Moshe Feldenkrais and the Elusive Obvious: Learning, gravity, awareness

Moshe Feldenkrais lived from 1904 to 1984. He was born into a Hasidic Jewish family in what is now Poland and died in Israel. When he was fourteen, in 1924, he walked, on his own, from his hometown in Poland to Palestine and began his life as a laborer. By the time he died he had achieved a doctor of science in physics from the Sorbonne, had worked as both an engineer and a physicist in France and Israel, had become fluent in four or five languages, had been trained as the Western person to first bring judo from Japan to Europe by the top Japanese judo master, and had invented a system of mental/physical improvement that has helped thousands around the world.

This system, the Feldenkrais Method®, has been useful in enabling children with cerebral palsy to walk for the first time without crutches, for enabling people who have had a stroke to regain use of both sides, for radically increasing the rate of improvement of people recovering from accidents. It also has helped highly skilled musicians like Yo Yo Ma and Yehudi Menuhin, and star athletes like Dr. J, formerly of the Philadelphia 76ers. In between it has been of great use to those feeling the various aches and pains of growing older, or those with sore backs, shoulders, hips and knees, and then also people wishing to add more ease to walking, skiing, dancing, golfing and so on.

So what is the core of this system that can be useful to people at so many levels of physical ability? The core is our innate human ability to learn, and the vast reservoir of forgotten and untapped connections in our brain that have to do with efficient and clear movement in our whole organism. This method is about re-learning and deepening our learning of such relationships as right hip to left shoulder, relationship of toes to spine, relationship of breathing to bending forward and arching back, and the hundreds of other relationships that go into walking or skiing and pushing a wheelbarrow.

One way to understand this is to examine the stimulus for Dr. Feldenkrais’ invention of this system. Knees. It was his knees, deep in trouble for repeated soccer injuries. For all his intellectual skills, he couldn’t stay away from judo, soccer and other activities. He once said that exercise was for lazy people, because if you lived a full and vital life, your zest for living would take you dancing or gardening or all the many fun things we can do, and that would keep you as in shape.

Anyway, his knees were a wreck and this was back before fancy surgery, at the end of the forties, I think, and the doctors told him an operation would yield a 50/50 chance of improving or crippling him. He thought this was the same as flipping a coin and opted to figure it out himself. Immersed in anatomy, physiology, movement systems existing, learning theory of the time, he put full attention of his own knees and what small movements there could reveal. What he discovered not only cured himself, but began to be useful to his acquaintances, and then, as it developed, to wider and wider groups of people.

What did he discover?  The title of one of his few books is The Elusive Obvious. All his discoveries where of this nature. Movement in the knee must involve the ankle and the hip. Movement in the ankle must involve the foot and the toes. Movement in the hip must involve the pelvis, and that the spine and that the ribs and that the neck and that the eyes. And all of it, the brain, with its patterns and habits of neck and ribs and spine and pelvis, all having limiting effects on the knees moving in a free and natural way.

Also elusively obvious:  to read more, click below,
or just think:
what has been real learning in my life,
that changed my whole life.

To find out and have a knee lesson, click on through for more:
The Whole Article including pushing through the foot to wake up spine, ribs, hips and brain lesson)