In his teens, Moshe Feldenkrais emigrated from the Russian Empire to Palestine, a trip which would be from Belarus to Israel today. His varied interests took him to Paris where he studied at the Ecole des Travaux Publiques de Paris. After earning his degree in Engineering he went to the Sorbonne, where he graduated with a PhD in Physics.
While a young man, Feldenkrais sustained a debilitating injury to one of his knees. The limits of medicine at the time meant that any surgery would result in what was for him an unacceptable degree of functional impairment. Instead, Feldenkrais explored the field of somatics and developed his own somatic self-rehabilitation techniques. Somatics holds the view that the mind and body, even though perceived as being differentiated, are inseparable aspects of a whole.
He found that, rather than focusing on the muscles and tendons associated with his injury, it was his brain that would find new ways to organize his body. His query became:
This was a process that required many years for him to develop. In the meantime the Nazis approached Paris. Feldenkrais was a research assistant to Nobel Laureates Frederic and Marie Joliot-Curie at the Radium Institute. He fled to England with his knowledge of the Radium Institute’s latest nuclear research, which he gave to the British Admiralty War Office to use in the British war effort.
Until 1946, Feldenkrais was a science officer in the British Admiralty, working on anti-submarine warfare. In 1949 he published his first book on the Feldenkrais Method®, Body and Mature Behavior. In 1951, he returned to the recently formed, modern state of Israel. In 1954 Feldenkrais settled in Tel Aviv, where he was able to devote himself to working full time with his Method for the remaining 30 years of his life.