Schmalzl and her team (2014) in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in San Diego, California, noticed that Cognitive Neuroscience witnesses a shift from predominantly disembodied, abstract and computational views of the mind to more embodied and situated views.
They postulate that mental functions cannot be fully understood without reference to the physical body and the environment in which they are experienced. The Feldenkrais approach and practice (among other somatic therapeutic techniques like the Alexander Technique or contemplative practices such as Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi) cultivate interoceptive, proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness.
Source: Schmalzl, L., Crane-Godreau, M., & Payne, P. (2014). Movement-based embodied contemplative practices: definitions and paradigms. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8(1), 205–. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00205
Jutta’s comment: Occupational Therapists also view a person with her and his physicality in her/his environment. When we work with you as a person, we will look with you at your physical functions and structures, your motor and cognitive skills, habits, routines, your roles in your cultural, social, and physical contexts and environments.
The Feldenkrais approach teaching you proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness offers the HOW TO tools for being better organized and more efficient in your daily activities.
Kimmel and his social and cultural anthropological team in Vienna, Austria (2015) examined the inter-enactive competence of bodywork methods like Feldenkrais and Zen Shiatsu. He states that both methods enable somatic learning through continuous tactile coupling. This takes place in an interpersonal dynamic in a safe space.
Kimmel and his team describe in depths the hands- on and perceptual skills that Feldenkrais and Zen Shiatsu practitioners need to acquire and exhibit in their own body awareness in order to engage with a client/student. “Their ability for sensorially staying apace of systemic emergence allows them to respond to minute changes and customize reactions in a zone of proximal development (…) Practitioners deploy “educated senses” and a repertoire of hands-on techniques (grips, stretches, etc.) against a backdrop of somatic habits (proper posture, muscle activation, gaze patterns, etc.) (p. 1).
With these skills, practitioners are able to engage in a process of somato-personal learning that respects moment-by-moment emergence.
The outcome is adaptive self-organization (p. 21)
Source: Kimmel, M., Irran, C., & Luger, M. (2014). Bodywork as systemic and inter-enactive competence: Participatory process management in Feldenkrais® Method and Zen Shiatsu. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1424–. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01424
Jutta’s comment: this article sounds very abstract, however, it researches the HOW TO in the learning process: being connected with a client/student; working in a safe and perceived safe space; working from proximal to distal; being able to sense disturbance in self-organization because of own extensive proprioceptive and sensory body awareness training. In plain language: you can only teach with your hands, what you have as a repertoire in yourself. And you can only help a client when you can deeply listen to her/his movements and understand what is going on.
Another Austrian researcher, Josef Mattes from the Institute for Mathematics in Vienna (2016), discussed in his paper the attentional focus in motor learning. With his study of the mindful movement practices of Feldenkrais and Ki-Aikido, he was able to propose benefits for sport psychology.
Feldenkrais “Awareness Through Movement” lessons are characterized by focus on quality of movements, positive mood, and avoiding cross-motivation. Besides moving with ease, negative self-evaluation is also avoided. This is provided by slowly building up complex movements from simple parts. There is no goal at for the end of the lesson mentioned (there is often a pre- and posttest movement, but a goal or outcome is not declared to has to be reached). It is intended to encourage curiosity as well as discourage critical self-evaluation that might be caused by observing how far one still is of the intended final movement.
Mattes refers to Wulf& Lewthwaite (2010) research on the crucial role of avoiding negative self-evaluation and micro-choking and concludes this would seem to suggest that Feldenkrais is an excellent approach to motor learning.
Mattes, J. (2016). Attentional Focus in Motor Learning, the Feldenkrais Method, and Mindful Movement. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 123(1), 258–276. https://doi.org/10.1177/0031512516661275
Wulf, G., Lewthwaite, R. (2010) Effortless motor learning? An external focus of attention enhances movement effectiveness and efficiency. In: Bruya, B. (ed.) Effortless attention: A new perspective in attention and action, Cambridge, England: MIT Press, pp. 75–101.
Jutta’s comment: this research is a very important evidence for my approach to foster curiosity and non-linear learning with children and adults. Children are brought to occupational therapy or Feldenkrais services, because there is something “wrong”. Often the parents and clients have no room for curiosity and just desire to have the problem fixed. When the focus is redirected to available components of movement or also life skills and curiosity and joy are evoked, motor learning is happening. (“slowly building up complex movements from simple parts”)
More literature for the theories behind Feldenkrais practice:
Feldenkrais, M. (1990). Awareness Through Movement. Harper Collins.
Rywerant, Y. (2003). The Feldenkrais Method: Teaching by Handling: A Technique for Individuals (1st ed.). Harper & Row.