Training Mind, Body to Relieve Tension

By Surface, Jennifer | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 7, 2000 | Go to article overview

Training Mind, Body to Relieve Tension


Surface, Jennifer, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Yoga, massage, meditation or acupuncture provide release, for many, from stress and strain. But practitioners of the Feldenkrais Method of body movement explore ways that people may cause themselves pain.

The method is all about awareness of one's own movement and freedom from self-imposed strain and restriction. The Feldenkrais Guild of North America opens its annual conference today at Georgetown University. The meeting runs through Saturday.

Donna Blank, a Feldenkrais practitioner in Bethesda and the chair of this year's conference committee, calls the method "a mind and body discipline that improves everyday functioning." Mrs. Blank says that attention paid to everyday movements leads to greater freedom and ease of action.

The method itself is difficult to define clearly, and professionals struggle to explain concisely the theory of movement that Moshe Feldenkrais developed in Israel in the 1970s.

"We all develop, for some reason or another, habitual patterns . . . that interfere with what we want to be doing," Mrs. Blank says. Examples of these unconscious patterns are a tensing of certain muscles, the way the eyes are focused, or breathing habits.

"Awareness Through Movement" group classes and "Functional Integration" private classes alert students to personal physical tendencies. "Both [classes] have common goals: awareness of how we're moving, and learning how to do things with more ease," Mrs. Blank says. "It's not all about imitating someone."

* * *

Attempting to heighten students' flexibility and coordination, Feldenkrais instructors verbally or physically guide students through common bodily movements. Students usually lie on or sit on tables designed for the method.

For instance, a Feldenkrais instructor may ask a student to raise a shoulder, then ask the student if they have tensed a neck or stomach muscle unknowingly in the process. According to Feldenkrais theory, knowledge of these personal habits helps to overcome limitations brought on by stress, misuse, accident or illness. …

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