Feldenkrais and Trauma Treatment

I have read several blog posts recenty in which Feldenkrais was mentioned. Specifically in regard to Trauma and how therapists have learned to treat it over the years. Here is one:

We were aware of the body and knew it held some power. But few practitioners used it in treatment (except the relatively few who worked with ... Rolfing, Feldenkrais ... and to some extent Gestalt therapy.

And here is a second:

And for my patients, I always recommend that they see somebody who helps them to really feel their body, experience their body, open up to their bodies. And I refer people always to craniosacral work or Feldenkrais. I think those are all very important components about becoming a healthy person.

Kind of cool, huh? The first quote above is from Dr. Ruth Buczynski regarding her yearly series on rethinking trauma. And the second is from an interview on OneBeing, from Bessel Van Der Kolk, a guest on the trauma series above and a highly-regarded and effective trauma therapis.

It is nice when people give a nod to the method, yes?

Trauma, as many of you know is not just a professional topic for me, it is a personal one as well. As I have detailed elsewhere - drug use, alcohol abuse and sticking needles in various parts of my body were parts of my life from early childhood to my late twenties. And that is not mentioning emotional abuse and neglect at home. The effects of which lasted for decades.

Feldenkrais and Trauma

As much as I would like to tell you that Feldenkrais ideas and sessions were the "cure all" for me, the story is not quite that simple. Feldenkrais has been a major - perhaps THE major - factor that got me out of my head and into my body and interacting with the world. But I was never able to resolve some of the core traumas until digging experientially into myself with processes I learned from Stephen Levine and Pat Ogden. Interestingly enough, the more I play with and use the ideas, the more they seem like Feldenkrais processes. That is, most of the "Somatic Psychotherapies" use experiential and process-based methods have processes in common with Feldenkrais.

Anyway, I did a little digging into my Feldenkrais archive to get insight into Moshe's thinking on trauma. I was a bit surprised at what I found as much of Moshe's writing was about physical trauma. That is, trauma to the brain during birth or in accidents and such. Much of what I was thinking of as trauma - emotional and sexual abuse and the like was not mentioned. When it was mentioned, it was talked about in regards to a paradigm which is recognized as not being particularly effective.

For example:

"...you can see that one real trauma, real painful trauma, lasts for some people a lifetime. They need afterwards to be ten or fifteen years in psychotherapy to get rid of it and maybe can't; they don't get rid of it anyway because it's impossible to limit. It's connected to so many different... associated with so many different things, that suddenly you think you're fine and a real good association brings it back. - Moshe Feldenkrais, Amherst Training Transcripts Year 2 July 13,1981"

And this one:

"Many...stress the importance of reliving affectively the traumatic event with the analyst as the object of love and hatred. Guided by the analyst’s objective attitude and his skill the patient is helped in solving his problem. (Body and Mature Behavior)"

Moshe's ideas on trauma as evidenced from those quotes above have not stood the test of time. As we now know, "reliving" traumas or spending years talking about them is NOT necessary to the healing process. In fact, as Moshe alluded to above they can get in the way of trauma healing. I am not criticizing Feldenkrais or his work, but there are some ideas and subtle adjustments we have to make if we are to stay ahead of the curve and be maximally effective in our work....

The science just keeps getting more and more detailed and as the application of neuroscience findings is revolutionizing the field of trauma treatment. I hope we can learn to use it as well. There are a lot of folks that come to Feldenkrais practitioners, needing trauma-treatment and relief.

Ok! Much more that I will say in future blog posts. But for now, perhaps consider what trauma-informed Feldenkrais treatment might look like?


  1. I’m in recovery from severe early trauma and Feldenkrais is making a huge difference for me. I tried working with Somatic Experiencing but it was too activating. I’m now working with a combination of Feldenkrais, Wholebody Focusing and Meditation and am seeing huge shifts. Feldenkrais is making my body a safe place to be. I’ve discovered that I’ve been completely dissociated from one of the areas of my body that generates the most tension (my jaw) and am delighted to find my neck and head pain reducing as I become more aware of keeping my jaw relaxed (I’m working with your TMJ programme – it’s good!) Never doubt that Feldenkrais is having an effect with trauma, it’s sure making a big difference for me.

  2. Hi Betty – Thanks for sharing that in such detail. Some of my own trauma from abuse as a child and drug and alcohol later was almost magically released from my Feldenkrais journeys. But other trauma “stuff” I need some additional help with via some body psychotherapy such as that practice by Pat Ogden. We each have our own path.

    I am glad that you are continuing to explore and are benefitting from Feldenkrais (and my TMJ program).

    Be well!


  3. Thanks for your response Ryan. I realised when I read it that I perhaps should clarify for the sake of any trauma survivors reading – Wholebody Focusing is a form of somatic psychotherapy, akin to Ogden’s work but with a little different approach. I didn’t mean to in any way imply in my comment that I wasn’t being supported by a psychotherapist in the journey, that for me has been key. I am working with a trauma therapist who works in a somatic way through Focusing and have introduced him to Feldenkrais as a complementary practice.

    I think it’s so important that we each find ways that work, and that more trauma survivors and therapists begin to understand that these somatic practices like Feldenkrais are not “just a bit of relaxation” with the “real work” being in therapy, that they are complementary and super important, as researchers/doctors like Bessel van der Kolk are now showing. I’m only with my therapist one hour a week, I can draw on Feldenkrais any time I need it to relax my nervous system, and the more I work with it the more I’m able to relax and open up into the therapy process too.

    Best wishes,


  4. Trauma is a big umbrella, certainly. I survived a car accident that definitely impacted my outlook on life… several years after the physical impact. I simply couldn’t return to my old life, yet tried so very hard for two years to ignore what happened. I haven’t written anything formal yet. I just wanted to relate to Betty and Ryan on the topic.

    Feldenkrais has been great for filling in the blanks.
    Mindfulness meditation ala Jon Kabat-Zinn / Full Catastrophe Living essential for me as well.
    Paual Goulbourg’s The Secret of the Ring Muscles thoroughly helpful too, and here’s where I’m currently “working” / reconnecting.
    I found SE useful, and it seems built on mindfulness. Paula’s work is akin to Feldenkrais with a more movement-based strategy. All four seems to connect precision and subtlety as catalysts for lasting change, both in content and process.

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