Origins of movement therapy/education: Movement education can be traced back to the 19th century. The theories were born out of the work of several individuals who developed a keen interest in the origins of physical and emotional discomforts in the body.
One of the earliest formulations of movement education is evident in the work of Francois Delsarte, who developed a practice he coined as "applied aesthetics." Delsarte was the first to explore the link between physical and emotional expressions, and suggested that one bodily movement affects all others.
Another notable pioneer in the field of movement education is a man by the name of Rudolf von Laban. His theory of movement honed in on the notion of "effort," or how much exertion is required to perform an action. Laban created a distinction between the ideas of functional movements (like lifting your pen) and expressive or artistic movements (like dance). Laban also established the four critical factors that would eventually govern all of movement education: weight, space, time and flow.
Benefits of movement therapy/education: Movement education, whether the Feldenkrais Method, the Alexander Technique or another school of movement, offers students a novel understanding of basic movement patterns. Simple modifications, such as shifting weight from one foot to another, can ultimately have a profound impact on a variety of other concerns, like low back pain or poor running form.
Movement education is offered through private or semi-private sessions, depending on the practitioner and the style of movement education received. During a session, students learn to isolate aches, pains or inefficiencies of the body while also experimenting with new possibilities of movement.
Movement education may be used as a technique for self-healing, yet it is also a valuable tool for learning about the connection between physical and emotional health. Students gain a better understanding of their own body to address a panoply of conditions, from back pain and arthritis to multiple sclerosis, anxiety and much more.
That said, while movement education is useful for many ailments, it is not necessarily a cure. Students should understand that movement education is used for its ability to help manage pain and discomfort that may be present in the body—not for its ability to eliminate disease.
Recommended sessions: Results can be immediate, however this depends on what a student wants to gain from an initial session. While movement education can provide physical and emotional insight and awareness after one session, students are encouraged to participate in regular movement therapy. The number of lessons required depends on several factors, including whether a student is looking to achieve a specific goal.
What to Expect
Methods are taught in a group or private setting and last 30 to 60 minutes. Typically, students of the Alexander Technique receive one-on-one attention, while Feldenkrais pupils may choose between group sessions (known as Awareness Through Movement) or a private setting (known as Functional Integration).
Sessions are customized to tend to specific ailments. Talk with your instructor beforehand and discuss any conditions or discomforts you may be experiencing on a daily or regular basis. Movement education is a healing practice that requires a high degree of communication, and feedback is an important part of its success.
During a movement education session, practitioners make gentle adjustments as students complete a series of movements. Gestures can be as simple as walking slowly across the room or as complex as performing an advanced yoga pose. Breath work is often integrated into movement education sessions.
Getting ready: There are no preparations required before engaging in movement education. Individuals with a history of injury or illness may be asked to provide recent MRIs or other scan results that could enhance the work, though this is not mandatory.
Comfortable clothing is optimal for ease of movement. Clothing should be snug enough so a movement educator can see and adjust their student's bodies.
Not surprisingly, movement education is popular among athletes, performance artists and red carpet regulars, as the basic techniques can enhance a person's physical and emotional connection to their work. Cellist Yo Yo Ma and musician Willie Nelson used the Feldenkrais Method, while Victoria "Posh" Beckham turned to Alexander Techniques to tend to her stiletto-stricken feet.
Movement education is a gentle form of somatic therapy. Because the practice is based on a student's awareness, there should be no risks involved. A skilled practitioner should have the knowledge to avoid any instruction that could cause or exacerbate a previous injury.
Who shouldn't do it: Students should bring an open mind. Individuals who are not receptive to the information they are given or to the slight physical changes that are made may not benefit from movement education. Students who are pregnant or who suffer from anemia or low blood pressure should inform their instructor ahead of time.