The Feldenkrais Method® founded by Ukranian-Israeli physicist, Moshé Feldenkrais in the mid-20th century, is a form of exercise therapy that uses awareness of body movements to improve your physical and mental functioning. According to The Feldenkrais Educational Foundational of North America (FEFNA),
“The Feldenkrais Method of somatic education uses gentle movement and directed attention to help people learn new and more effective ways of living the life they want. You can increase your ease and range of motion, improve your flexibility and coordination, and rediscover your innate capacity for graceful, efficient movement. Since how you move is how you move through life, these improvements will often enhance your thinking, emotional regulation, and problem-solving capabilities.”
The practice has been used by a wide range of individuals including athletes, performers, and those recovering from illness, injury, or genetic movement disorders. Feldenkrais practitioners in North America are certified by the FEFNA guild that promotes the research, education and public awareness of its methods.
How Trail Runners Can Use Feldenkrais To Improve Their Running Experience
Similar to other movement-based practices such as yoga or martial arts, The Feldenkrais Method can be a great addition to your trail running arsenal. It can help you avoid injuries, keep your body balanced, and improve mental strength. The gentle movements of Feldenkrais make it easy to add to your training routine without adding stress to your body or tiring your muscles.
In the article below, I share my top three ways The Feldenkrais Method can be used by trail runners to compliment their training. I draw professional insights from Harald Kasper, a licensed Feldenkrais practitioner and trail runner, based in Salida, Colorado. Watch the video below for a more in-depth interview with Kasper.
“My running turned from being a cardiovascular exercise to a dance and form of physical enjoyment every single time I put my running shoes on.” -Harald Kasper
Practicing Feldenkrais can improve your running efficiency by having a better understanding of how energy is stored throughout your body and being aware of your movements during the running motion. For many of us, we don’t often think about how our body is moving while we’re running. Kasper explains how Feldenkrais can encourage movements that better our running efficiency,
“We have a system of energy conservation in our body that allows us to avoid having to recreate energy with every single step. Ideally, energy feeds from one step into the next, thus increasing running efficiency. Feldenkrais can teach you about your body’s balance point, suspension system, and pendulum system (how arms and legs store the energy of our movements). The outcome of understanding these concepts leads to more fluid running.”
Run Like You’re Young!
Feldenkrais can help you retain the ease, smoothness and enjoyment of running that we may lose as we age. Coming from a more traditional medical background as a physical therapist, Kasper recalls being told by medical professionals that running overuses the body and should be stopped as we age.
“This never made sense to me,” said Kasper. “We as humans are made for running. The Feldenkrais principles taught me the keys to keeping youth in running and showed me how to preserve our body’s suspension systems that we are born with. We may not be able to run as far or fast as we used to, but we can retain a certain fluidity in our running that supports our body’s tissues and is ultimately still very enjoyable.”
Explore Your Habits Without Judgement
We all develop habits with our running, many of which we might not be aware of. These habits can be created from traumas such as injuries or sudden changes to our bodies and become ingrained by practice.
“Feldenkrais connects your central nervous system with your body. This allows you to notice and pay attention to how you move, what your habits are, and what your posture is. The Feldenkrais movement sequences guide you to explore new movement options. You can jump out of your habits if you want to. You can keep the habits that you like but you’ll be equipped with the knowledge of other movement patterns. This allows you to make decisions about how you want to move in the future.”
In Feldenkrais, exploring your habits is always judgement free. The focus of the practice is not to teach one correct way to move, but rather to identify your current movement patterns and decide for yourself whether or not changing them will benefit your running experience. “In our adult life, we learn most things by descriptions of right and wrong. Babies don’t do that. No one tells them how to get up from the floor, how to walk, etc. The Feldenkrais Method helps us to get back into the natural kind of learning that babies and little kids do without the concept of right and wrong.”
Interested in practicing Feldenkrais? Visit the The Feldenkrais Educational Foundational of North America website to find a licensed practitioner near you.