I asked ChatGPT to teach me a Feldenkrais lesson

I went to the artificial intelligence ChatGPT on OpenAI and typed in “Teach me a Feldenkrais lesson.” Here’s what was written:

Sure! I’d be happy to teach you a Feldenkrais lesson. Feldenkrais is a method of movement and physical therapy that aims to improve movement efficiency, flexibility, and overall well-being. It is based on the idea that the way we move and carry ourselves affects how we feel and function. Here is a simple Feldenkrais lesson you can try:

  1. Start by finding a comfortable seated position on the floor or on a chair. Make sure your spine is straight and your feet are flat on the ground.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, allowing yourself to relax and become aware of your body.
  3. Begin to focus on your neck and head. Slowly turn your head to the left, noticing the sensation of movement and any areas of tension or restriction.
  4. Bring your head back to center, and then turn it to the right. Again, pay attention to the sensation of movement and any areas of tension or restriction.
  5. Repeat this movement a few more times, each time allowing your head to move more freely and easily.
  6. Next, bring your attention to your shoulders. Slowly lift your shoulders up towards your ears, and then release them down towards your hips. Notice the sensation of movement and any areas of tension or restriction.
  7. Repeat this movement a few more times, each time allowing your shoulders to move more freely and easily.
  8. Finally, bring your attention to your entire body. Take a moment to scan your body, noticing any areas of tension or discomfort.
  9. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and take a few deep breaths.

I hope you found this Feldenkrais lesson helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like more information about the Feldenkrais method.

Imagine my surprise, my shock almost! The artificial intelligence came up with a sweet little lesson. Well presented as well. I didn’t dare to dig deeper because I’m pretty sure it would fall apart if I poked around a bit. But it’s not all that bad for a teaser class, produced by an entity that doesn’t even have a human nervous system and human physical body, innit?

You would think a lesson in sitting would start with a movement as reference, for example turning the head—and then end with the same movement—to see if and how it has improved. But this is not the case in this AI generated lesson. Instead, it uses breathing and feeling-at-ease as reference. It’s quite advanced in this sense! Both in terms of teaching and what is required of the student.

Therefore, if I would teach it, I would go with the original “ideas” (or “pickings”, AI must have copied it from somewhere), but would improve the wording in certain places.

Firstly, Feldenkrais is not physical therapy. Secondly, the word Feldenkrais is very problematic. The terms “Feldenkrais” and “The Feldenkrais Method” are federal trademark registrations issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to a private membership organisation, the Feldenkrais Guild of North America (FGNA). One of the goals of this organisation is to privatise and monopolise distribution rights to the full estate of Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais and thus prevent his life’s work to enter the public domain—as stated by the End User License Agreement (EULA) with the International Feldenkrais Federation Distribution Center (IFF). Thus making the life’s work of Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais an eternal asset of this private organisation to further their business and politics, and to prevent the public (as well as its own paying members) from freely using the words “Feldenkrais”, “Feldenkrais Method”, “Awareness Through Movement”, “Functional Integration”, etc. In case you ever wondered why the Feldenkrais Method is not better known and not more widely adapted—this is part of the answer.

Lastly, my slightly re-written version. I underlined the parts that I changed, I guess most changes are just personal taste. For example I tried to introduce a more realistic language by saying “sit upright” instead of “sit with a straight spine.” It’s impossible for just any vertebrate to have a straight spine, but it’s definitely possible for most people to sit upright. Furthermore I tried to give the text a more upper-hand, positive spin and said “Also notice the areas in yourself that do not move” instead of “noticing any areas of tension or restriction.” ChatGPT even ended the lesson with ”Take a moment to scan your body, noticing any areas of tension or discomfort.” This clearly shows that it didn’t know why it put the lesson together in the first place. And of course I changed the ending to fit to my video. So here’s my re-write:

Sure! I’d be happy to teach you a lesson inspired by Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais. In this kind of lesson we use movement and introspection to improve our overall well-being and everyday movements. It is based on the idea that the way we move, feel, sense and think does indeed affect how we act. Here’s a simple lesson you can try:

