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CHAPTER OBJECTIVES

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Chapter Objectives

At the conclusion of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  • Identify the key factors that led to the development of the Feldenkrais method.

  • Describe the key philosophical tenants of the Feldenkrais method.

  • Define what constitutes normal motion and appreciate methods, within this paradigm, that might be used to restore normal motion.

  • Understand the application of this paradigm to clinical physical therapy through appreciating key aspects of examination and intervention.

  • Apply principles of the Feldenkrais method to clinical physical therapy.

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HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES

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Moshe Feldenkrais's Life and Work

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Moshe Feldenkrais was an eclectic thinker who incorporated a variety of disciplines into a method of thinking and acting in relation to the development and restoration of human function. These approaches included gestalt psychology,1 progressive relaxation,2 bioenergetics,3 sensory awareness,4 the hypnosis of Milton Erickson,5 an ecological perspective on the mind6 and human perception,7 and the physiologic studies of Sherrington, Magnus, Pavlov, Fulton, and Schilder.8

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Feldenkrais was born in Russia in 1904. At the age of 14, he traveled to Palestine, where he later developed a form of hand-to-hand combat that was used by the settlers for self-defense. He described these techniques in his book Ju-Jitsu and Self Defense, which was published in 1929.9

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Feldenkrais studied mechanical and electrical engineering and physics in Paris in the late 1920s. During this time, he also studied the works of Freud and Coue. In 1930, he published a translation with commentary of Coue's work Autosuggestion. He met Jigaro Kano, originator of judo, in Paris and became the first European trained to the level of black belt in judo.9 As an athlete, he played soccer with a French club and tore the meniscus of his left knee. His observations of how he learned to walk and move without pain led to the development of his theories related to the role of awareness in restoring function.8

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Feldenkrais spent World War II in England working to develop antisubmarine technology and continuing to study judo. He taught judo classes to his fellow engineers. This formed the beginning of his thinking about what later became known as awareness through movement.10 During this time, he wrote several volumes on judo.11,12 After World War II, he continued his study of psychology and neuroscience and learned about the work of Alexander, Gindler, and Gurdieff, all of whom emphasized the importance of cultivating self-awareness for the purposes of personal and professional development. This wide-ranging study led to his publication of Body and Mature Behavior. 10,13 This book was his first attempt at the expression of the philosophy, science, and experience that provided the foundation for his evolving paradigm.

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Box 20-1 THE FELDENKRAIS METHOD

The Feldenkrais Method incorporates:

  • Gestalt psychology

  • Progressive relaxation

  • Bioenergetics

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