The Feldenkrais (rhymes with “rice”) Method and the Alexander Technique encourage transformation through conscious movement and increased body awareness. Practitioners of both teachings focus on re-education (or “undoing”) through touch and verbal guidance that introduce new movement possibilities and patterns to the student. Considering their many similarities, it’s not surprising to learn that physicist, engineer and judo master Moshe Feldenkrais was one of Frederick Mathias Alexander’s original students.
While the Alexander Technique emphasizes releasing tension from the head, neck, and spine, the Feldenkrais Method tends to regard the entire body with equal priority.
Through lessons and prescribed exercises, Feldenkrais students become more aware of their habitual neuromuscular patterns. This enables them to increase their range and ease of motion and improve flexibility and coordination. “The lessons help bring the magic of awareness to how you do things,” says Seattle Feldenkrais Practitioner Bryce Mathern. “As you find new movement patterns pain and discomfort melt away.”
Less concerned with specific exercises, the Alexander Technique helps students fine-tune their internal awareness to recognize unnecessary tension in the body. Students become more aligned with the natural organization of their bodies and learn to “step out of their own way” to perform everyday activities with an innate sense of ease and grace.
“The practice is all day long, every day so we can learn to access relaxation even in stressful situations,” says Alexander Practitioner Elyse Shafarman . “The most difficult part of this practice is learning how not to do.”
Shafarman explains that the Alexander Technique is not about stretching, strengthening or adding exercises to your daily routine. Instead it is about how you sit on the subway, answer the phone and hold the steering wheel.
How It Works:
By analyzing your whole movement patterns — rather than just your symptoms — Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique practitioners are able to provide gentle and encouraging verbal and hands-on cues that allow you to begin to move in a freer, more integrated way.
What to Expect:
Feldenkrais sessions typically take place with the student lying on a massage table in loose, comfortable clothing. Alexander sessions may begin in a chair or in simple movement (walking, standing and sitting) and eventually move to a table. The student remains alert with eyes open. After a session, students can usually sense a physical difference — whether it’s feeling their feet more solidly planted on the ground or noticing a change in their posture.