  1. Start by finding a comfortable seated position on the floor or on a chair. Make sure your spine is upright and your feet are flat on the ground.
  2. Close your eyes and observe yourself taking a few breaths, allowing yourself to be at ease and become aware of your body.
  3. Begin to focus on your neck and head. Slowly turn your head to the left, notice the sensation of movement. Also notice the areas in yourself that do not move, that do not contribute to the movement.
  4. Bring your head back to center, and then turn it to the right. Again, pay attention to the sensation of movement and also the areas that do not move.
  5. Repeat this movement a few more times, each time allowing more and more of yourself to participate in this movement freely and easily.
  6. Next, bring your attention to your shoulders. Slowly lift your shoulders up towards your ears, and then release them to dangle down from your neck. Notice the sensation of tension when you lift your shoulders, and the sensation of release when you lower them.
  7. Repeat this movement a few more times, each time allowing your shoulders to move less jerkily and more smoothly.
  8. Finally, be comfortably seated like in the beginning, and take a moment to just sit and observe. Notice how your chest and shoulders are moving together with your breathing. Notice any improvement in your overall well-being and everyday movements such as turning your head, sitting and breathing.

When you’re ready, open your eyes and slowly come up to standing. See how it is to face the world in standing and take a few steps.

I hope you found this lesson helpful! Please like and subscribe, and share your experience in the comments below. Thank you for watching and see you in the next video!

Here’s the link to my video: youtube.com/watch?v=RGC6pK-62KA

So- what IS the right way to sit?

When people ask me what I do—from hundreds and hundreds of times having been asked this question—there’s a couple of ways this can go:

One

Most people will have heard of Physiotherapy before (not all people though) and it will end there. The whole topic is just too far off their radar. They will file me under “job unknown” or “not a therapist and not a doctor”, and then change subject or stop talking to me altogether.

Two

Some people have an active lifestyle, had some injuries and therapy themselves already, or have seen an advertisement about ergonomic mattresses or office chairs. 

That’s the person that is likely to ask, “Hey, I’ve seen this chair, the one that looks like that and can do this *gestures wildly*… is that any good?” or “I get it, you teach people how to sit correctly… btw, what is the right way to sit?”

Usually they will ask with genuine interest, because they’ve been thinking about this question for quite a while already and couldn’t figure out if $2000 for an ergonomic chair instead of $50 for STEFAN from IKEA is really worth it.

The last time I’ve answered this question I’ve said, “Think of the correct sitting posture not as a single, perfectly aligned, locked-in position, but instead as a range of possibilities that go from here to there.” Maybe not the best answer, but satisfying enough and keeps the conversation afloat for a few minutes.

Three

Here’s a most recent story from the third category, the 3rd way this question can go:

Yesterday I was in a very cute and very small bookstore, here in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, Vietnam. The whole store was about the size of 12 Square meter (129 Square foot) and had less than a hundred books. 

Upon entering I noticed the big glass door, which was new, clean and neatly fitted—something I came to appreciate here in Vietnam. I said to the girl at the front-desk, “Oh- what a nice door you have!” But she didn’t seem to understand. I repeated and she said, “Sorry my English not so good.”

I looked at the table next to the door and there was a children’s book. I picked it up. Nice typeset, appealing pictures, plain English, about 150 pages. I said, “Hey, that’s a cute book, you could learn English with it.” The girl giggled. “You don’t think so?“ She shyly straightened herself up and replied, “I think my problem with English is mostly in listening and speaking. I can read well. See here, I enjoy this book.”

I turned around to the front desk and lo and behold the book she was reading was The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russel, one of the beautiful, old hardcover editions. Slightly brittle pages, most lovely typeset. Imagine my surprise, my shock almost. The young, Vietnamese woman behind the counter, 22 years old, liked the chapter about Aristotle the best. She was a believer in self-education and was looking for an answer to the question why people think the way they do, and was hoping to find some clues with the ancient folks in the West.

We probably talked for more than an hour, and came to discover that Bertrand Russel had a whole lot of chapters in his book, but none by Ludwig Wittgenstein. We talked about teachers and their students, about Sigmund Freud und Wilhelm Reich, about young people, suicide, mental health and self-education, and eventually I came to mention what I do, and how this fits into the bigger picture. We connected on Insta and she followed me on Youtube.

