Awareness Through Action

The cake can't be an ingredients of the cake itself

In a theoretical Feldenkrais context, action is not equivalent with movement. 

The singleness of action from moment to moment…is a keystone in the construction of the individual whose unity it is the specific office of the nervous system to perfect.

Sherrington, 1911/1947


2 A

The Feldenkrais Institute

2 B

Envisaging the future


Lecture in Copenhagen 1958

4 A

It is all there! - the ATM book

4 B

MF's call to read

4 C

Comparing Autosuggestion /ATM book

4 D

Improving the ability

Last in deed , first in thought

The conclusion of auto-suggestion by MF

The lesson is about the elements of function, not functions per se

Yochanan Rywerant

The action as defined by MF

6 A

The self-image

6 B

The four open corners

6 C

MF talks in Cern 1981 about the 4

6 D

Explanantions about the 4 by YR

6 E

Self image and action by YR


Image of achievement Karl H Pribram


What Functional Integration is about

Paragraph 1

Action is not equivalent with movement...

The subject of this article was close to YR's heart. Teaching movement lessons was something Yochanan Rywerant considered to be seriously misleading, and he went to great lengths to justify his position.

He turned to educators and teachers in the Feldenkrais community. Naturally, he referred to Moshe Feldenkrais's documentation and felt that his close collaboration over a long period of time should verify its veracity.

The compilation of material in his honor invites to keep his torch alive. I have come to call what  Moshe Feldenkrais and Yochanan Rywerant, together represent as classic Feldenkrais.

I am addressing the public; the website is official. I turn to colleagues and others interested to know more about Yochanan Rywerant teaching.

Inspired by a metaphor from my tradition, the four children from the Haggadah, read at home at Passover, and I have divided the future readers into four groups.

1) Those who know and integrate classic Feldenkrais theory into their professional practice.
There are both trainers and teachers in this group.

2) Those who know and ignore the facts – for various reasons.
Here are trainers and of course also teachers.

3) Those who are naive and unaware.

4) Those who do not yet know and understand.

In the years since the web has developed, it is no problem to follow how teachers,trainers, and institutions such as guilds etc. describe and promote Feldenkrais.

The subject is elusive to explain. It's not a one liner.

Over the years, I can note how the term movement lessons and movement teaching has become more and more accepted. A matter of course.

As if this was the most obvious direction to spread and implement the Feldenkrais Method. It is assumed that Moshe Feldenkrais would fully support this development. This is a false claim. There are no statements in his writings and recordings to suggest that this would be the case. On the contrary, he is very consistent, the applications are refined but the theory and approach are the same.

In historical research, a distinction is made between written sources and oral sources. Both sources must be verified. Moshe Feldenkrais and Yochanan Rywerant wrote lectures and textbooks; and we, we have access to the sources.

In this article I will suggest some sources for the curious to explore further.

January 7, 2023
Eva Laser

Paragraph 2
awareness through movement 
movement through awareness

There is a difference in threading
a thread through the eye of the needle and
not the needle through the thread.

The Feldenkrais institute in Tel Aviv,
in Nachamani Street, was named:
The institute of the inquire into action

המכון לחקר הפעולה

"Moshe Feldenkrais himself has been very keen in asserting that his Method is not to be considered another kind of physiotherapy or movement training. He was ridiculing the opinion of some people that considered his system as a kind of "body - work." He strongly believed that people could learn to have better control over their actions, and hence be healthier. It had to start with clarifying certain ways the brain perceives and acts and seeing the movements of the body as expressing processes within the central nervous system (CNS)."

The article is to be found in the author section

Feldenkrais is about the image of action that precedes the action,
acceptance of alternatives levels of control in the Central Nervous System,
sensory feedback, the use in everyday life, etc.
Yochanan Rywerant 2007

Paragraph 3
Moshe Feldenkrais gave two lectures at the first Copenhagen congress of functional movement and relaxation in 1958. Here are some relevant extracts.

The italics are mine.

"...My contention is that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality that they are not entities related to each other in one fashion or another, but an inseparable whole while functioning. To put this point more clearly I contend that a brain without motor functions could not think or at least that the continuity of mental functions is assured by corresponding motor functions.

