Snake Oil or a Brain Lube?



Myself as many others in the Feldenkrais® and Anat Baniel Method (sm) world have a really hard time explaining what we do. One obvious issue is that the work is essentially experiential and describing it words is just plain inadequate. Imagine if you had never tasted something really yummy- let’s use chocolate as an example. Lots of folks like it. I could tell you it is usually brown, sweet and kind of creamy – reasonably descriptive. However this does little to replicate the savoring of a piece of fine chocolate. Like chocolate you really need to experience this work to really get it. The solution here is relatively simple. Provide reasonably accessible ways for folks to actually experience the work.

The other issue is that Feldenkrais® and the Anat Baniel Method(sm) can be used to work in so many situations and with many diverse conditions. The Feldenkrais® Guild website landing page has links regarding the work with 17 diverse situations. Clicking on the Anat Baniel Method site we see five different partially overlapping populations for whom the work is appropriate. If I were seeing this and did not know what I do, I would be suspicious. How can one type of work be effective for so many conditions? It has to be akin to “snake oil”.

One reasonable solution to this dilemma is that as practitioners we just avoid addressing the totality of the work and how this is possible. Folks after all want and need solutions to their concerns. If we just focus our conversations around those all will be well. Though perfectly appropriate and something I use at least initially when I speak to my clients, I feel that this approach on some levels shortchanges this truly profound and in many ways cutting edge work. Hopefully the next paragraph will provide a brief understandable explanation as to how these methods work without reference to a specific population.

The reason these methods are useful in so many contexts is that our brains continually change structurally and functionally based on the input received. The information provided through the gentle hands on work and guided movement provides the kind of information that helps our brains do a better job of everything. Feldenkrais/Anat Baniel work provides a “brain lube”. “Embodied cognition” is hot right now in neuroscience circles. This is just a fancy way of saying how we move and experience our environments changes how we think and feel. Quality movement is associated not only with improving motor tasks, but also with quality sensing, thinking and feeling.

So perhaps you are experiencing pain and want help with that, or you want to improve the way you do some activity that brings you joy. Maybe you or someone you know has a “neurologic” disease or has a child with special needs or just academic learning challenges. Perhaps you just want to be more mindful or creative. I will tell you I can help with all of that- not because I am a charlatan, but because I have a deep understanding and experience of the interrelationship between how we move, think and feel resulting from my training and work in Feldenkrais® and the Anat Baniel (sm) Methods.







  1. Thanks for speaking to the elephant in the room. It does sounds like snake oil to many. Brain lube helps make sense of it.

    • Thank you so much for your comment Cynthia. This topic has been on my mind for a long time. Even once I decided to write about it took some time to come up with what I thought would work and not sound pedantic.

  2. Deborah Elizabeth Lotus

    I, too, appreciate this, Marcia! as a complement to the NYTImes article, it is a good explaination for the opening sentence! Not New Age non sense! Thanks so much for reposting, I missed it the first time.

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