Jeff’s thoughts and feelings on the world of Feldenkrais.
Conversations about the Feldenkrais Training Academy
2/10/2018 2:06 pm PST

 

For the past several months, we’ve been offering a series of free online talks to discuss the Feldenkrais Training Academy, what it’s like to be a Feldenkrais Practitioner, applications of the Feldenkrais Method, and other related topics.

If you missed the talks or want to experience them again, click here!

Join us for more upcoming talks! Click here for the full schedule.


Emotional Well Being through the Feldenkrais Method®
1/13/2018 12:00 am PST

 

Jeff Haller recently gave a free talk online, sharing his perspective on Moshe Feldenkrais’ teaching during the last practitioner training he led in Amherst, MA, 1980-1981. In Jeff’s words:

Moshe is saying, there’s a difference between learning to care for your conditioning and learning to care for yourself. That’s a paradox, because the students in the training program have set up the note-taking process. Moshe basically says to them, “You want these notes in order so that you can have something at the end of the course by which you’ll be able to establish a sense of value for yourself.”

He’s trying to teach people how to care for themselves, and the very process of Awareness Through Movement® is built to care for yourself, rather than care for what you’ve historically done, which is to try—It’s to make these separations within yourself.

He says in one lesson on the difference between exercises and learning, “If you go through these exercises in order to gain something,” which is just like the zen in where if you think you’re meditating to gain something, it’s not meditation, “if you’re going through these processes to gain an outcome, then the outcome will be gone within five minutes after you leave the class.”

If you actually learn to be in the process, and this process is the process by which through the prefrontal cortex, you’re paying attention to discrimination of what’s taking place in the sensory motor cortex, that process then modulates to the limbic system, and it quiets the mind, and it brings you into a profoundly different way of being with yourself.

You might see a lesson as being for the hamstrings. It’s not. He’s teaching you this lesson so that you experience yourself in a way that you’ve never experienced yourself so that you can actually have a tone that’s outside of the historic way that your muscular habit has hidden your history. And he keeps doing this…


Listen to the talk here. Thanks to our friend and colleague Tiffany Sankary for hosting!


Movement as a Way to Personal Transformation
8/30/2017 1:53 pm PDT

 

Jeff's long-time colleague Peter Shmock recently interviewed him for his Life Athlete podcast. Listen for free!

Guest Blogger: Roger Russell on Neurological Traffic
11/10/2016 9:45 am PST

 

(A preview of the "Feldenkrais & the Brain" Advanced Training, December 8-11, 2016, in Berkeley, CA, co-taught by Jeff Haller and Roger Russell.)

Pathways and Switching Centers—Directing Neurological Traffic

Once envisioned and planned, the spinal cord and the muscles receive their marching orders through nerve pathways originating in the primary motor cortex of the brain. As messages course down to the spinal cord, brainstem centers assist the unfolding movement along parallel pathways. Sensory pathways ascending the spinal cord to the brain include switching centers in the spinal cord, brainstem, and thalamus. This sensory system informs the brain about what is going on as the movement itself is unfolding, affording online, fast refinement and corrections to reach the goals first imagined for the action.

During Feldenkrais lessons, our brain tunes these descending and ascending pathways as part the neurological processes that are operating outside of our attentional field while we are imagining and planning our movement activities.

Spinal Control Centers: The motor side of the Weber-Fechner principle—An Astonishing Way for Refining Movement

Each spinal cord segment serves as a control center for nerves that go to specific muscles as well as for sensory feedback pathways. Feldenkrais lessons also enable us to refine how the brain directs these spinal motor and sensory centers. Here we can recognize the motor end of the Weber-Fechner principle. With all of our muscles working in harmony, the unfolding movement is supple, safe, and successful. Enjoying an astonishingly pleasurable sense of our bodies, we find ourselves moving with ease and grace.