Let me substantiate this point by some striking examples:

1) It takes us longer to think the numbers from twenty to thirty than from one to ten, although the numerical intervals are the same between 1 and 10 and 20-30. The difference lies in the fact that the time intervals are proportional to the time needed to utter the corresponding numbers aloud. This suggests that we actually mobilize the brain mechanism of the vocal apparatus. Thus, one of the purest abstractions is inextricably linked with the muscular activity through its nervous organization.

In counting objects, we find, in general, the linkage of the motor parts of vision and verbalization keeping down the speed of thought to the rate of the motor elements.

Most people cannot think clearly without mobilizing the motor function of the brain enough to become aware of the word patterns representing the thought. It is of course possible with sufficient training partially to inhibit the motor aspect of the thinking and thus increase the facility of thinking.

2) Macular vision, that is, distinct, clear seeing, is limited to a very small area at a time. To perceive clearly the content of what we see while reading takes us the time necessary for the muscles of the eyes to scan the area under inspection. Here again, we see the functional unity of perception and motor function..."

"...The advantage of approaching the unity of mental and muscular life through the soma, lies in the fact that the muscle expression is simpler, it is concrete and simpler to locate. It is also incomparably easier to make a person aware of what is happening and therefore yields faster and more direct results. 

I usually make it clear that:

(1) The work is to lead to awareness in action, or the ability to make contact with one's own skeleton and muscles and with the environment practically simultaneously.

(2) That this is not relaxation, for true relaxation can be maintained only when doing nothing..."

"...In all voluntary acts one can distinguish two phases following each other swiftly, so that it is difficult to note the time delay between one and the other. The first is a preparatory phase - the mobilization of the body attitude needed for the action - the second is the performance of the action. There is a minute time interval between the two, which makes it possible to learn to inhibit or enhance the preparatory mobilization by volition. It is thus possible to consummate the action or prevent it and cancel the preparatory attitude altogether. Much is being done to clarify the delay between the preparatory attitude for action and its consummation. This trains the ability to facilitate or to inhibit the consummatory..."

"...Long standing habitual action feels right; our feeling is, therefore, unreliable before we reeducate our kinaesthetic sense to reality tested norms..."

Paragraph 4
Yochanan Rywerant referred to the ATM- book as the basic source of Feldenkrais theory. "It is all there"

Moshe Feldenkrais writes before the book's preface an exhortation that is missing in the English translation.

Part 2 of the book is written in such a way that it is possible for the reader to start the practical work before reading Part 1. But it is better to read the book in the order in which it is written. It gives the reader a broadened horizon and a deeper understanding of the practical lessons and the practice thus becomes more effective.
Moshe Feldenkrais

Moshe Feldenkrais published his book about ATM in 1967 and Yochanan Rywerant his on FI in 1983. The ATM book was published two years before the first training that MF held in Tel Aviv 1969 - 1971. They students had a textbook to read. YR was a careful reader and always asked questions according to teachers who studied with him.

MF did not write about FI in the condensed didactic form that YR later developed. YR aimed to fill that void, and presented us with Teaching by handling.

An updated translation from Hebrew of the English translations of MF's two books

by Eva Laser

A depth reading of the connection between the epilogue in Auto Suggestion and Improving the ability, ATM

A translation is partly a new book on its own. The Hebrew original Improving the ability has important nuances that are lost in the English translation.  The name has completely different connotations. There are more essential distortions that confuse the readers, that  I disuss in this text.

Improving the ability, A theory that can be put into practice is my translation of the Hebrew original name
 שיכלול היכולת- הלכה ומעשה

The first part of the title, sichlol hajecholet, can be translated as improvement or perfection of ability. The second part of the title, halacha l'maaseh, is a Hebrew expression that Moshe Feldenkrais uses for the Feldenkrais system.

By that is meant a learning where theory & exploration are intertwined. More so, the term comes from the Jewish Talmud, the extensive post-biblical collection of writings containing statutes, legal discussions, and expositions. The word Talmud means study, teaching. It is discussed in the section Baba Bathra 130b.

The meaning can be interpreted in a Feldenkrais context as to know how to behave, it is not enough to learn theory and at the same time blindly follow the rule book, but it is necessary to act judiciously and adapt the theories yourself based on your own reality. A modern translation becomes a theory that can be put into practice.