By the time I said “Good Bye” we’ve both learned a lot. It was a marvellous encounter that I’ll remember fondly for all my life. On top of all that I finally found a few items I could bring back to Saigon and give as gifts to my friends at the New Year’s gathering I’m invited to tomorrow.

This is my last blog post of 2022. A Happy New Year 2023 to all of you, may good fortune be ahead!

The ability to learn

Once every few weeks I search the Internet for writings about Feldenkrais. And every time I set out to do so I mourn that so little is written. 

However- sometimes I do find pretty good stuff. Larry Goldfarb for example, a wizard with words. I do enjoy foraging his blog. In his post from October 19, 2022, titled “A global approach” Larry translated a flight of speech from French to English, originally written by Feldenkrais teacher François Combeau—of whom’s text Larry wrote “is a beautiful expression of the perspective that informs Moshe’s method.” But see for yourself, here’s the quote, first the original by François Combeau, then the translation by Larry Goldfarb:

“Ce que nous appelons «Méthode Feldenkrais» est une approche globale de la personne et de son fonctionnement. Elle ne cherche pas à identifier et isoler un trouble spécifique de la personne toute entière dans sa façon d’agir, penser et se comporter dans l’environnement. Elle n’a pas comme propos de récupérer un trouble, réduire et gommer une pathologie. Elle cherche plutôt à nous faire bouger, redévelopper la capacité à apprendre, à s’ajuster, s’organiser dans l’action d’une façon plus fonctionnelle et respectueuse de notre structure et de ses règles de fonctionnements.”

“What we call the Feldenkrais Method is a global approach to the person and their functioning. It does not seek to identify and isolate a specific disorder of the whole person in their way of acting, thinking, and behaving in the environment. It is not about recovering from an affliction or reducing and erasing a pathology. Instead, it seeks to get us moving, to redevelop the ability to learn, to adjust, to organize ourselves in action in a more functional way, one that respects our structure and its operating rules.”

Well- Larry has an affinity with words. And I guess fiddling with aforementioned paragraph lit his fire, maybe a bit too much so. I guess he was dazzled, charmed and bewitched by the skilful concatenation of mighty impressive words… and how someone was able to vacuum pack them into a syntactically and semantically correct paragraph that seem to ring true. And the comments agreed.

But I don’t. I don’t think it’s true. And I believe this makes everything better. To disagree is the bane of modern society, and our saving grace. I believe and therefore I speak:

“What we call the Feldenkrais Method is a global approach to the person and their functioning.”

Global means including or affecting the whole world. And in this case it’s probably a metaphor (or simile or something) and means relating to or embracing the whole of a person.

The Feldenkrais Method, however, is not a global approach. It leaves out many aspects to a person. For example it does not include diet and nutrition, which comprises a large part of a person’s thinking, behaviour, health and physical constitution. For example, it does not include rote drills, scheduled repetition and habit forming, which are part of how humans learn and function. One last example: there’s no lessons of Moshé Feldenkrais that challenge and develop a person’s cardiovascular fitness as in aerobic and anaerobic capacity. 

However, there’s good reasons why those and many other aspects are excluded, and this means that it’s not a global approach. Quite to the contrary, the lessons of Moshé Feldenkrais do address quite specific aspects of a person, with quite distinguishable characteristics. An experienced Feldenkrais scholar might be able to tell within seconds if something is in the spirit or “of the perspective that informed” Moshé Feldenkrais’s work, or if something is not.

“It does not seek to identify and isolate a specific disorder of the whole person in their way of acting, thinking, and behaving in the environment.”

Quite the opposite! A Feldenkrais teacher’s skill is defined by his ability to pinpoint, to identify and to isolate—and also to be able to identify and isolate specific disorders. To be able to see, to sense, to feel, to put things into words. 

Isn’t this the very definition of becoming aware of something? To be able to see something specific and even more than that, put it in words? To locate it’s position in a whole? And even more so, to know it in movement! Everyone can tap in the dark, but a Feldenkrais practitioner is in possession of a ever growing map and a decent flashlight.

“It is not about recovering from an affliction or reducing and erasing a pathology.”

And yet, it is! It’s what keeps the lights on, what pays the rent. It’s what backed Moshé Feldenkrais’s talking and the reason why people paid him a fortune to study with him.

