ATM lessons are verbally directed movement sequences presented
in a group setting. Lessons generally last from 20 to 60 minutes. There
are hundreds of ATMs to choose from in the Feldenkrais Method. The mechanisms
of breathing, speaking and all aspects of postural control are explored
and improved while perceptual capacities are increased. The aim of these
lessons is not relaxation but healthy, powerful, easy, and pleasurable
Participants engage in precisely structured movement
explorations that involve thinking, sensing, moving, and imagining. The
lessons are often based on developmental movements, like rolling, crawling,
or moving from lying to sitting; or explorations of joint, muscle, and
postural relationships. Minute, barely perceptible movements are used
extensively to reduce latent tonus (degree of involuntary contractions)
in the muscles. The gradual reduction of useless effort increases the
The lessons begin with comfortable, easy movements
that gradually evolve into movements of greater range and complexity,
recapitulating the childhood experience of originally learning to organize
and control movements. Functions that require repetition to learn are
taught through numerous variations that maintain the novelty of the situation.
Once novelty wears off, awareness is dulled and no learning takes place.
The lessons are so arranged that they require
concentration to sense kinesthetic differences. Without real attention
it is impossible to follow to the next stage in the lesson. Mechanical
repetition without attention is discouraged and often impossible.
An important goal of ATM lessons is to learn
how the most basic movement functions are organized and to teach awareness
of the skeleton and its orientation. The participants have the opportunity
to learn to eliminate unnecessary energy expenditure and efficiently
mobilize their intentions into actions. Since learning is a highly individual
matter, students are encouraged to learn at their own pace in a noncompetitive
manner. This is why the same lesson often may benefit people of diverse
ages, backgrounds, and abilities.
For patients requiring or desiring individual attention, Feldenkrais
offers hands-on techniques called Functional Integration (FI). Each FI
lesson is tailored for the needs of the particular student; it is usually
performed with the patient in a horizontal position to reduce the influence
of gravity on the body as much as possible and thus free the nervous
system. The reaction of the nervous system to the gravitational field
has become a habit, and although this remains so, it is difficult to
bring the muscles to respond differently to the same stimulus. Obviously
then it is difficult to bring about any real change in the nervous system
without reducing or eliminating the gravity effect.
The practitioner communicates through gentle
and noninvasive touch, the experience of comfort, pleasure and ease of
movement, while the patient learns how to reorganize the body and behavior
in new and more effective ways. The practitioner's touch is instructive
and informative, not corrective. Patients are encouraged to explore new,
more expanded functional motor patterns that they can then translate
into new abilities.
The Feldenkrais Method offers patients new movement
choices by allowing them to experience differences between effortful
and effortless, efficient and inefficient, neutral and pleasurable movements.
Unless individuals can sense these distinctions, they have no choice
over the quality of their movements and are reduced to acting like a
machine. Once they learn to differentiate movements and their qualities,
they acquire alternative ways of performing the same task and regain
a broader range of their possibilities.