Becoming ourselves: Feldenkrais and Foucault on soma and culture


Hypothesis and Theory

Becoming ourselves:
Feldenkrais and Foucault on soma and culture

Abraham Mansbach
PhD, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Feldenkrais Practitioner®

Correspondence: mansbach [at] bgu [dot] ac [dot] il

Copyright ©: The copyright for this paper remains with the author(s).

Please cite: (First published in the) Feldenkrais Research Journal, volume 5; 2016.

Service marks: The terms Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, ATM®, Functional Integration®, and FI® are service marked terms of the International Feldenkrais® Federation (IFF) and Feldenkrais professional guilds and associations in many countries. In keeping with academic conventions, they will not be service marked in the entire text as may be required in nonacademic use, but only for the first and most prominent use of the terms. In recognition that these phrases are formal terms referring to specific practices within the Method, and to the Method as a whole, capitalization of all the words in each term has been retained.

Published by the International Feldenkrais® Federation (IFF)


Becoming ourselves:
Feldenkrais and Foucault on soma and culture


Over the last decade we have witnessed a growing interest in the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education, not only as a practice but also as a field of research (Husslein 2013, Fördeverein 2016, IFF 2016). The extent, diversity, and quality of the studies published have positioned the method in the frontiers of science, particularly in kinesthetic and somatic studies, and in the new paradigm led by quantum physics and neuroscience (Doidge 2015). This article aims to contribute to that body of knowledge by focusing on the point where the Feldenkrais Method meets the cultural and philosophical domain and, more specifically, examining the notion of the self in relation to Feldenkrais’ method and thought.

Notions of the self and its cognates, such as identity and subject, have been thoroughly revisited by scholars from the humanities and the social sciences for more than four decades (Cadava, Connor, and Nancy 1991). At the basis of their endeavor lies a critique of the idea of an integral, unified self, and of the self-sustaining notion of the Cartesian subject. Foucault’s work stands out among the many theoreticians who have contributed to this theme. His cultural critique of the relationship between power, knowledge, and the self, have lent feminism and critical theory a new basis and redefined the paradigm of disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, education, and political science.

Feldenkrais and Foucault, though following very different paths, shared a central concern, namely, the deciphering of the relationship between the self and the body (soma, σῶμα). For Feldenkrais, the body is a living-moving organism. In his many writings and lectures he dealt with a gamut of issues from a wide range of disciplines including pedagogy, anatomy, physics, and psychology; all directly related to his method and to the body as a living-moving organism. His aim was to develop a method of somatic education that would increase self-awareness of body movements and enable efficient and healthy patterns that improved posture and refined motor skills.

Foucault, on the other hand, attempted to elucidate the processes by which the modern self has been constituted. To do so, he employed methods of cultural critique, examining the convergence of forms of power and knowledge in society and showing how these have encoded disciplinary patterns on the human body.

The theme of the human body as a living organism was never examined by Foucault. Feldenkrais questioned the social, political, and pedagogical arrangements of his time, yet he did not explore them in depth. Nonetheless, their paths cross over and intersect at various significant points. One of the objectives here is to map both their intersections and divergences on the theme of self and body with a view to expanding the meaning of each in light of the thinking and method of the other. The other objective is an investigation of the process of embodied selfhood as a synergy of the soma-culture configuration.

The somatic turn

Both Feldenkrais’ and Foucault’s interest in the relationship between the self and the body were part of their effort to reveal the mechanisms which may constitute the individual. Consequently, they both dealt with two main questions: how do we become who we are?, and, how is self-transformation possible?

Their assumption was that the self or the identity of each human being is neither static nor unchanging, neither an immutable substance nor essence; the self is an ongoing process in which different factors intervene to shape, define, and constitute. These factors may be externally imposed constraints or restrictions applied by individuals on themselves. There are also elements that expand the potentiality of individuals thereby increasing their autonomy, agency, and freedom. These can include actions willingly undertaken by individuals as well as forms of resistance to imposed restrictions; practices that originate in the interaction with both the natural and the human environment and that enhance self-transformation.

In addition to seeing the self as a process or construction of sorts, both Feldenkrais and Foucault rejected the mind-body dualism. They saw the mind and the body not as two different entities or substances but rather as an indissoluble unity that defines human beings and governs all of their functions. As Feldenkrais affirmed, ‘the unity of the mind and body is an objective reality;’ they are ‘an inseparable whole’ (2010: 28). Both also disagreed with the idea, dominant in Western thought since Descartes, that the mental-reflexive activity, the cogito, is a unique and privileged feature defining what it means to be a subject or a self.

