Annual Feldenkrais Conference Hits San Mateo

Public Day's focus was on the relationship between the brain and body

“This Labor Day Learn to Labor Less” read the slogan of the 35th annual Feldenkrais Method Conference’s Public Day at the San Mateo Marriott. The event was a part of a five day conference for the “Embodying Neuroscience: The Feldenkrais Method in Human Performance, Development and Health” meant for networking and learning about the method.

The Feldenkrais Method is a method of movement education that aims to teach people to move with greater ease and efficiency for better posture, breathing, coordination and flexibility. The focus is on improving quality of life. It’s been used to treat lower back pain, body imbalances, hip problems, patients with multiple sclerosis, breast cancer survivors and others.

Events of the day included free “Awareness Through Movement” classes and a $75 “Continual Improvement Workshop” with Stephen Rosenholtz, Ph.D., who trains others in Feldenkrais and just returned from a month of teaching the method in Italy.

How do students different in Italy versus the United States?

“They speak Italian,” Dr. Rosenholtz said. “The students are the same -- they’re oriented toward the helping professions. You get psychiatrists, doctors, physical therapists, athletes and musicians coming to the session.”

Dr. Rosenholtz initially trained in Feldenkrais under the method’s Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc., the method’s founder who argued that the human brain is plastic across the lifespan and that behavior, including cognition is embodied. He taught that behavior emerges from people’s interactions among thinking, sensing, feeling and moving.

Peter Walberg, a cabinet maker from New York, came out to conference to learn about the scientific footing behind the Feldenkrais Method.

“I come from a martial arts background and there’s real similarity to Feldenkrais’ awareness through movement,” he said. “They’re both about moving efficiently and skillfully with less effort. It’s like martial arts for the layman. You may be the better person for practicing the Feldenkrais Method  because you’re not fighting, you’re learning to cope with yourself. This method is way ahead of the culture. It’s very new-agey."

Linda Chamberlain, Ph.D., MPH, a epidemiologist, researcher and scientist based out of Alaska flew out to the conference to see what the implications of the method are for her work.

“I work with children who were exposed to violence and deal with how to treat their trauma,” she said. “I haven’t seen anything this powerful in a long time and I think it has tremendous potential. I think this can really integrate folks into well-being through integrating the body with the psyche. Science is verifying what people are doing - in Feldenkrais - and there’s really pressure in the scientific field to be evidence based.”

Chamberlain said she intends to pursue training, as she sees the method as a way for dealing with trauma that gets locked in the body, leading to chronic pain down the line.

Paulette Dolin, a local Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner and 2012 conference program committee member, said her interest was originally peaked in Feldenkrais back in college when her dad brought her to a workshop on the teachings.

“After the session I looked at my father and noticed he was standing a lot taller,” she said.

Later, when Dolin experiences injuries resulting from a car accident, she turned to Feldenkrais after physical therapy was no longer helping her improve. Dolin said Feldenkrais worked for her.

The Feldenkrais Method was first introduced in the 1960s, 70s and 80s by Feldenkrais himself in North America and Europe. For more information on the method go here

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