:: :: ::

Register now for the "Feldenkrais & the Brain" Advanced Training, December 8-11, 2016, in Berkeley, CA, co-taught by Jeff Haller and Roger Russell.

Each day will have a specific theme; the themes follow the Coordination Cascade of neurological processes that unfold during any Feldenkrais lesson. The four themes are:

1. The neurology of awareness;
2. Making and unmaking habits;
3. The motor side of the Weber-Fechner principle;
4. How attention changes sensory acuity.

You can put the pieces together like a puzzle, to build a larger picture for understanding the neurological structures of Moshe’s lessons. It is beneficial to have these insights at your fingertips in any situation in which you are teaching, both ATM and FI.

Roger Russell had the luck to learn the Feldenkrais Method with Moshé Feldenkrais in San Francisco and Amherst, 1975-1981. He is a physical therapist and movement scientist, and a Feldenkrais Trainer since 1997. He helped lead two Feldenkrais and science symposia for the FEFNA and FGNA: "Movement and the Development of Sense of Self" (Seattle 2004) and "Embodying Neuroscience" (San Mateo 2012). An American, he lives in Heidelberg, Germany, where he is co-director of the Feldenkrais Zentrum Heidelberg. He teaches Trainings and Advanced Trainings in Europe including a series of seminars, "Feldenkrais and the Brain."


Guest Blogger: Roger Russell on Habits, Their Making & Unmaking
10/18/2016 10:54 am PDT

 

(A preview of the "Feldenkrais & the Brain" Advanced Training, December 8-11, 2016, in Berkeley, CA, co-taught by Jeff Haller and Roger Russell.)

"Habits are when we decide how to act before we are aware that we have a choice." (Moshé Feldenkrais, Amherst, MA)

Planning Centers: Creating and Recreating Blueprints for Movement

How do we develop a choice before we decide? This is where insight into the prefrontal choice networks pays off. Mobilized by our imagination, emotion, and attention, the brain’s planning centers spring into action, creating blueprints for dexterous movement. Generally speaking, two primary planning networks are involved. The first connects a multitude of cortical areas with the basal ganglia to select familiar, habitual movement patterns or help invent new, non-habitual patterns. The second engages the cerebellar networks to fine tune our actions.

These networks send action plans to the premotor and primary motor cortex and to brainstem centers, thereby integrating intentional movements with evolutionary old brain centers that influence balance, muscle tone and breathing as well as autonomic responses.

In an ongoing process, these planning networks are constantly updating the direction, timing, magnitude, and force of movement patterns that include our entire body. Feldenkrais lessons engage these planning networks in a specific way, drawing forth blueprints precisely adapted for the unfolding action.

If the plan is a familiar pattern of moving we call it a habit. Habits have both behavioral and neurological signatures. Psychologists and neuroscientists say that habits are:

Automatic: Habits can be initiated without any conscious direction. A habitual way of acting unfolds without us knowing how we did it, or how we decided.

Unconscious: We can act without attending. This is a double edged sword. If useful then a habit serves our needs, if they are troublesome we have no choice of how we act.

Inflexible: Once initiated, a habit will unfold in a stereotypical pattern. We are stuck with what we have already learned.

Context dependent: Habits are specific to the situation in which they are learned. At a later time or in new situations the habit may be inappropriate. However, we may be trapped (see above)!

Over-learned: Often repeated, habits are deeply embedded in our sense of acting in our lives; making them reliable and automatic, but hard to change.

Reward insensitive: Habits are reliable even if the behavior is not rewarding. We cannot stop doing them when they no longer serve our needs.

Neuroscientists have a lot to say about how our brains plan and coordinate habitual ways of acting. Understanding the making and unmaking of habits from a neurological perspective gives us clear insights into how Feldenkrais lessons can mobilize these planning processes. We learn to perfect any kind of performance, be it healthy everyday living, masterful musicianship, or flawless sports performance.

(Moshé’s bookshelf list for the San Francisco Training (1975-1978) included Knight Dunlap, Habits: Their Making and Unmaking, 1949, W. W. Norton, New York.)

