Listening to this talk, I had the same thought which I often have when I listen to lectures about brain research and human functioning: The Feldenkrais Method® already has a clinical, concrete application of this science. Feldenkrais practitioners have been doing it for the last 40 years!
Here are some of Dr. Boyd’s ideas from the lecture, followed by my thoughts on their relevance to the concepts and history of the Feldenkrais method.
“Perhaps the most exciting, the most interesting and transformative of these discoveries is that every time you learn a new fact or skill, you change your brain. It’s something we call neuroplasticity.”
People who have attended Feldenkrais classes or have experienced private session know that there is a difference in the way they think and act after the lessons. Sometimes a remarkable, life changing difference. It cannot be accounted for by anything else but a change in the brain.
The question is – what kind of changes are they?
“To support learning, your brain can increase the amount or the concentration of chemical signaling that’s taking place between neurons. Because this kind of change can happen very rapidly, this supports short term improvement in the performance of a motor skill.
The second way that the brain can change to support learning is by altering its structure. During learning, the brain can change the connections between neurons. Now, here the physical structure of the brain is actually changing, so this takes a bit more time. These types of changes are related to long term memory, long term improvement in a motor skill. Neuroplasticity is supported by chemical, by structural, and by functional changes. Together they support learning”.
Dr. Feldenkrais understood that one of the best ways to enhance this process of restructuring is by rehabilitating proprioception – the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. In humans, these stimuli are detected by nerves within the body itself, as well as by the semicircular canals of the inner ear.
He also thought that the best medium to enhance proprioception is functional movement, since that is what an infant learns while its brain is rapidly making connections and growing.
“Then studies began to show… that these changes are not limited by age … good news, right? … In fact, they’re taking place all the time, and very importantly, brain reorganization helps to support recovery after you damage your brain… then what is it that limits and facilitates neuroplasticity?”
Dr. Feldenkrais said that societal and parental pressures shaping the learning process, especially in childhood, create faulty patterns of movement, posture, thinking and feeling. These faulty habits limit our success in realizing our dreams.
“The approach that my research has taken is to develop therapies that prime, or that prepare the brain to learn.”
Well, I think that the Feldenkrais Method does exactly that, and it is already available now!
“The second lesson we’ve learned about the brain is that there is no one size fits all approach to learning… I believe we have to consider not just personalized medicine, but personalized learning. The uniqueness of your brain will affect you, both as a learner and also as a teacher. There’s no recipe for learning.”
The need for personalized learning is another premise that is essential to understanding and practicing the Feldenkrais process, and has been studied for the last 50 years by Dr. Feldenkrais and his students. Dr. Feldenkrais came to these conclusions, without having any of the technologies available today, by keen and persistent observation of human behavior, human troubles and the relationship between them.
“Learning’s about doing the work that your brain requires… It applies to each of us as a parent, as a teacher, as a manager, and… as a lifelong learner. Each of you is going to have changed your brain differently. Understanding these differences, these individual patterns, this variability and change, is going to enable the next great advance in neuroscience.”
Amen! And the best way to have this process available for you personally, is to be immersed in the Feldenkrais language of movement and touch. On June 2-5, you can have a first-hand experience by coming to our Four Day Immersion Workshop in Baltimore.
In a Feldenkrais Training, once you rehabilitate your own proprioception, you will learn how to bring this benefit to people with brain and movement dysfunctions, chronic pain, the elderly, children with special needs and high performers, such as athletes, musicians, dancers and actors.
Listen to the 14 minute TED Talk from Dr Boyd and let me know what you find interesting about it, or what questions come up for you!