Feldenkrais’ and Foucault’s exemplary work pioneered the “somatic turn” that has been taking place in the social and human sciences since the last two decades of the twentieth century (Cooter 2010). This turn consists of seeing the body – and its associated practices, as fundamental to the constitution and transformation of the self. While for Foucault somatic practices are those that act in and upon the body, for Feldenkrais “somatic” refers to the way the body is perceived from within the person. (Hanna, 1985, Shusterman 2008, Turner 2012). They, however, share the idea that in order to decipher what it means to be a human being in general and an individual in particular, it is impossible to separate the cognitive from the somatic activities. This idea was encapsulated by Foucault in the words, ‘subjectivity is always embodied’ (2005: 57), and similarly by Feldenkrais: ‘a brain could not think without motor functions’ (2010: 94).

Feldenkrais and Foucault followed in the footsteps of thinkers such as Marx, Jung, and Reich who saw the human body and its integral activities, such as actions and practices both at work or in daily life, as determining elements of the individual’s identity. (Reese 2002). They both considered the body as the site where human experiences of different levels – such as motor experiences, sensations, memories, and feelings, are imprinted. A key element distinguishing their view is the historical dimension of the body. In their opinion, the body is a carrier of meanings that have been etched into it in different ways at different times. The body has a history, and this should be taken into account when trying to elucidate who or what the self or identity is. Feldenkrais states this idea unambiguously:

Do not try to forget the past; it is impossible to forget the past without forgetting oneself at the same time. You may imagine that you have forgotten one or another unwanted detail, but it is stamped in some part of your body. (1985: xxxv)

Feldenkrais focused on both the phylogenetic and ontogenetic axes – in the evolution of the human organism and body throughout history as well as in the history of the body of the individual. Foucault, on the other hand, concentrated on the cultural history assimilated in and by the body of the modern individual, which has been configured through habits, standards of behavior, attitudes, gestures, postures, and general practices. And herein lies the main divergence in their approaches to the theme of self and body, and their interest in revealing the mechanism by which the self is constituted and transformed. Foucault aimed to elucidate the way in which cultural codes are imprinted on the individual’s body and how social structures, institutions, and regimes act upon the self. These can be modes of comportment, mood, attention, or perception which mediate between culture and knowledge, and the individual’s bodily actions and habits. Feldenkrais, however, dealt with the materiality of the human body, emphasizing movement and all related aspects, such as the nervous system, the structuration and geometry of the skeleton, the kinesthetic sense, the relationships between different parts of the body, and the principles of physical science and laws of motion. These two ostensibly different paths are complementary, and their synergy offers us a unique somatic-cultural perspective of the self and its transformation.

Foucault on how we become who we are

Foucault’s project to unravel the question of the self and its transformation is summarized in his essay ‘What is Enlightenment?’ (1984a). Here he explained that what is critically and culturally important is to carry out ‘a historical investigation into the events that have led us to constitute ourselves and to recognize ourselves as subjects of what we are doing, thinking, saying’ (1984b: 46). These events are historical configurations where power and knowledge converge, giving shape to practices of disciplinary control and normalization of individuals in society, such as exclusion, marginalization, and punishment, as well as the structuration of sexuality in Western culture as scientia sexualis (1997: 223).

An important feature of Foucault’s analysis of each of the different events, is the inextricable relationship between power, knowledge, and the self. Power, for Foucault, is ‘the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society,’ (1980: 96) and should not be understood as governmental – ‘a general system of domination exercised by one element or one group over another’ or ‘a certain strength we are endowed with’ (1980: 98). It follows that power is not necessarily repressive, and that its nature and effects are determined by its interplay with a given situation.

In this sense, and with regard to the process of selfhood, power can be restrictive or liberating, subjugating or emancipating; it is contingent on the combination of circumstances or events in a specific situation. Most importantly, power is essentially productive; in other words, it produces effectively, working as the engine in the process of selfhood:

It’s my hypothesis that the individual is not a pre-given entity which is seized on by the exercise of power. The individual, with his identity and characteristics, is the product of a relation of power exercised over bodies, multiplicities, movements, desires, forces. (1980: 73-4)

Somatic marginalization

Following, I will give a brief account of Foucault’s exploration of events in which strategies of control and surveillance – such as marginalization, exclusion, and punishment, interweave with fields of knowledge including psychotherapy, criminology, psychology, and education, and of the effects these have on the self or the process of selfhood.

