Yeu-Meng Chan Practitioner
As well as being a Guild certified Feldenkrais® practitioner Yeu-Meng is also a classical concert pianist. Her musical career was threatened by debilitating chronic pain and fibromyalgia caused by hypermobile syndrome (Ehlers Danlos). The Feldenkrais Method® helped her to manage her condition totally drug free and she has now returned to playing the piano. She is keen to share this knowledge which is empowering, giving people the tools to help themselves and encourage positive change from within.
The Feldenkrais Method®
Thank you to Michael Cann, Feldenkrais® Australia Practitioner, for this fabulous summary of the Feldenkrais Method®
The Feldenkrais Method® is unique in that it encompasses biomechanics, mindfulness and neurophysiology under one umbrella. It teaches people to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. Benefits include relief from tension and muscular pain, greater relaxation, improved performance in sports and the arts and ease in everyday activities.
About Dr Moshe Feldenkrais
Moshe Feldenkrais, DSc, was a distinguished scientist and engineer whose long career included work at the Curie Institue in Paris in the 1930s. He was also a respected Judo instructor and a founder of the Ju Jitsu Club in Paris.
An early injury to his knee threatened him with severe disability in middle age. Despite being given little hope of walking normally, Feldenkrais refused surgery and instead applied his extensive knowledge of anatomy, neurophysiology, psychology and engineering, as well as his mastery of martial arts, to healing his own knee.
During the process he realised the vital importance of working with the whole self to achieve lasting improvements, recognising the essential inseparability of mind and body in a way that is still innovative today.
His insights contributed to the development of somatic education, and continue to influence disciplines such as physical therapy, brain plasticity, gerontology, the arts, education and psychology. Systems founded on his Method include Hann Somatics, Bones for Life and the Anat Baniel Method.
jazz double bass player
Case Study 1
Marilyn started to come and see me as she had heard that the Feldenkrais Method® could help her regain some of her flexibility and stability that she had lost with suffering from Parkinsons.
When she first came, she had very pronounced kyphosis (backwards curve of the spine) as well as scoliosis (sideways curve of the spine). She was not able to sit comfortably for any length of time and was always afraid of losing her balance and falling when she was standing upright. When I asked her what she was hoping to get out of our sessions, she said that she wanted to regain her mobility and feel steadier on her feet when walking.
These ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures show a big difference in the way she was able to sit after one session. Her head is more in line with her spine and pelvis and she was therefore able to sit more comfortably with her bones providing support for her rather than her muscles having to work really hard to hold herself upright. She was then able to take this feeling of ‘uprightness’ into standing and her new organisation provided her with better balance and stability in walking.
Marilyn still has regular sessions with me after our initial consultation three years ago. She does so to maintain her independence. She has not had a fall since our first meeting and she does not have the fear of falling in the same way she did before we started working together.
“I am aged 66 and have had Parkinsons for 9 years. I also suffer from scoliosis and osteoporosis.
Since March 2015 I have been treated with the Feldenkrais Method® by Yeu-Meng. It is very gentle and relaxing and after a session I feel taller, more stable and relaxed. It helps with my balance, makes movement easier and gives me a sense of well being.”
Case Study 2
Painful shortened Achilles tendon
Jenny came to me with very painful shortened Achilles tendon and reported difficulty with her balance and walking. She had tried all the conventional methods of treatment (which involves stretching of the tendon and calf muscles) and the last course of physiotherapy caused her a lot of pain and discomfort. She was even recommended surgery although in the end decided against it as her doctor wasn’t convinced that it would have the desired outcome.
When I checked her in standing before working with her, her calf muscles were extremely tight and her knees were hyperextended, and she said she felt very unstable on her feet. Through working on her spine, her upper half reorganised itself (see the pictures) and in so doing, the end result was that she was able to connect more easily to the ground in standing. Her knees stopped hyperextending and locking, and she was able to find more stability and freedom in her standing and walking.
This is not a quick fix and Jenny is still coming for regular sessions. Each time, we find a new bit of the puzzle for her to go away and work with so that she can experience this more comfortable way of being. Through using awareness to identify her existing habits, she can learn how to form new ones of moving to allow her to maintain this freer and easier organisation.
Case Study 3
Broken neck from a fall
Quite often, people come to the Feldenkrais Method® as a last resort when they’ve tried everything else and they are not experiencing the improvement that they would like.
These are photos of David who came to me a few years after breaking his neck (C6) in an accident — the first one was taken in June and then four months later in October. Although he had made a remarkable recovery in being able to function fairly normally (he was not able to move at all after his accident), his sense of balance and ability to move freely was greatly compromised. The specialist had told him not to extend his neck and this had developed into a very forward head position (photo on the left).