The difference between physiotherapy and Feldenkrais

by Eva Laser

- a discussion post

Paragraph 5

In the very beginning of the book improving the ability is the chapter about our self-image, in plural. דמות עצמנו.

Before remarks about the action itself, some remarks about how MF looks upon the concept of the self-image.
In this first chapter, he concludes with a suggestion to improve and, in particular, pay attention to the whole self-image - first and last.

I quote MF:

"From what has been said about our self-image
(earlier in the chapter my remark) it appears that systematic improvement of the entire image is both a shorter and more effective path than improvement of single actions and isolated flaws. The number expands the smaller they are.
The creation of a more or less whole and complete picture makes it possible to see and improve the dynamics of the action instead of one or another activity.
Improving isolated actions is like playing an out-of-tune piano. Improving the overall dynamics of self-image is similar to tuning the piano itself. Getting a suitable melody with a tuned piano is a much easier thing than with an out of tune.”

page 10 The self image; Awareness Through Movement

This is a schematic outline of the inquire into the essence of the action.

The action as defined by Moshe Feldenkrais

The four components of the action
THOUGHT - מַחֲשָׁבָה
FEELING - הרגשה
MOVEMENT - תנועה
In order to think, a person must be awake and not dreaming and aware and discern their position in relation to the gravitational field. Based on this, movement, perception and emotions are part of thinking.

To become angry or happy, a human must occupy a specific position and relate either to an object or to another person. This is moving, perceiving and thinking.

In order to see, listen or discern something at all, a person must become involved, be concerned or discern what happened. this is to move, to feel and to think.

To move, a human must use at least one of his senses, consciously or unconsciously. It is to notice, to feel and to think."

This card is my explanation about Feldenkrais theory
There is neither body&mind nor mind&matter

MF & YR use the concept of 
self (Self)

Paragraph 6

For me, with a background in physical therapy, the profession that is entirely focused on movement, this consistently incorporating the ever-changing environment is the big paradigm shift for me with Feldenkrais. 

YR repeatedly states that the lesson is about the elements of function, not functions per se. The elements are adaptable to an ever-changing environment. Having access to an increased ability of the various elements on an essential level means adaptability to the unpredictable.

The four open corners

We have a way to deal with the links between the sides of the quadrangle, the “corners“.     All four at the same time.
Moshe Feldenkrais

Moshe Feldenkrais talks about the four corners in Cern 1981

text from Acquiring the Feldenkrais Profession
Structure and function, page 34
by Yochanan Rywerant
We can define four relevant factors that constitute a human being acting within his or her environment:
the skeleton, the muscular system, the central nervous system, and the environment.

Each of these require the special professions that can deal with the respective issue: orthopedists, surgeons, neurologists - psychiatrists, and professionals who deal with the various aspects of the environment - constructors, architects, carpenters, and the like.
We can envisage the four factors as the four sides of a quadrangle:

 *The corner 'environment-CNS' symbolizes the interface through which sensory information arrives from the sense-organs to the brain and serve there as the basis for planning suitable actions, either to change parts of the environment, or to adjust to it. The Feldenkrais Method deals with efficiency and with the possible alternatives for those processes as well. 

*The corner 'CNS-muscles' denotes the processes that come into play with the intentionality of the action itself: deciding to take the action or choosing a non-habitual way of acting, etc., again, typical considerations of the Method. 

*The corner 'muscles-skeleton' refers to the conversion of muscular effort into movement, and all the considerations of alternative options and efficiency are our concern.

*Finally, the corner 'skeleton-environment' alludes to a twofold interaction: adjustment to the environment, including the tendency to look for support and the various anti-gravitational responses, and the actions by which one does work on parts of the environment, by exchange of energy. Here again, the Method has its own way of clarifying the situation and seeking efficiency.

Self-image and action

By Yochanan Rywerant

Paragraph 7

In the picture Karl H Pribram,
Margret Mead and Moshe Feldenkrais

© International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive,
Bob Knighton

Image of achievement

Professor Karl H. Pribram, with a broad background that includes neurosurgery, psychology and brain science visited the San Francisco training. Talks between him, and Moshe Feldenkrais are published. Instead of using the term image of action YR told, he had coined image of achievement.