But of course, Moshé Feldenkrais did not fail his students when he made this tall promise in Dallas 1981: “Whatever you thought your reason was to see me and whatever you thought you will get from my lessons, you will get more than that.”

“Instead, it seeks to get us moving, to redevelop the ability to learn, to adjust, to organize ourselves in action in a more functional way, one that respects our structure and its operating rules.”

I don’t know about the “operating rules,” but I too fancy this last sentence. I would put “improve” instead of “redevelop”, and “allow ourselves to self-calibrate” instead of “adjust”. But this is improvement work, fine-tuning, and not distinguished critique. Right on Larry Goldfarb, thank you for your inspiration. 

Next! Who else has written something about their experience with (or thinking about) work that was inspired by Moshé Feldenkrais? Who will tickle my fancy? —I hope I was able to tickle yours.

Do your studies inform and shape your perception?

Breakfast at Lang Tre Mui Ne beach resort. My mother talking recent News about an organic vegetable farmer of the West of Austria, telling me about his background of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences… my gaze slowly wandering over the breakfast area and gently coming to rest on the waves that keep sweeping ashore in the distance. Wush, wush, in they roll, below a glistening sun onto sandy beaches. The little spot that my eyes rest on grows bigger and bigger until it fills my entire field of vision and my entire consciousness.

My mind’s eye: two hours of fiddling with Pixelmator Pro. A picture is worth a thousand words—quite literally so.

Natural Resources, Applied Life Sciences and water management. I was gazing at the waves and came to the thought that people who have studied physics (or learned Kite surfing, in this regard) might view the waves with different eyes than people who have never inquired into their nature and mechanics that deeply.

“You always discover the same things over and over again,” my good friend David once told me. People who learned to play an instrument might be able to listen to music differently than people who didn’t. People who studied movement learning the way I did might look at people and movement (and learning) quite differently than people who didn’t. Our studies, our interests and focus, and henceforth our experience (and knowing) might deeply shape and inform our perception. Nothing new here, I guess. But yet, but yet.

Today’s note to self: “Choose your studies boldly yet cautiously—they might shape how you view the world, they might even shape your entire’s life experience.”

The instructions are like this for a reason. But are they?

Have you ever tried to learn the piano, or tennis for that matter (or any such thing) in a school—and found yourself in a situation with a teacher (a trainer, teacher, tutor, mentor, master, guru, coach, instructor) right up in your face?

And while you tried to learn, explore and enjoy yourself, did that teacher lecture you? “Just do as I say,” “There’s a reason why it’s taught like that,” “You think too much,”  “Everyone follows the rules, why don’t you?” … or any such phrases?

Well- it looks like most students don’t call their teachers out on that. They do their drills, put in the hours, and some rise to be the world’s best performers in their fields. And I don’t even need to consider teacher’s wisdom, I’m able to quote a proper psychologist: Julian Jaynes, who’s been a professor at Yale and Princeton for 25 years:

“In the learning of skills, consciousness is indeed like a helpless spectator, having little to do. Consciousness takes you into the task, giving you the goal to be reached. But from then on, it is as if the learning is done for you. Let the learning go on without your being too conscious of it, and it is all done more smoothly and efficiently.”

There-
it’s all settled.
Shut up,
do your drills
and it all
will work out
just fine.

Except for me. I’m not the kind of person to accept such an attitude, and also not that kind of learner. “Coach, I disagree!” and I have Trevor Bauer’s sliders and curveballs as my argument, my vindication.

Trevor Bauer, the major league baseball pitcher, has extraordinary many ways to throw a baseball, and might used to be one of the best at that. With a background in engineering Trevor Bauer is highly unusual for his knowledge of the physics of baseball. Two-fingered fastball, four-fingered fastball, slider, curve, cutter, knuckleball, he studied them all in detail, and then some. In an interview he said that most pitchers don’t think about the physics of their pitches. He said that through looking at the physics and understanding the principles of a new grip, doing that deliberately and consciously so to speak, it took him (and his father) six hours to develop that new grip instead of perhaps 20 years of experimentation and fiddling.

