by Rachel Hamstra, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner
I regularly get asked by prospective clients if the Feldenkrais Method is more like massage or chiropractic. For most people, those are common baselines for what hands-on somatic work is, and there are just a few specific experiences associated:
- Intense deep tissue massage;
- Relaxation massage;
- Chiropractic manipulation with immediate temporary relief.
What makes this question tricky is that Feldenkrais shares qualities with all of them, but isn't really like any of them. We'll start with the similarities. It offers immediate relief like chiropractics. It reaches the same places as deep tissue massage. The client's experience on the table is similar to relaxation massage, because it's extremely gentle and feels good while it's happening.
Now, on to the differences and what makes Feldenkrais unique. Most Feldenkrais practitioners use a type of touch so gentle and subtle that it can sometimes feel like barely anything is happening during a lesson until the client sits or stands up and finds they have a completely different way of moving available to them. Where massage and chiropractics work with specific muscles or joints, a Feldenkrais practitioner will have their hands on a specific muscle or joint but their focus is on how the client's musculoskeletal and nervous systems are working together or not.
Unlike massage or chiropractic, the client is very consciously involved in a Feldenkrais lesson. They may be asked to pay attention to a particular part of their body or a relationship between a couple of parts. They may be asked to talk about their somatic experience so they can better understand it. They may be asked to do a movement on their own so they can learn it kinesthetically. At its heart, Feldenkrais is an education modality with therapeutic benefits, not the other way around. It's about gaining an understanding of what you're doing so that you can learn how to do something else.
Each of these modalities serves a different purpose, and each can be beneficial on their own or paired with others. It's up to you to try them out and see which ones are the right fit for you.