:: :: ::

Register now for the "Feldenkrais & the Brain" Advanced Training, December 8-11, 2016, in Berkeley, CA, co-taught by Jeff Haller and Roger Russell.

Each day will have a specific theme; the themes follow the Coordination Cascade of neurological processes that unfold during any Feldenkrais lesson. The four themes are:

1. The neurology of awareness;
2. Making and unmaking habits;
3. The motor side of the Weber-Fechner principle;
4. How attention changes sensory acuity.

You can put the pieces together like a puzzle, to build a larger picture for understanding the neurological structures of Moshe’s lessons. It is beneficial to have these insights at your fingertips in any situation in which you are teaching, both ATM and FI.

Roger Russell had the luck to learn the Feldenkrais Method with Moshé Feldenkrais in San Francisco and Amherst, 1975-1981. He is a physical therapist and movement scientist, and a Feldenkrais Trainer since 1997. He helped lead two Feldenkrais and science symposia for the FEFNA and FGNA: "Movement and the Development of Sense of Self" (Seattle 2004) and "Embodying Neuroscience" (San Mateo 2012). An American, he lives in Heidelberg, Germany, where he is co-director of the Feldenkrais Zentrum Heidelberg. He teaches Trainings and Advanced Trainings in Europe including a series of seminars, "Feldenkrais and the Brain."


Guest Blogger: Roger Russell on The Neurology of Awareness
9/9/2016 7:23 am PDT

 

What we do before we move—the neurology of awareness

Intention, Emotion and Attention

Prior to moving, a lot goes on. In an instant we consider alternative ways of behaving; our possibilities and the consequences of our choices. We are pushed and pulled by the emotional networks of the limbic system which connect ancient physiological drives and the rules we learned for conducting ourselves in society.

Our intentions and emotions direct our attention, which engages a complex network from the prefrontal cortex to the higher sensory cortices all the way down into the reticular centers in the brain stem and on to the spinal cord.

These neurological processes are always part of what we do before we move and are included in Feldenkrais® lessons.

The Prefrontal Cortex: Elaborating Strategies for Resourceful Living

As our brain’s chief executive, the prefrontal cortex plays a pivotal role in elaborating resourceful behavior strategies for living in our challenging, ever-changing world.

Its' indispensable processes link inner representations of our actions with psychological and social consequences of specific way of acting. This network oversees:

• Learning
• Body regulation
• Personal identity and emotional modulation
• Behavioral flexibility and reality judgment
• Managing attention and perception
• Social aspects of behavior

Enhancing these prefrontal capabilities is a paramount goal of each and every Feldenkrais lesson. Capitalizing on our refined self-awareness, we learn to act with consummate skill, robust self-confidence, and a deeper connection with our fellow human beings.

:: :: ::

This is a preview of some of what we'll be doing in the "Feldenkrais & the Brain" Advanced Training, December 8-11, 2016, in Berkeley, CA, co-taught by Jeff Haller and Roger Russell.

Each day will have a specific theme; the themes follow the Coordination Cascade of neurological processes that unfold during any Feldenkrais lesson. The four themes are:

1. The neurology of awareness;
2. Making and unmaking habits;
3. The motor side of the Weber-Fechner principle;
4. How attention changes sensory acuity.

You can put the pieces together like a puzzle, to build a larger picture for understanding the neurological structures of Moshe’s lessons. It is beneficial to have these insights at your fingertips in any situation in which you are teaching, both ATM and FI.

Roger Russell had the luck to learn the Feldenkrais Method with Moshé Feldenkrais in San Francisco and Amherst, 1975-1981. He is a physical therapist and movement scientist, and a Feldenkrais Trainer since 1997. He helped lead two Feldenkrais and science symposia for the FEFNA and FGNA: "Movement and the Development of Sense of Self" (Seattle 2004) and "Embodying Neuroscience" (San Mateo 2012). An American, he lives in Heidelberg, Germany, where he is co-director of the Feldenkrais Zentrum Heidelberg. He teaches Trainings and Advanced Trainings in Europe including a series of seminars, "Feldenkrais and the Brain."


