons during which an instructor verbally advises students on how to move rather than physically moving the students. This process can help increase students' awareness of their movement patterns and may enable them to determine ways in which their patterns of movement are contributing to pain.

There have been few studies that have directly tested the Feldenkrais Method, so it's impossible to know how effective the method is. The method still has devoted followers.

Last Update: 07-07-2015

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