practitioner Nick Strauss-Klein watches how his client
Kathy Combs walks around his home studio, January 14,
2013, in Eagan, Minnesota.
ó By the time people come to see Lisa Walker, theyíre
injured athletes, dancers, musicians or office workers are
trying to fix whatís broken. Some are looking for a way around
the limitations caused by a stroke, Parkinsonís disease or
cerebral palsy. Others just want to run faster, notch up their
golf game or improve their horse riding.
nutshell, I help people move better," said Walker, who
practices both in Rochester, Minn. and near Red Wing, Minn.
breaks down a single complex movement into smaller ones, which
helps her clients learn how to use their entire bodies to make
any movement easier. "Itís about sensing for yourself the
difference between what is efficient, effortless movement and
whatís not," she said.
is called Feldenkrais.
is how people usually first react, said Nick Strauss-Klein, a
practitioner based in Eagan, Minn. While it sounds like a
religion or maybe even a cult, itís just the name of the guy
who founded the method.
Russia, Moshe Feldenkrais was a physicist and mechanical
engineer and a judo expert with a debilitating knee injury.
After rejecting surgery because it might not keep him out of a
wheelchair, Feldenkrais used his extensive knowledge of the body
and the mind to come up with a way to move more easily and walk
brought his method to the United States ó first to the West
Coast in 1977 and then the East Coast. Now itís taking hold in
the Midwest, with about a dozen trained practitioners in
Minnesota, according to Strauss-Klein.
lessons teach better alignment and more coordination between the
muscles and the skeletal and soft tissues," said Julia Pak,
a Feldenkrais practitioner and the New York City director of the
practitioners offer group classes, in which students lie down on
mats and then are guided through a series of movements. There
also are one-on-one sessions that zero in on the places where a
client is unwittingly restricting movement. A slight change ó
sometimes inches, maybe millimeters ó can cascade into
effortless movement that helps resolve a high school athleteís
chronic running injury, alleviates a violinistís neck pain or
allows an elderly woman to roll over in bed with ease.
finding the places where people are stuck neurologically,"
said Walker. "Itís really about learning."
example: "If you have tight hamstrings, itís because the
way youíre moving is causing them to be short and tight,"
she explained. "There are other muscles that should be
working but arenít. So the hamstrings are overworking and the
other muscles are sleeping."
method is very good at what Walker calls "re-rooting old
habits," Feldenkrais has its limits.
someone has a torn ACL, Iím not your person. The medical
profession has perfected that," Walker said. "But this
is phenomenal for people who donít want to wear out their
joints so fast, because when you move better youíre not
putting stress on those joints."
Williamson, a 59-year-old Boston Marathon finisher and
triathlete, was suffering from plantar fasciitis when he turned
to Walker in 2004. After a couple of one-on-one lessons, he
became an avid student in Walkerís Awareness Through Movement
classes. Williamson said he now has a "low-impact"
gait and has remained injury-free.
donít consciously change your running style," he said.
But Feldenkrais has given him the awareness to know when
"things are off" and given him insight to make
adjustments that allow him to run more efficiently. "Youíre
not just running numb," he said.
hasnít been able to convert fellow runners to the Feldenkrais
method. "People seem to think the name is goofy," he
Margaret Houston, a family physician in Rochester, Minn., gets
the same reaction.
roll their eyes because itís an alternative therapy and nobody
understands what it is, and itís really hard to explain,"
she said. "I explain that learning to relax the muscles in
one part of the body can help them walk differently. I tell them
to take it on faith. It works and itís made a huge difference
who suffered neck and back pain, was introduced to Feldenkrais
by her horse trainer. After she took classes, she said, the pain
made perfect sense to her. "People often attribute pain to
one thing," she said. "They have pain in their knee or
their hip but they donít realize that everything in your body
moves as a unit."
quick to point out that Feldenkrais isnít for everyone.
"Some people just want a quick fix," she said.
"They want an injection or they want to see a specialist
that fails, thatís when they try Feldenkrais, said Pak.