These social sciences all present and represent a model of the modern individual. They place great weight on the self and on self-image, since they delineate the boundaries between those who are defined as normal and abnormal, immoral and decent, virtuous and unethical, and thus set a pattern of adjustment for the individual. They outline the topography of normality and normativity where individuals are positioned both within society and against themselves. These disciplines then become a mechanism through which standardization and disciplining are effected (Foucault 2003).

In Madness and Civilization Foucault (1965) explored the genealogy of psychiatry, psychology, and other medical and social sciences that deal with emotional and behavioral deviations by returning ‘to that zero point in the course of madness at which madness is an undifferentiated experience’ (1965: 15). He examined various events as part of that “zero point” which precedes the differentiation between the sane and the insane including: the confinement of lepers to leper colonies during the Middle Ages; the expulsion of the mentally ill from towns and on to boats (the Stultifera Navis) that sailed down the Rhine in Renaissance Germany; and the establishment of the General Hospital of Paris in 1656. Foucault used these events to show that these practices of reclusion, and later hospitalization, were not based on medical grounds; none of these were either medical or pre-medical institutions nor were the regimes they followed based on curative programs. Leper colonies were rather chaotic places, where lepers were left and abandoned to their fate. Similarly, those forced onto the “Ships of Fools” were condemned to live out their lives drifting on the water. Foucault argued that madmen and lepers were seen to bear the mark of divine punishment on their bodies and that isolation, exclusion, and reclusion — all considered rituals of purification and saturated with symbols — were ways of dealing with such threats to the community.

With regard to the General Hospital of Paris, Foucault investigated historical records and discovered that it was not only the sick who were placed there, but also socially and economically displaced individuals. Documents have shown that over time it became an asylum for the indigents of Paris as well as for the sick, elderly, deviant, and disabled. They were, on the whole, confined against their will, making their hospitalization an imprisonment, and the hospital a means to isolate sections of the population who threatened the social order. But in Foucault’s opinion, psychiatry could not have developed without the existence of these institutions of surveillance and control. The confinement of populations from the Middle Ages to the seventeenth century was indeed the basis for the creation of hospitals and gave psychiatry its institutional foundation and experimental field. While hospital regimes and the conditions of hospitalization have changed dramatically in recent years, they have done little to end the marginalization of the mentally ill, the abnormal, and the deviant. Moreover, today the practices of marginalization haves extended to other populations and groups according to bodily characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, appearance, size, and any other characteristics which differentiate from the so-called normal. And in this sense, while isolation and confinement were practices of social marginalization associated with the purification of the body, in the more modern forms of marginalization, the body is not purified but rather politicized and commodified (Coupland and Gwyn 2003).

Somatic surveillance

It is with this analysis of practices of marginalization and exclusion that Foucault embarked on his study of how the body becomes a site for social agency and how it is made to conform to culture through norms, gestures, and actions. The somatic theme is emphasized later in Discipline and Punish (Foucault 1979), where he explored the history of punishment and examined modern practices of control and surveillance.

The prism of Foucault’s analysis is an architectural plan of a prison designed in the late eighteenth century by the legislator and utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. This model, Panopticon (i.e. all is observable), was a circular structure intended to allow the guard, housed in a central tower, to observe all the prisoners in their individual cells without the prisoners being able to see him. The most important effect of the panoptic model was to induce in the detainee a conscious and permanent visibility status that ensured the automatic functioning of power without it being directly exercised, for example at times when the guard was not in the observation post or was watching other prisoners. By creating a sense of invisible omniscience on the detainees, an economical and efficient mechanism of control was thus produced. The object of control and discipline, namely, what is being watched, is the body of each individual prisoner – how and where they move and what they do there, and the disciplining tool is the gaze, or the possible gaze, of the guard.

In addition to the gaze, there are other tactics of control in the Panopticon through which the movements of the inmates can be monitored. One example is the closing off of spaces in which the detainees can move or just be and, at the same time, assigning specific activities to each of these spaces – i.e., the courtyard for walking and the dining room for eating, thus preventing freedom of movement. Another tactic is the monotonous regime of discipline in which all bodily movements are overseen and controlled. The aim of the Panopticon, as a structure of surveillance, is for prisoners to acquire the habits of a disciplinary system.

