Exploring Moshe Feldenkrais’s book “Awareness Through Movement”

ATM book cover
Click to view on Amazon.com

I recently began teaching this five-week Feldenkrais-Fundamentals class. To share a rich resource with my students and inspire myself to dive back into a classic Feldenkrais text, I’m choosing all the lessons directly out of Moshe’s 1972 book titled Awareness Through Movement.

While it’s one of Moshe’s most accessible books, his dense scientific writing and broader musings about the social and anthropological implications of his discoveries can sometimes be a little hard to connect with. My intention here is to share one possible approach to making a practical course out of the book for members of the public, both for my current students in class and others who might be studying it. I’ll be highlighting sections I think are most important, but doubtless those of you who know the book well may have other ideas. Students and practitioners should feel free to leave comments below!

Week 1 lesson

During the first class we explored Lesson 3: Some Fundamental Properties of Movement. You can stream it for free right here. After experiencing the lesson, read through it in the book as part of making this lesson’s movement and sensing ideas part of your repertoire. Moshe’s commentary may help elucidate the lesson. Going forward you can lead yourself in the doing the complete lesson from the book (or stick with the audio if you prefer). You can also use the book to refresh small parts of the lesson, or use it as a tool for imagining feeling the movements or principles of the lesson. (All the lessons are in Part II of the of the book, called “Doing to Understand: Twelve Practical Lessons.”)

The principles from the lesson we focused on in class (and in the recording) were 1) Most human actions, when done well, will have a major component of lengthening the body (and the spine specifically). 2) Foundation forces: when some part of ourselves rises from the ground, another part must press. 3) Perceived difficulty leads to shortening. This may be useful when we’re surprised and keeping ourselves safe. But for learning new skills and improved organization for more efficient functional movement, we often need to work to inhibit this kind of reflexive shortening.

For more context on how to study at home

  • Read the introductory sections before the lessons in Part II: General Observations and Some Practical Hints.
  • I’ve written on this website about how to study at home. You might also check out my Study Guides page, especially Studying ATM at Home, and Ideas for ATM Self-Study.

For more context about what Feldenkrais is

Check out these sections in Part I: Understanding While Doing. I’ve prioritized them in what I think of as a practical order (not the order they appear in the book).

  • Where to Begin and How
  • Structure and Function, from the subsection “The delay between thought and action is the basis for awareness” and onward.
  • The Self-Image
  • The other sections of Part I, including the preface, may be of interest to you. I’ve left them out here because they contain broader reflections about society and our state of education and personal development. I believe your understanding of Moshe’s ideas in these sections to be perhaps less important than what may be gleaned sections I’ve highlighted (if our goal is to focus on self-improvement from practical application of the lessons in the book).
  • Click here for my take on what Feldenkrais is.
  • In response to student questions I also wrote this more scientifically-detailed bullet point description of the method, its background, and the principles of biomechanics, neurology, learning, and human improvement that make it work.

week 2 Lesson

We explored Lesson 4: Differentiation of Parts and Functions in Breathing. It’s available to stream at home right here.

WEEK 3 Lesson

We explored Lesson 5: Coordination of the Flexor Muscles and of the Extensors. Click here to stream it at home.

Week 4 Lesson

We explored Lesson 6: Differentiation of Pelvic Movements by Means of an Imaginary Clock. Click here to stream it at home.

Week 5 Lesson

We explored Lesson 10, The Movement of the Eyes Organizes the Movements of the Body.

[12/17/15 update: I’ve added another lesson since this particular class ended, and I plan to continue adding lessons. You can find them all now in my free audio collection as ATM Series 3: Lessons from Moshe Feldenkrais’s 1972 book titled “Awareness Through Movement”.]


Enjoy your explorations! Havet thoughts on the class or this post? Please post them in the comments section below. If you comment you are not sharing your email address publicly, and you may use only your first name or pseudonym if you wish.

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