Whether you are a pro athlete or weekend warrior, you can make your performance better and less physically stressful by moving with greater efficiency.
Moshe Feldenkrais was a martial artist who studied athletes and noticed that elite movers perform difficult tasks with a minimum of muscular effort. He developed the Feldenkrais Method® to help people emulate this efficiency in their daily life and exercise. He said the purpose of his Method was to “make the impossible possible, the hard easy, and the easy elegant.”
Athletes spend significant time in their training doing “hard” work – trying to lift more weight, run faster, stretch farther. This is no doubt helpful, but they tend to overlook the benefits of practicing movements that are “easy.”
The Feldenkrais Method is a way to improve your physical performance by moving very slowly and gently. This allows you to become aware of unnecessary muscular effort in fundamental movement patterns, and to discover more efficient alternatives. After a lesson, you may feel a greater sense of awareness of how to use your body in way that feels effortless and graceful, in everyday life and on the sports field.
For example, imagine that the muscles in the front of your hip feel stiff or painful as you extend your leg while running. This might be caused by what Feldenkrais called “parasitic tension” – an unconscious habit of tensing muscles when they should be relaxing. This unnecessary effort would probably be very hard to notice and release while running, because of all the other vigorous movements happening at the same time. But during a Feldenkrais® lesson, such distractions are eliminated since the movements are so slow, often done lying down.Your attention is directed in a way that makes unnecessary tension much easier to recognize and release.
In the Feldenkrais Method approach to your stiff hip, the teacher might ask you to lie on your side, then very slowly and gently move your hip back and forth into extension, both of you noticing how the movement feels. You would repeat the movement many times, with variation, using subtly different positions or movements of the knee, the pelvis, the ribs, or the spine. The goal would be to gently explore all the different options for extending the hip, and to find the variations that feel most efficient and comfortable for you. This will give you a better sense of how the hip moves and cooperates with other parts of the body. Once you gain an improved awareness and control of the hip at slow speed, you could practice duplicating that same feeling of ease while running.
A similar process of exploration could be used to improve any other sporting movement. Throwing, jumping, balancing, and kicking can all be done the hard way or the easy way. The Feldenkrais Method is a unique way to give you a choice.