Challenges
8/23/2015 10:22 pm PDT

 

(Originally published in Feldenkrais Zeit)

I was asked by the editors of Feldenkrais Zeit to write an article on how I view the training of practitioners. I am happy to do this but I want to make a few preliminary statements. One thing I enjoy doing is watching videos of Moshe either giving FI lessons or teaching in Amherst. It is very clear to me that none of his acolytes have the depth or breadth to teach in the comprehensive manner he did. I find a great deal of what he conveyed in Amherst or San Francisco is not included in todays training programs, mine included. I simply am unable to stretch myself into the totality of his message. My trainer colleagues and I, in my estimation, are like the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Each of us has our own unique interpretation and limited perception of Moshe’s work. Each of us sees the monk pointing to the moon but none of us can see the moon. Moshe was the moon, he was Feldenkrais.

It is my opinion that what my colleagues and I do in our basic training programs is provide our students with a basic introduction to the Feldenkrais Method. We provide the educational context from which our students develop the means to begin studying the Feldenkrais Method. I consider a Feldenkrais training as I consider gaining a blackbelt in aikido. A person who attains blackbelt has developed the necessary skills and is proficient in the basic forms of the art from which to develop their practice through the following years of their training. Aikido is considered to be a practice. I would like the Feldenkrais Method. to be considered as a practice by its students as well. With that in mind, I believe my trainer colleagues, in their own way, provide a very good roadmap for the beginning seeker and traveler exploring the Feldenkrais world of learning and function. All trainers are unique and we can appreciate and applaud each other’s creativity and individuality, in helping our students to develop a basis from which to practice and move far beyond their initial training exposure.

With this I am happy to share my personal view of training practitioners. Every boat builder knows how important it is to lay a straight and true keel if a boat is to perform well.

Over the years working with people in advanced training programs, I have found that few practitioners have laid their own keel or have a true foundation that they can build their Functional Integration lessons from. It is often, not always, the case that practitioners learn a first approximation of Functional Integration based on explicit bits of FI practice or “constellations of movement” they learned in their training that come from doing an ATM lesson and adopting some aspect of the lesson into hands on work. For a musician, this is tantamount to learning to play the notes but not play a whole piece of music. For the artist, it is like learning brush strokes, the application of paint to a canvas, but it is not painting. Something far more complete has to be developed for a practitioner to practice and be present for the emergence of a Functional Integration lesson. To me, it is not Functional Integration until both people come together in the moment and both learn something new. It is a lesson when it creates something that has never existed before for each person. It cannot be limited to the application of a few learned techniques to make a person feel better. Good Functional Integration leads to both the client and the practitioner functioning at a new higher standard than when the lesson began.

In the Elusive Obvious, Moshe states, “I have formed in my imagination an ideal human brain and function.” (page 100, paragraph 2) He then writes for two pages on the subject of ideal human functioning and ends with this quote:

“Without my ideal image I am at a loss to know what to look for; each function grades itself when compared with an idealized function, and although this is not a measure (as from a scientific instrument) it is still a mental auxiliary of the greatest value to me. It has guided my inquiry in neurology, physiology, evolution theory, and so forth, enabling me to find the pertinent facts which are dispersed in an ocean of knowledge and intelligence which in itself has no ports, only vistas.” (page 101, paragraph 3)

It is clear that Moshe had evolved his keel from which to work.

As I was a student in the Amherst training, I had the opportunity to experience first hand how Moshe laid and expressed his keel in the training process. He continually laid the foundation for what might be called, “biological fitness”. I believe one of his main tenets in the training program is little understood or practiced. To Moshe, a person is biologically fit if they can move from one orientation to another without hesitation or preparation. Over the years, I have seen that many training programs do not place the importance on this quality of human action that Moshe did.