Through the process of gentle and safe movement explorations, we are gradually re-educating his nervous system to expand and trust his movement vocabulary so that he can relate to the world in a more upright manner which then increases the possibility of freer movement and better balance. He can walk his dogs now with much less fear of falling over—he even carried one down the stairs the other day(!), which would have been an activity that could have previously resulted in disaster.
David has been coming now for two years and continues to come regularly for individual sessions as well as attending the workshops. He finds the tools for learning totally invaluable to the preservation and maintenance of his wellbeing, both physically and mentally,
Case Study 4
What is the ideal posture?’
Alex came to me with neck and upper back issues – an occupational hazard when one spends a lot of time sitting in front of the computer. Rather than ‘correcting’ his posture, we explored some gentle movements whilst he was lying down. As he sat up after an hour, a change had taken place internally (middle photo) and he reported being able to sit much more easily without tension and discomfort in his neck and back. We did a few more exploratory movements in sitting and the result can be seen in the last photo.
This transformation took place not through coercion nor external correction but through a reorganisation of his internal structure (skeleton) by giving his nervous system options to play around with. This was achieved by moving his body in non-habitual ways and waking up connections that we once had as a baby or young child. Unlike most conventional methods which work locally on muscles, the Feldenkrais Method® targets the brain directly and therefore can create more lasting changes through addressing the learning process.
How does it work?
The Feldenkrais Method® explores new ways of moving and thinking in relation to our habits and gives us options to change them.
Much of what we think and do is learned behaviour. From the moment we are born, our initial years are spent learning skills that help us to function in our environment. These skills become our habitual ways of doing things and as we age, our habits become more ingrained and we may subconsciously develop traits that work against us. This can lead to pain or difficulty in movement, tension and stress.
The brain is, however, adaptable and we are able to learn new skills throughout our lives. In the Feldenkrais Method® we use movement and awareness to help the brain replace damaging habits with more efficient ones. The method works with the nervous system to address issues from the inside out and can form long lasting and permanent change.
Guild certified Feldenkrais® practitioners train for four years to develop the knowledge and skill to be able to guide people to better ways of moving and thinking.
What is involved in a typical session?
A typical session may consist of a one-to-one session, a class or a workshop. One-to-one sessions and classes usually last for an hour. Workshops can be either half a day or a whole day.
In a one-to-one session, also known as a Functional Integration® lesson, we will discuss your situation and through hands on work, explore how you currently move and how you could potentially move more efficiently.
Classes and workshops, also known as Awareness Through Movement® lessons, take place in groups. Participants will be directed verbally to move and sense themselves in non-habitual ways. Movements are performed slowly and gently with a high degree of awareness to aid deep learning.
Should I go for individual lessons or classes?
Individual sessions are tailored to your specific needs and requirements and allow for more in depth work. Classes and workshops are more general and cover a wide range of issues. These can be a good introduction to the work and offer useful strategies for maintenance of work done in individual sessions.
Will I be able to do a Feldenkrais class if I’m not very fit, I’m in pain or I’m elderly?
Yes. The movements are very gentle, and you are encouraged to find ways of moving where you do not trigger pain. The work is process orientated and non-judgmental and you are encouraged to work within your own limitations. Every instruction can be modified to suit your own pace of learning and visualisation is suggested for people who have restricted movement. Research has shown that visualisation of movement can stimulate the same responses in the brain as physical movement.
How are your classes different from other movement modalities like Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi?
The Feldenkrais Method® has similarities with all these modalities in that they are all movement based and work with the whole self. Rather than focusing on perfecting specific positions, static poses or set movements, the Feldenkrais Method® focuses on the ability of the individual to perform directed movements in a manner best suited to themselves. It is done in a non-judgmental and non-correctional manner as the work is process and not goal orientated. Flexibility and strength are achieved through optimising physical and mental organisation as an alternative to conventional stretching and muscle building.
How are your individual sessions different from physiotherapy, physical therapy, osteopathy or chiropractic treatment?
Again, there are similarities between these forms of individual personalised work in that they are all focused on healthy alignment of the body for better functioning. The emphasis for most kinds of these treatments is correctional and focused on the structure of the body. The Feldenkrais Method® approaches the work from the viewpoint of the functioning of the whole body, looking at the causes of problems rather than focusing on treating the symptoms. Patterns of habitual movement and thinking are assessed, and new approaches may be suggested in order for symptoms not to recur. This is why the work is called Functional Integration®.