Review of Oct 31 2021 IFF Research Working Group Event: Overview of Existing Research

Congratulations to the organisers and to Cliff Smyth and Susan Hillier for this well-attended, fascinating online event.

Moshe Feldenkrais gave us a method and a clear research agenda to test the efficacy of his method. The purpose of the method is personal change: gaining the options to realise our intentions and change our lives for the better. The mechanism that empowers the method is learning. As the Feldenkrais Method is a physical practice change is experienced first as improved movement.

Eric Kiernan PhD CFP

Eric had had earlier careers as an academic economist and organisational consultant. Blending the rigours of an academic approach with psychological and somatic approaches allows him to offer his work to a wide range of people.

Four levels of experience call for research. Does practice in the Feldenkrais Method

  • lead to easier, more elegant and aesthetically pleasing movement? 
  • allow transfer of learning principles into broader areas of life?
  • create more options for life? 
  • enable us to realise our life intentions? 

The very positive information summarised at the Research Working Group Event is that all these categories are recognised and results are being generated in all of them.

The skill exhibited in the research and in this overview is impressive and confirms the usefulness of forming a Research Working Group focussing on high quality research. The enthusiasm for mixed methodology using qualitative and quantitative approaches was especially impressive. It will be important to expand the methodology too. For a very balanced discussion of the role of RCTs in broader analysis see the article by Nobel Memorial Prize winner Angus Deaton and Nancy Cartwright, Understanding and misunderstanding randomised controlled trials, Soc Sci Med. 2018 Aug; 210: 2–21.

The diversity of results is impressive too. The Feldenkrais Method is positively related to so many areas of life.

Research TopicDesirable ends supported by Feldenkrais Method 
easier, more elegant and aesthetically pleasing movementincreased movement choices, improved movement, evidence of effectiveness when compared with other relevant methods, a new relationship to body
transfer of learning principles into broader areas of lifeearly onset dementia, research collaboration, the method operates according to a learning paradigm
create more options for lifechanged perceptions, control, coherence, integration into lives, no longer willing to sacrifice for family or work, no longer compulsively pushing, self-efficacy
ability to realise life intentions self-confidence, trust, hope, security, empowerment, less fear, calming, less shyness, improved affect

Discussion extended to key research questions, including values. The reductionist nature of medical research was noted. The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion may show how our approach fits into a broad definition of health. Some discussion developed on how we might research the connection between our method and supporting people to live meaningful lives.

How would research approach such a question? Well, every week thousands of Feldenkrais practitioners already lead themselves and many, many other thousands of students in experiments of movement, learning, self-discovery and self-exploration. Whenever we lie on the floor we are researchers doing grounded theory with reflexivity, and simultaneously doing hypothetico-deductive mode.

The method works by developing learning principles – distinctions, differentiation, innovation, integration. Whatever the specific ATM is, the research is always the same – self-exploration and self-discovery through those learning principles. It is the nature of an examined life.

So every week we generate global cross-sectional data of significant size. Indeed, as the research is conducted every week of every year we have the potential for amassing a time series of cross-sectional databases! Individual participants will have engaged in this practice anywhere from one week to fifty years and we would expect a strong connection between length of practice and significant life outcomes. 

Currently the issue is that the data of this continuous collective, global research practice are not collected. The research question is how to collect and combine the results of millions of small scale research studies. This is about big data analysis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows how research can be conducted globally over many years to collect and analyse comprehensive data on a topic of ultimate importance. Can we, the global Feldenkrais community, embark on such a path?

Eric Kiernan, 8 November 2021

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