Karl H. Pribram published a book called Brain And Perception with the subtitleholonomy and structure in figural procession.

The book is a collection of manuscripts and reported studies first published in 1991 and the edition I have found at iBooks, was published in 2011. Feldenkrais Foundation is mentioned as giving a grant for the publishing together with another five names and institutions. 

In chapter six with its title Images of Achievement and Action Spaces: Somatic Processes in the Control of Action,  I find some relevant material for the argument that action is not equivalent with movement.

What attracts my attention is that he writes that the distinction between movement and action is often confused in scientific literature. As so often, different professions use different designations. His example is how ethnologists use the term behavior to describe a sequence of movements. In experimental psychology, a behavior is the act, the environmental consequence of movement. He states that images of achievement is a construction as other precepts. Some achievements are to a great extent genetically programmed as those developments leading to walking and eating, swimming and talking intermediate, and achievements such as writing are for the most part learned.

Skills such as riding a bicycle, skiing, golfing, musical performances, and writing all depend for their execution on the development of appropriate images of achievement. It is characteristic of such skills for achievement to be essentially invariant across movement. Entirely different movements carry out writing on a pad of paper than those that carry out writing on a blackboard. Nor is writing dependent on using familiar musculature.

Pribram gives a clear and thoughtful example when a right-handed person walks down to the beach and write the personal signature in the sand with the left big toe. The result will be both readable and identifiable as the signature. Another example is placing a piece of chalk between the teeth writing on a blackboard.

The signature is imaged - consciously or unconsciously; different sorts of movements are equivalent in producing the imaged consequence, the act.

To my understanding this reasoning corresponds well to classical Feldenkrais.

Addressing the elements of action to enrich the self-image and, as a consequence, the image of action (achievement), all together, as an undivided whole.

Paragraph 8

...what Functional Integration is about...
Moshe Feldenkrais summarizes his life's work in 1981.

"We have almost forgotten our violinist. He also was a baby and a child. His bones and muscles would have grown quite differently if he had had no nervous system to mediate between him and the surrounding environment.

The environment made of the many bits and pieces detailed above is perceived by the nervous system through the senses. This system will direct, organize, adjust, and adapt the rest of the body to react to the objects that are in the environment.

The hands, the feet, the whole body will conform to the environment through the nervous system which, in turn, will know whether action produced the change haphazardly or as expected, both in the body itself and outside it.

In this laborious way the fingers have learned through contact with fiddles and strings to produce sounds which the system found agreeable, pleasant, or unbearable.

The never-ending activity of our nervous system directs itself through our muscles and skeleton to move and act in an environment which therefore becomes part of ourselves.

This environment will appear to us as we perceive it through our activity and will therefore be a reflection of what our nervous system needs to continue to move itself, to act and react to the changes that occur in a mobile changing environment.

One of the first things we learn and do is direct our eyes and our hands to that which is around us. What else could we do? And therefore, direction is probably the most basic thought or movement. Where are you going? When are you going? If there is no “where” the “when” is meaningless. Our basic orientation is right and left, in short, turning around ourselves. Directing, pointing in a direction, persists even in demented people, without that they could not move at all and without movement animal life is, what?

Something that eluded us now becomes quite obvious. Our violinist has acquired a skill to move his fingers on an external object with a dexterity that enables him to hear and judge continuously while his hands and fingers are directed in patterns that the nervous system has formed by actually using an environmental object, his violin in the first place.

The environment is as necessary to becoming a violinist (it cannot be done without one) as is the nervous system (no movement, no hearing, and no realization of one’s body without it) and as is the body (no playing violin without fingers, hands, and sitting or standing). And if we add the place where he is playing, the direction he faces, for whom he plays, and who needs that playing, we can begin to understand what Functional Integration is about."

page 124 Functional Integration, The Elusive Obvious, Basic Feldenkrais 1981

I have permission from the publisher to use extracts from the book for teaching purposes - like this...

The cake cannot be one of the ingredients of the cake! informerar kring feldenkrais i allmänhet och verksamheten på Feldenkrais Skolan i synnerhet. 

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Eva Laser

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