Headstands and the Feldenkrais Method

Posted December 2, 2014

by Belinda He

sirsasanaDr. Feldenkrais had a black belt in judo. In fact, the founder of judo, Professor Jigaro Kano, was so impressed by Feldenkrais that he sent two of his top instructors to train him. Many of Feldenkrais’ ideas that eventually became important tenets in what was to become the Feldenkrais Method were influenced by his study of the Japanese martial art. In an article written by Dennis Leri, a senior Feldenkrais Practitioner and Trainer, the idea of perspective, i.e. how one sees something, is interestingly described:

“Orientation and dimensionality go hand in hand in the martial arts, and they are useful in understanding Feldenkrais’ notion of posture. Orientation is crucial to life, whether it involves locating predator or prey, finding one’s way through a city, or understanding a math problem. Orientation can be determined as being relative to one’s body, to the environment, or both. Relative to my body, ‘up’ is always towards my head and ‘down’ is towards my feet, regardless of my body’s relation to the environment. Relative to the environment, however, I am upside down if my feet point towards the ceiling. When first learning to do a judo or aikido roll, one feels upside down relative to the room. Later one learns to turn the room around oneself, as it were. Finally one learns to let the situation guide the need for a frame of reference.”

This paragraph immediately precedes a paragraph in which he explains how having a different perspective with regards to what a headstand actually is, gives the student a different experience of the pose. In fact, in the Feldenkrais Method, the headstand is taught as if it were part of the movement of falling:

“The Feldenkrais Method teaches headstands in an interesting way. The static posture of the headstand is transformed into a process of falling safely. Getting into and out of the headstand becomes the focus. By going slowly and clarifying our sense of orientation, falling forward and backward are made comfortable, easy, and safe. In the middle of the fall, one may pause while trying to decide whether to fall forward or backward. That pause could take a few seconds or 15 minutes. To the outside observer, it looks like a headstand, but to the person doing it, it’s simply the middle of a fall. Thus, in learning to do a headstand, one really finds a way of learning how to learn.”

I hope you have the chance to read the article in its entirety on Dennis’ website – there are tons of other resources on there too. Dennis is an extremely erudite scholar and practitioner of the Method, and also writes eloquently about what it is.

As always, feel free to comment or write to me at


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