As mentioned in the preface each of us trainer’s presents a different interpretation of what the Feldenkrais Method is and what is important to us. For me this tenet of Moshe’s, living with a potent posture in biological fitness has always been the prime directive for me in my private practice in teaching ATM and FI and how I present my training material. Every FI I personally give is based on my ability to observe whether a person has the means to move to another position without hesitation. It means I have a profound sense of the ideal of what is possible for each person in relation to meeting the hypothetical ideal of biological fitness. Metaphorically speaking, this ability to move without hesitation to another orientation is also related to a person’s awareness and maturity. To me, a person matures into “Functional Integration” when they can move freely in all of the aspects of experience; thinking, sensing, feeling and acting. ATM and FI lessons are foundational to helping a person develop the necessary awareness for developing choice. Through this attention it becomes possible for some students to develop the maturity necessary to know how they form and maintain habits. With attention and time they learn how to suspend parasitic habits, leave the past behind, and develop new more efficient and appropriate behaviors that help them find the richness choice brings to life.

To me, this is the ultimate ideal. In order to create the conditions for learning, I have to also know the ideals of physiological functioning, optimal skeletal organization, how to utilize ground forces to help people experience “levitation” as Moshe mentions, how to work with people’s ability to experience their emotions, how to support growth, and how to meet each individual, in each moment where they are and to be present to the emergent moment appearing—helping people have the means to move and thrive in times of uncertainty and change. Moshe’s statement, “life without movement is unthinkable”, becomes a truth.

As a trainer then, I have to help my students in my training programs and advanced trainings grow in their abilities to expand their own sights and find their own keel to work from. There is so much to help them develop before they can truly paint on their own. Over the years I have developed post graduation workshops designed to drill more deeply than possible into aspects of human functioning than possible to uncover in the first approximation of a basic training program. I attempt to create the conditions for learning so my students deepen their own abilities in a way that becomes directly applicable in their lessons. I work with my students to engage in the Feldenkrais Method as a personal practice as they would continue to develop their skills if they were a student of Tai Chi. aikido or meditation. My students learn to look at underlying movement patterns that arise in childhood that underlie all human functional action. They learn to see how different ways of rolling side to side relate to how a person walks, turns and runs. They learn how to find the powerful relationship between stability and movement. They become adepts of the basic human functions of sitting, standing, and walking. My training is principle based. Students learn about balance and counter balance, finding equal and opposite support, use of ground force, developing refined skeletal support, maintenance of equal, proportional muscle tone in action, etc. I attempt to teach so that any of my students have the internal resources to meet the unknown, be present to each moment, and yet meet the needs and help the people who come to their offices.

For me, I make every attempt to remove mystery from the FI process. I hope to awaken my students to the internal mysteries that are implicit in ATM lessons, so their command of the material is strengthened and is not only a resource for their own growth but also becomes available to their own students. For example, recently I taught a workshop called “Crafting Functional Integration Lessons with Confidence.” In the workshop I offered several opportunities for practitioners to expand their horizons as to what Functional Integration might mean. On the first day of the workshop I showed and discussed a FI lesson I have published on YouTube. The lesson was given to a ballet dancer named Dorothy who had had a Lisfranc fracture of her right foot. For that day I spent the entire six hours of class breaking down and elucidating the inner details of the lesson. It was a very thorough discussion of what went into the creation of the lesson. Every effort was made to remove any mystery from how the lesson developed. Each point made pointed to skills that could be acquired by a practitioner. Nothing was hidden from view. This class description of Dorothy’s lessons will be available online soon.

