The Preface to Awareness Through Movement has, as its first sentence, " We act in accordance with our self-image." The next sentence clarifies this, "This self-image—which, in turn, governs our every act—is conditioned in varying degree by three factors: heritage, education, and self-education."

Dr. Feldenkrais goes on to state that "Of the three active factors in the establishment of our self-image, self-education alone is to some extent in our own hands."

Dr. Feldenkrais begins the first chapter with the statement, "Each one of us speaks, moves, thinks, and feels in a different way, each according to the image of himself that he has built up over the years."

Dr. Feldenkrais continues, "In order to change our mode of action we must change the image of ourselves that we carry within us. What is involved here, of course, is a change in the dynamics of our reactions, and not the mere replacing of one action by another. Such a change involves not only a change in our self-image, but a change in the nature of our motivations, and the mobilization of all the parts of the body concerned."

We act in accordance with our self-image.

Each one of us speaks, moves, thinks, and feels in a different way, each according to the image of himself

What is involved here, of course, is a change in the dynamics of our reactions, and not the mere replacing of one action by another.

Dr. Feldenkrais occasionally referred to "body image" as well. In fact, he used the terms rather interchangeably; in the book, Awareness Through Movement, he refers to changes in the body image following specific movements.


The conventional view of self-image is similar to what is written in Wikipedia:

Self-image is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, etc.), but also items that have been learned by persons about themselves, either from personal experiences or by internalizing the judgments of others.

In conventional usage (again using Wikipedia), body image is

... a person's perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body. It involves how a person sees themselves, compared to the standards that have been set by society.

There are two other views of "body image". The Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst Paul Schilder proposed body image as a way to understand a patient's cognitive perception of their own body [see: body Image (medicine)].  Another by early neurologist Sir Henry Head which is called body schema. Dr. Feldenkrais' view is more compatible with this view.

"Education makes each of us a member of some definite human society and seeks to make us as like every other member of that society as possible.

Society dictates our mode of dress, and thereby makes our appearance similar to others.

By giving us language, it makes us express ourselves in the same ways as others.

It instills a pattern of behaviour and values in us and sees to it that our self-education shall also operate so as to make us wish to become like everyone else."

(preface, pg 5) 

One might surmise from the above that the self-image is fixed, as is the view of the writers of the wikipedia article on self-image. side

Our self-images is never static. "It changes from action to action but these changes gradually become habits; that is, the actions take on a fixed, unchanging character."

The self-image is developed from infancy. As the infant interacts with its environment actions begin to take consistent form (of course movements of the limbs, the eyes, the mouth, tongue but also emotional actions) and later become habits. Every new habit changes the previous structure of habits

Our self-image is never static

every new function changes the image


The potential for each individual is less than that person's self-image. Far less. For example, Ziad Fazah can speak 59 languages. If that represents the capacity for a human being,  then those of us who speak only a single language are operating at 2/58 or 1.7% of our capacity!

We tend to stop learning. Sometimes it is when we have mastered sufficient skills to attain our immediate objective. But there are many other factors that lead to a person dropping their plan. Much of the drama and pathos in literature (stories, plays movies) is from the social and internalized barriers to a person moving to their potential.

Dr. Feldenkrais explicates the many ways that a child, adolescent or adult decides to limit themselves in the first chapter.

Our self-image is smaller than our potential capacity

The average self-image occupies only about 5% of its potential


A complete self-image involves "full awareness of all the joints in the skeletal structure as well as of the entire surface of the body." 

 A complete self-image is a rare and ideal state

Our body image is in constant change, as we come to "realize that the the legs, for instance, will appear to change in length, thickness and other aspects from moment to moment."

Through mental exercises done lying on the floor such as scanning the body, or measuring distances between parts (such as left ear and left shoulder, in contrast to right ear and right shoulder, or between left ear and left finger, or left ear and left toes...) one interrupts the habitual patterns, and there is the possibility that new functions can emerge. 

The body image is changeable