Foucault showed that panoptic control strategies were not exclusive to prison architecture and that many institutions such as hospitals, schools, public buildings, libraries, factories, marketplaces, and other social spaces had adopted this design. It should be noted that there are, indeed, differences between the types of surveillance and controls exerted in prisons as opposed to social spaces in which the mechanisms of surveillance are concealed despite being no less rigorous.

The panoptic strategy of body control has today extended both in the tools used and in the bodily characteristics included. Technological advances and networking have made surveillance a voluntary practice of and by individuals. In addition, contemporary differentiations between normal and abnormal cross other body lines such as size, ethnicity, ability, looks, and age. The mechanisms of control, however, remain the same: the gaze, be it computerized or human, and the regulation and standardization of behavior.

These strategies have expanded and become processes that tend to homogenize individuals, dilute their differences, thus enabling better control of populations. This is a new form of power – termed by Foucault “bio-politics”, that is exerted by the state over the physical bodies of the individuals. As a result, human life is regulated, not as a woman’s or man’s body, but rather as woman and man as species (Foucault 2008). Examples of bio-political control include the defining, measuring, and categorization of bodies, as well as ‘ratio of births to deaths, the rate of reproduction, the fertility of a population, and so on’ (Foucault 2003b, p. 243). These are mechanisms that constitute normativity, and impact the self-image of each individual.

Foucault’s analysis presents a complex mechanism of social control inscribed in the body. The moving parts of the mechanism are practices of somatic control, like marginalization and the panoptic strategy, the differentiation between the normal and the abnormal, the normative and the non-normative, the knowledge of some disciplines of the social sciences, and bio-power.

All this prompts the question, to be discussed later, of what Foucault believes can be done to be free of this web to which we all inevitably belong, and which is accompanied by the standardization and deletion of our individual differences. What allows individuals to retain or regain some measure of autonomy and freedom? According to Foucault, “where there is power there is resistance,” and so the question thus becomes: what are the forms of resistance and how is resistance achieved? Before answering these questions though, Feldenkrais’ approach to the theme of self and body should first be examined.

Feldenkrais’s method and the self

The theme of the self occupies a prominent place in Feldenkrais’ books, articles, and lectures, though he more frequently used the term “self-image.” He asserted that:

self-image… is the body image; namely it is the shape and relationship of the bodily parts, which means the spatial and temporal relationships, as well as kinesthetic feelings. Included with these are feelings and emotions and one’s thoughts. All of these form an integrated whole (2010: 3).

For Feldenkrais, the self, namely, the self-image or body image, is composed of the various parts of the body and the relationship between them as well as the sensations that they cause, such as position in space, sense of balance and weight, and awareness of movement. True to the somatic turn, Feldenkrais considered feelings and thoughts to have their foundations in the living organism.

In answer to questions such as how do we become who we are, how is the self or individual constituted, or ‘how does a self-image come about?’ (2010: 3), Feldenkrais explained that self-image is the product of three elements: ‘heritage, education, and self-education’ (2009: 3).

Heritage, he explained, is ‘the biological endowment of the individual’ (2009: 3) which corresponds to the human body in all its materiality: the nervous system, the body’s skeleton, the internal organs, the muscles, and the genetic code; as well as the organization and functioning of all parts of the body, its movement, and life itself. Two historical axes, the phylogenetic and the ontogenetic, constitute this biological endowment and thus comprise actions and movements adopted and developed by the human species throughout the evolutionary chain as well as the history of each individual human body, from as early as the womb and including motor development and postures assumed during the different stages of life. The individual’s biological endowment, along with its history, constitutes the physical and organizational identity that makes them distinctive. For Feldenkrais, the biological endowment is one crucial ground for the uniqueness of each living organism. It should be noted that the singularity of each organism is a feature that is built into his method.

Education, the second element in the constitution of self-image, is not limited to the knowledge that can be acquired at an educational institution but is far more comprehensive and has the same scope as Foucault’s concept of “culture” or “discourse.” For Feldenkrais, education encompasses culture, norms, acquired habits, the human environment in which people live and grow, the language spoken, the concepts used, and the typical reactions of society and those that people adopt, such as the way they dress. It also includes the knowledge and values acquired through social, cultural, and family interactions; in short, everything that is learned, internalized, and appropriated from the human and natural environment. Feldenkrais, like Foucault, is critical of certain central important aspects of social conventions. ‘It is hard to deny that the traditional foundations of our social structure need thorough revision. No objective observer, free of prejudice, will argue against the necessity of radical changes’ (2005: 10).

Like Foucault, Feldenkrais sees the standardization and uniformity of individuals in modern times, as a major problem, since it erases the differences between individuals and hinders, to the point of prevention, the realization of individuality or self.