Additionally, in the workshop, I gave two lessons to people from the public that demonstrated thinking that expanded the student’s view of what FI could be. One lesson was to a woman experiencing a painful condition with her back that required her to find more and more constrained and reversible ways of moving to insure her own stability. She had to learn to move from position to position while maintaining complete reversibility so she did not fall. Any fall lead to painful self-protection. As she learned to maintain her balance she found she could skillfully change positions without engaging a pain reaction. The process of the lesson was surprising to many class participants in that it went against the grain of their thinking. The point of the lesson was not to make movement easier by helping her gain a greater range of motion, but rather the point of the lesson was to increase her stability, move less, but with much greater reversible skill.

In the other lesson, a man who had had recent double hip replacement surgery was given the opportunity to discover how he could direct force from the ground up through himself rather than fall into his hip joints as he did prior to the lesson. In the lesson he was discovered lightness in movement after years of pain and difficulty. The advanced training then went on to clarify how I helped the man find the drive up and through him self in a way where they could reproduce the principle based thinking with their clients.

With this introduction, while only a verbal representation, I hope to paint a brief perspective on how I see training practitioners. For me, it my responsibility to help each student I work with, mature in their personal development, develop their own ideal organization, and help them gain the resources and wide range of options they need for working with their clients. The underlying task I give myself is to my students develop their own straight keel and framework from which they build their own boat as a resource to float their own practice.


Why I Began IOPS Academy
4/21/2015 1:16 pm PDT

 

I created the IOPS (Ideal Organization and Profound Strength) Academy, an 18-month intensive advanced training program, because the potential of our work goes way beyond what can be learned in the basic Feldenkrais training programs.

When you look at the body of work covered in my 10 recorded Advanced Trainings, you will see that each workshop drills into a specific topic of the Feldenkrais Method to find a depth of understanding and practice that is beyond the first approximation we learn in our traditional Feldenkrais training programs. There is no way, as short as our training programs are, for trainers to do more than introduce the basic concepts of the Feldenkrais Method so that our students are given a well-rounded introduction to the body of Moshe’s work.

As all of our students come to realize, the basic curriculum of Feldenkrais Method training programs is vast, and for the most part, little mastery can be established in the time allotted to basic training. A newly graduated student, gifted with broad introductory strokes, generally does not have the means to know how to ask deeper questions about the material they have received. While the training they have received puts them on the doorstep to developing a good practice, at graduation they are only initiates, or beginning-level black belts of our method.

A black belt in Aikido means that the student has acquired and can demonstrate beginning proficiency of the basic techniques of Aikido. They have developed to the point they are ready to begin their training. Black belt is only a beginning place. It is not uncommon for a student of Aikido to train three or four times a week with their teacher, attend multiple weekend training sessions with visiting teachers throughout the year, and attend weeklong summer camps, to promote their practice. They do this for years as they advance through the ranks. Any musician, artist, Tai Chi practitioner, or dancer knows the necessity of ongoing training and practice. Anyone who meditates knows it takes years of study with a reliable teacher to go deeper into the core of their personality to discover the depth within and to bring it to life in daily experience.

In the same way, our practitioners need continued training to advance their understanding and skills. In a sense, they have to realize that the Feldenkrais Method is an ongoing daily practice from which to develop themselves, establishing a sense of self-reliance and choice seldom found in daily life.

In the ways that I have available to me, I have tried to further the Feldenkrais curriculum to help practitioners have a way to embody the Feldenkrais Method into their daily life. I have worked to demonstrate that the principles that we learn lying on the floor that govern ATM lessons can be brought to life in upright application. As simple as that might seem, the translation is not so simple. It has proven to take real intent to learn how to develop internal support while working, see beyond the basic patterns of movement we learn in training programs, find knowledgeable stability in standing, walking, and sitting, while having the means to teach and provide those skills to our students. Crafting lessons and teaching our students to learn by asking their own questions takes real maturation on our part as practitioners. We have to have a profound inner understanding of what ideal organization might be for ourselves and for our students. We have to know how to find the profound strength of internal support that gives us stability with immediate capacity to move, and we have to know how to help people address these properties within themselves to the point their life improves so they can appreciate their own hidden potential for learning and growth.

