The Holistic Nurse: The Feldenkrais Method®

If you have never heard of the Feldenkrais Method®, boy are you in for a treat! And after reading this post by Kim Cottrell, a certified Feldenkrais® practitioner in Portland, Oregon, you will want to rush to your nearest studio and give it a try. That’s what I did after researching this method for my Integrative Health class in graduate school. It was an incredible experience. I left feeling unwound for the first time in YEARS! As soon as I can find a regular class that works with my schedule, I’ll be there every week. 

I’m delighted to share Kim’s words with  you today…

Improving Your Situation One Aha at a Time

by Kim Cottrell, Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner

You might think aching and suffering are inevitable as you age. You might not be able to remember a day when you didn’t have persistent pain. You might wonder why life isn’t sweeter, but there’s nothing obviously wrong. Perhaps you think you have no choices. Then, one day you find a Feldenkrais® practitioner.

You might have heard about the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education from a friend, been to a workshop, or read about it online. Those who seek this method are curious about their own well-being and take an active role in creating the shape of their future.

The Feldenkrais Method is about you learning about your habits and compulsions. Your teacher guides you in an awareness process and you learn to notice differences and make distinctions so you can undo the old habits in case you would like to behave differently. You have the opportunity to learn to live with less pain and discomfort and greater satisfaction. For most of us, undoing old habits is a very good thing.


For many years, I taught a walking workshop in England based on the Feldenkrais work. We explored the activity of walking using movement lessons called Awareness Through Movement®. Every year someone said, “Hey, this isn’t only about the way we’re moving, this is also about the way we’re thinking.” So true.

Practitioners of the Feldenkrais Method believe that the way you move influences the way you think and the way you think influences the way you move. You must have a flow of communication between thoughts, feelings, and actions. When thoughts, feelings, and actions are in harmony, you experience a cohesive sense of self. If there is conflict between thoughts, feelings, or actions, you likely feel conflict with how you perceive yourself and therefore with how you behave.

During one walking workshop, a participant, “Darlene”, admitted her trepidation about being at the workshop. There at the suggestion of a friend, she was wary of back spasms that came on without warning. But, she dutifully followed my instructions and put her leg into the air with the sole of her foot facing the ceiling as the instruction called for. Then, she held her breath.

I could see her discomfort, so I gently took hold of her foot and waited. I asked her to sense the work of keeping her leg in the air and to notice that she wasn’t breathing. She was able to reduce some of the effort of holding her leg aloft and together we waited. I held her foot, she breathed, and we waited some more. More of the effort was reduced. We carried on in that way until her leg was simply in the air, with ease, and I was no longer holding her foot.

The next day, she reported that she’d had a back spasm in the middle of the night. But, rather than get up and take medication or go through her elaborate series of stretches, she stayed in bed and listened to her back and her neck. She realized she held huge tension in her neck. Even as she noticed and waited, some of the tension began to slip away. She continued paying attention in this way and at some point the spasm went away and she went back to sleep.


Like Darlene, you might bring your story and your questions, about your physical pain, or your grief for a lost loved one, or a dissatisfaction with the circular nature of a relationship. But, you should prepare to become familiar with the anatomy of your habits and repetitious behaviors that get in the way of you doing what you’d like to be doing. You can significantly improve the quality of your life if you can let go of your ingrained and old, old habits.

At the end of the workshop, Darlene wrote, “Thank you for opening up my limbs, my thoughts, and my everyday living to the idea of is there another way of doing this? And, even an easier way of getting there?”

Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series about the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education. Part 2 will describe people who’ve been helped by their study of this work and how to apply it to their lives. —

Kim Cottrell, Feldenkrais practitioner and walking coach, teaches Awareness Through Movement classes/workshops and private Feldenkrais lessons in Portland, Oregon. For more information visit www.kimcottrell.com.

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