As the trend to uniformity within our society creates innumerable conflicts with individual traits, adjustments to society creates innumerable conflicts with individual traits, adjustments to society can be solved either by the suppression of the individual’s organic needs, or by the individual’s identification with the society’s needs (in a manner that does not appear to him to be imposed), which may go so far as to make the individual feel that he is debased whenever he fails to behave in accordance with society’s values. (Feldenkrais 2009: 6)

For both, it is the use of power in disguised but effective ways – such as marginalization, exclusion, suppression, and debasement, that is part of the mechanism of homogenization, disciplining, and control that social and cultural frameworks exert over individuals. While Foucault faced the challenge through a cultural-critique and political activism, Feldenkrais did it through somatically-based self-education and development.

Feldenkrais’ method is aligned with the third element in the constitution of the self-image: self-education; of the three the only one that is, in his words, ‘in our hands’ (2009: 4). It is in self-education that the possibility for individuality, agency, and personal freedom lies. Self-education is the dynamic that constitutes identity and ‘the active force that makes for individuality and extends inherited difference into the realm of action’ (2009: 4). In other words, the organic endowment of each individual – their singularity, can be employed as a form of self-transformation by means of self-education. The Feldenkrais Method is, in fact, a system of self-education.

Self-education does not have content in and of itself; rather, its content is determined by the factors that prevent a more clear and precise delineation of individuality. Self-education is, in this sense, a form of resistance to that which constrains, and a process of individuation that works through a dialogue with both the human and natural environment. It is a self-making of the self. There are various forms of self-education at both the intellectual and the somatic level; Feldenkrais’ method is one of them.

But self-education is not a panacea in the process of individuation nor can it prevent the homogenization caused by disciplining practices, such as those indicated by Foucault, or by any other means. Self-education, as Feldenkrais observed, often merely mimics the activity of others:

Even if he has emancipated himself from his educators and protectors, man does not strive to make himself any different from the pattern impressed upon him from outset. In this way society comes to be made up of persons increasingly alike in their ways, behavior and aims. (2009: 18)

For Feldenkrais the individual differences and personal identity of each human being are imprinted on the body. The uniqueness of the individual lies at the point of convergence between the history of the human body throughout evolution, and the personal history of each body. ‘Heritage makes each one of us individually unique’ (2009: 4). A fundamental objective of the Feldenkrais Method is to avoid eliminating the differences between individuals, overshadowing their identities, and succumbing to a homogenization process and, in doing so, to foster the organic individuality of each person.

Restoring the organic individuality

The Feldenkrais Method of somatic education uses various means to restore organic individuality; most importantly, the disassembling of habitual behavior. According to Feldenkrais, habits are formed by ‘imposed education,’ and ‘individual propensities together set the trend for all our habitual behavior and actions’ (2009: 4).

Habits are survival mechanisms that contribute to the smoother running of the living organism without the need to expend much effort or stress, since their adoption is governed by the economy of the body’s energy. Habitual behavior has the advantage of allowing people to engage in other activities while simultaneously undertaking routine tasks. And yet, this advantage becomes a disadvantage when regular and routine movements and practices are automated or become compulsive, thus blocking the possibility for reflection and awareness of our actions to the point of eliminating their creativity. Habits can thus interfere with other activities, obstruct the acquisition of others forms of action and movement, and impede adjustment and attunement to changing situations.

The somatic education proposed by Feldenkrais is designed to create keen awareness of the movements of the different body parts, particularly in the skeleton. The purpose of this awareness is to make functional changes to movements in space and to improve muscular and skeletal organization. Feldenkrais’ method thus generates forms of resistance to the habits and patterns of behavior and movement that have been imprinted over time in our daily and professional practices and subsequently automated. This resistance to the uniformity of the habit is not antagonistic; it is neither confrontational nor rigid. On the contrary, resistance is made through suppleness, plasticity, and flexibility. It is about developing awareness of body movements and their possible transformations. It is this awareness of the ductility of the skeleton and of the possibility of a different organization of movements, i.e. seeing the skeleton as a whole whereby all of its parts or bones can join to intervene in any action, which allows for the restoration of individual functionality and personal autonomy. Accordingly, the method contributes to the process of individuation and the constitution of our own selves, by awareness and transformation of our body image.