In the first week of the Amherst training, Moshe spoke of the necessity we have to know the ideal for human movement. He spoke about our necessity of understanding the potential of each joint for movement, and for the potential of a human to move efficiently with minimal tone for support, while reserving the potential to move in any direction for self-preservation. In The Elusive Obvious, Moshe states, “I have formed in my imagination an ideal human brain and function. Ideal means non-existent. It also means that everybody may have one or more streaks approaching comparison with the ideal. It is a very useful auxiliary to compare everyone to the ideal.”

As practitioners, we also need to have a sense of the ideal.

To this end, I have developed the IOPS (Ideal Organization and Profound Strength) Academy. Its goal is to provide ongoing training to develop practitioner’s understanding of the Feldenkrais curriculum and their ability to experience greater proficiency within themselves as a means for preparing to teach their constituents. IOPS is a comprehensive course of study that will help practitioners learn how to drill for themselves into the very questions the Feldenkrais Method poses for us as a process of maturation, skill development, and teaching ability.

I am excited to begin and bring IOPS to life in all of our practices. Soon I will sign a contract for space in NYC for the first IOPS program to begin in October 2015. When the ground is properly prepared, I also hope to develop IOPS for the West Coast and abroad as well. With good health and intentions, I hope to meet those needs.

I look forward to serving you with the IOPS Academy.


Why Self-Organization is a Prerequisite for the IOPS Academy
3/23/2015 10:30 am PDT

 

In 1980, in the afternoon of the second day at the Amherst training, Moshé taught a rigorous lesson of lifting the head, taught from the prone position. In the lesson, he says (paraphrased), “Don’t push against the floor to lift your head; lift away from the floor. Your hands are not for pushing but for pulling.” Moshé was teaching how to utilize ground forces so we students could find the means for levity in movement. Yet he did not always teach to this standard in Amherst, as often he would tell us to push our foot or our hand into the ground to initiate movement. In that particularly important lesson, there was a message for us to really pay attention to how we can learn to move away from the floor and acquire a sense of levity in action. It is a basic principle of the Feldenkrais Method® that we learn to utilize our skeleton so we can direct force from the floor through ourselves in order to counteract gravity.

For seven or eight years following Amherst, often during a long day of lessons I experienced pain, like a knife in my back, under my right scapula. From watching Moshé stand up from his stool, it was clear that he knew how to stand in such a way he seemed weightless. In San Francisco, he made a statement that he could lift someone’s head without changing the tone in his arms. I had no idea how he did either. So I began to investigate: How could I work in such a way that I always maintained clear skeletal support while I worked, as if I was lifting continuously away from the ground? This goes against the very grain of how most people practice being grounded and centered.

In time, I found my way and came to realize that, for the most part, the basic principles of movement we teach in ATM do not necessarily transfer into upright action. By the 1996 conference held at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, I was ready to teach my first approximation of “Self-Organization” while working in Functional Integration®. Over the years I have refined the process and now consider it to be bedrock for my students in order for them to know how to bear weight—their own and their clients—how to utilize their skeletal support for leverage, and for directing forces through their client’s skeleton. When I ran my own training programs, I taught self-organization at the end of the second year or the beginning of the third year as a basis from which Functional Integration was learned. In so doing, I knew that my students had their first approximation of learning how to sit and stand with stability, how to utilize their pelvis for support and power, and their breath and the free movement of their head as a means to gauge their effort while giving lessons.

With my new IOPS Academy (Ideal Organization & Profound Strength) graduate program coming up, I want to teach beyond the self-organization material that I personally consider as basic to a Feldenkrais Practitioner’s understanding of support and function. For this reason, I am making it a prerequisite for people to study self-organization prior to joining the IOPS process.

There are several opportunities for people to study self-organization directly with me before IOPS begins in the fall, including live and online classes. The prerequisite can also be met by going through DVDs of the five-day Advanced Training, “Learning Self-Organization Again and Again and Again…” filmed in NYC this past June 2014.

