What it is: This simple, subtle practice focuses on how we move, not how much or how fast. It uses exploratory movement and “guided attention” to increase range of motion, improve flexibility, reduce pain and allow you to move more comfortably and confidently, explained Nick Strauss-Klein, director of Twin Cities Feldenkrais.
What it’s not: Despite the unusual name (which comes from its creator, a Russian-born physicist and mechanical engineer), Feldenkrais doesn’t have a spiritual connection. It’s a “science-based study of how we move in the world,” Strauss-Klein said. It’s also not an exercise, like spinning or Pilates, although parts of the practice may have a yoga-like feel.
Trial run: As an always sore aging jock, I heard about Feldenkrais from another aging jock. (Thanks, M.L.) I joined one of Strauss-Klein’s classes at the Jewish Community Center in St. Paul, where we started by quietly reclining or sitting on thick mats. After a period of relaxation, we were asked to complete a series of simple stretch-like movements. In one, we lay on our sides and slowly stretched our top arm out from our bodies, reaching farther each time. In another, while still on our sides, we were asked to move our lower arm underneath our body and behind our back.
Before each move, we were invited to think about which muscles, bones and nerves would be engaged and how our bodies would undertake each movement. By thinking before we acted, we internalized our movements and allowed our bodies to learn new patterns, Strauss-Klein explained.
My take: Slowly, but surely, I was able to extend my range of motion, especially with an injured shoulder. During the class I felt wonderfully relaxed, even when I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing. After, I felt calm and balanced without any post-exercise soreness.
Who it’s for: While it’s popular with seniors, people who are dealing with chronic pain and athletes with injuries, the program can benefit anyone who wants to move more easily, Strauss-Klein said. All you need to be able to do is get up and down from a mat on the floor.
Who it’s probably not for: “It’s a quiet exploration,” Strauss-Klein said. “Sometimes for the young crowd, that can be threatening.” One of the mottos of the practice is LESSS (light, easy, soft, slow, smooth).
So, if you’re looking for a hard-driving, sweat-drenching workout, this is not it.
Do: Relax, be patient (with yourself and the pace of the class) and be ready for the mental challenge of thinking through the movements you are asked to do.
Don’t: Look around to see how your classmates are interpreting the instructions. “There is no modeling,” Strauss-Klein said. “It’s not about trying to be like me, but to let your body move intuitively.”
To learn more: Strauss-Klein teaches group classes (called Awareness Through Movement), private lessons (called Functional Integration) and offers online classes. Go to twincitiesfeldenkrais.com.
Read about healthy lifestyles and fitness classes from aerial yoga to log rolling at startribune.com/getfit.