It should be noted that acquired habits, whether internalized or adopted through the social weave or created by the economy of our movements, are not simple behavioral traits. Habits are deeply wired behaviors in the brain and nervous system which take the form of neurological maps that allow the brain to always follow the same route without having to think, thus freeing it to think about other things (Domany, van Hemmen, and Schulten 1991) In the somatic method of education, movement and awareness are vehicles which access those maps, creating new neural connections and patterns of movement. The somatic method can effectively break the most ingrained habits of our system of posture and movement, thus generating more efficient patterns of action, as well as recovering the body’s mobility, refining motor skills, and enhancing vitality and wellbeing. This is what the renowned neuroscientist Karl Pribram had in mind when he wrote that: ‘Feldenkrais is not just pushing muscles around, but changing things in the brain itself’ (Pribram quoted by Fox 1978).

An essential component of the Feldenkrais Method is that by teaching new paths of movement and action, the sentiment and bodily feeling that there are other ways to do the same activity is recreated. This is one of the ways in which the method intervenes in our image of the self; new forms of action and movement recreate the self-image and transform body image. Feldenkrais’ method aims to restore individuality, not only by changing habitual movements but also by heightening awareness of the possibility of change – which is a central feature of creativity.

The somatic practice designed by Feldenkrais is a form of intervention that moves away from the standardization process to which individuals are exposed. Foucault used the concept “care of the self” to describe practices in which individuals engage in order to recover their agency and autonomy. I propose regarding the somatic method of education conceived by Feldenkrais as a Foucauldian form of care of the self.

The Feldenkrais Method as a practice of the self

In Foucault’s social and cultural framework the individual exists in a system of relationships of power, control, surveillance, and homogenization. It is a network of knowledge, practices, and discourse, which inevitably includes all individuals. The body is malleable, in Foucault’s words, a ‘docile’ place where power is imprinted in some form or another (1979: 135). It facilitates the growth and expansion of complex social structures, which need not be made explicit in laws. Ideologies of domination and homogeneity are materialized and preserved through their coding in somatic standards. The body is, in this sense, a site of political struggle and central to subjectivity and agency.

In answer to the question of how to regain agency and autonomy, in his later writings Foucault proposed the ‘care of the self’ (1988a). His idea of the care of the self went back to ancient Greece where “care of the self” had a moral significance. He explained that while the ancient motto “know thyself” has been adopted in modern times, we have forgotten that for the Greeks this also implied “care of the self.” Care of the self is a sensibility through which individuals are conscious of their own thoughts and attitudes of self-reflection and meditation and participate in practices aimed at raising awareness of the ideal state of the self. Foucault defined care of the self in various ways and some of the definitions could be used also to describe the Feldenkrais’ method, such as ‘a series of practices that are exercised by the self on the self’ and ‘by which one takes responsibility for oneself and by which one changes, purifies, transforms, and transfigures oneself’ (2005: 11-12).

Care of the self is not only an attitude towards oneself but also carries a sense of responsibility for others and for the world; it is ‘a certain way of considering things and having relations with other people,’ in other words, ‘an attitude towards the self, others, and the world’ (2005: 10). Although Feldenkrais’ method is not usually linked to an ethical commitment, some of his comments do hint at this. To be sure, he did not present a full analysis of society, but nevertheless he positioned his method in the social sphere and as a means of eliminating the suffering of others. Feldenkrais regraded the social structure in which we live as going through constant changes and considered his method a way to minimize the difficulties of adjustment to these changes:

While expecting hopefully that the environment will be changed by our collective efforts, we must also make sure that everything amenable to human influence in each individual is used to facilitate adaptation. This will not only eliminate much misery in the present generation but will also give a better chance to the next. (2005:11)

The Feldenkrais Method, with its double technique of Functional Integration (FI) and Awareness Through Movement (ATM), is a transformational practice of the individual organism and body image. For Foucault, the care for the self ‘is an exercise of self upon the self by which one tries to work out, to transform one’s self and to attain a certain mode of being’ (1988b: 2). In this sense, both Foucault and Feldenkrais offer practices of the self, which enable access to certain forms of self-understanding or awareness of one’s own truths that would otherwise remain hidden.

When Foucault wrote about the care of the self he was clearly not considering practices of somatic self-education such as the Feldenkrais Method. The method however, opens up a new horizon for the Foucauldian vision of the care of the self. Through the Foucauldian prism, we can see how the Feldenkrais Method, in addition to promoting the growth of organic individuality and changing things in the brain itself, may also be understood as an art of self-fashioning where agency blends with responsibility for oneself – a practice central to contemporary subjectivity.


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