It has been my interest to drill into this material as a part of the riddles Moshé presented to us to learn from. All of us who were around Moshé, as with the blind men and the elephant, have our own description of Moshé’s work and how we interpret and represent what he said. This is my contribution, and it has been a blast and a challenge to help practitioners bring this material to life in discovering their own way or support themselves in their work.


The Twenty-Year Throw
7/15/2014 12:11 pm PDT

 

Not long ago I was teaching a training program for advanced Feldenkrais® practitioners in New York. In a discussion about working with Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lessons, one student mentioned that he had a “been there, done that” attitude about lessons. After he did a lesson, he chalked it up as having done it and moved on to the next. I found that a very interesting way to look at and work with ATM lessons but I don’t think he was much different than many who enter into the realm of taking ATM classes. After all, Moshe Feldenkrais left us with over 600 Alexander Yanai lessons, two fully-recorded training programs, multiple recorded workshops, and his teachings at Esalen Institute, just to mention a few. He literally left us with over a thousand lessons, each a brilliantly crafted, physiologically correct exploration related to a human being’s ability to learn and improve how they function.

But I want to talk about a different way of looking at exploring Awareness Through Movement lessons. As many of you know, I have a long background in studying Aikido. I don’t practice as much as I used to but I still love the art. In Aikido, when one attains a black belt, it simply means they have become proficient in the basic movements of the Aikido curriculum. There is an order of magnitude difference between the quality of action, movement, and connection between a 1st degree blackbelt and a 2nd degree blackbelt and so on up through the ranks. The clarity and precision of movement made by a 6th degree blackbelt is nothing short of stupendous relative to that of a beginning 1st degree blackbelt. This shift and change in quality comes from the repeated honing of your self in Aikido, on a near-daily basis, with teachers that are far superior to you in your ability. And what do you study? You study the same movements and techniques that every Aikidoist studies, the basic movements of Aikido, which you learn to express with much greater refinement.

One throw, Irimi Nagi, is called the 20-year throw. This is because it takes an Aikidoist 20 years to master the technique, to learn how to enter into the safe space behind your attacker and control the attacker in way that results in a resolution without violence. We don’t have a concept like that in the Feldenkrais Method. We don’t have a ranking system for how well a person engages in an ATM lesson; the quality of attention they give to their self; the ability they have to discern if movement is smooth and effort is minimal; the ability they have to coordinate the parts of themselves into whole action; the ability they have to transport the lessons they learn on the floor into daily life functioning.

I am asked over and over: Will the material you cover in this class be different than last class or the same? I find it a most strange question. I have been puzzling over some lessons going on 34 years since I was in class with Moshe. I still discover something new each time I work with the Pelvic Clock lesson. I have new “aha” moments with basic rolling lessons, or lessons on how the eyes organize the spine.

It tells us a lot about ourselves relative to today’s society when we keep looking for new experiences rather than going deeply into the moment-by-moment process of attending to ourselves in Awareness Through Movement class no matter what lesson is presented.

I meditated for over 20 years using a simple technique of counting numbers 1 to 10, a number for each breath with the intention of keeping my mind solely and rigorously directed to the numbers with the intention of seeing the nature of my mind. It has been a most useful practice, over and over and over. It has produced extraordinary benefits to me in my life, as I am significantly kinder with myself since I have taken the time to learn about myself by sitting with myself in rigorous simplicity.

What is really intriguing about us as human beings is the fact that we live in bodies that have the potential for unlimited degrees of freedom in action—unlimited. It means that as human beings we will never, ever come close to perfecting any action we make. But what we can perfect is how we proceed in the process of learning. It becomes a question of how refined we become in our ability to sense, feel, think, and move as we mature in our daily lives. In Awareness Through Movement classes, you can develop your skill and refinement in a way similar to the advanced black belt, and step onto the path of infinite refinement.