To bring my argument home, here’s an excerpt from an article in Popular Science, “The physics of throwing a perfect baseball pitch”:

“Bauer is unusual in Major League Baseball for knowing the physics behind his pitches, Nathan says. Most players don’t think about it. Bauer thinks there’s a good reason for that; Analyzing the physics of the game makes it harder to perform if you don’t know how to switch back into a performance mindset. He says he’s lucky that he had enough time in the minors to figure out how to do that, but most players aren’t given that luxury. And he doesn’t think aspiring pitchers should try to emulate his methods. He actually suggests young players should rely on good coaches instead of investigating the physics.”

Concluding from that paragraph, it seems like Trevor Bauer might be at odds with himself. It almost seems to be a major step, a (r)evolutionary step for humans to allow themselves to become more conscious, to allow themselves to consciously look at how they learn and do things. And even if someone had great success doing so, like Trevor Bauer, the pitcher, they still might feel like they’ve been an outlier, or were in a unique position, or were unusually fortunate; and if they would tell their students to do what they did they might feel like putting their students at risk of failing, or they might even feel like they’d be betraying their peers, their coaches, their professional ethics, maybe even their own species.

But not I. I made that choice long ago. I started down this lonely road, too, and allowed myself to grow increasingly more conscious, just that  I am not uncertain. You can learn and improve a movement through, for example, rote drills, or through strategies that make you more conscious (for example somatic movement sequences, or biofeedback, or video analysis). And you can learn to thoroughly and skilfully switch back and forth between those two opposites. Or maybe even learn to adjust your level of consciousness as easily as a volume slider on your smartphone.

Times are changing. What was a lonely road before seems to be less deserted and more populated by the day. And what do we know, maybe one day learning through increasing consciousness will be a regular way of learning?

Arms that swing more joyfully and a chest that can breath more freely

When I first began studying the movement lessons of Moshé Feldenkrais (in the year 2004) I was extremely spirited. I purchased all the class recordings I could get my hands on—which wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy my large appetite. I also exchanged hundreds of “Private Library” class recordings with fellow students. And of course, eventually I also stumbled upon openatm.org (founded by Falk Feddersen) and practiced my way through most of the recordings there.

The recordings that stood out to me most where those of Sharon Moyano (now Sharon Starika). They were in strong contrast to the slow, deep movement explorations I experienced in Feldenkrais professional trainings. To me Sharon’s class recordings appeared to be fast paced, bare bones; only the essentials. One movement—bam!—then the next—bam! To me it was almost brutal, but not as brutal as the movements in the recordings of, for example, Franz Wurm. Sharon’s movement instructions were concise, crystal clear, challenging, and Oh! so good.

In a workshop advertisement (from long ago) teacher Victoria Worsley wrote about Sharon Starika: “The most extraordinary running and Feldenkrais story I have heard is about a professional American triathlete called Sharon Moyano who was hit on her bicycle by a semi. She had nine operations, broke a huge list of bones and lost 3 muscle groups. She was told she’d be lucky to run again and would certainly never race again. For two years she worked intensely with the Feldenkrais Method, doing both classes and one-to-one hands-on sessions. Two years later she beat her own personal best in a marathon by 20 minutes.”

Three days ago I re-visited one of Sharon’s class recordings, 1998/03/10 Elbow Circles Holding the Chin, and had the same feeling again: bare bones, only the essentials, almost brutal, but Oh! so good. Of course- I felt inspired. The lesson improved my breathing as well as the mobility of my chest. It improved my ability to bring my arms overhead and it got me into being more aware of my arms (and upper chest) in walking. It actually got me so excited about my upper limbs that I started a practice of throwing tennis balls against a wall; which I enjoy greatly. If only I had discovered this as a teenager I might have enjoyed playing tennis later on.

However, I wouldn’t dare to teach Sharon’s movement sequence to a general audience via recorded video. I would worry over Youtube viewers at home trying such a video with frozen shoulders, or a shoulder impingement, or being post shoulder surgery (or any other condition a doctor would have a name for). To teach this lesson myself I would need to make some changes, make it suitable for a general audience. But first I would need to put Sharon’s lesson to the knife and sample the key strategies:

The lesson starts with a reference movement. How well do your arms extend overhead to rest on the floor?

The first movement is to pull on a wrist (or fist), with your hands behind your head. One side first, then the other.

You then push one foot against the floor to roll into side-lying, and continue the same pulling on one wrist in side-lying. Your head rests on the floor (on its temple) in front of the arm that touches the floor, and you pull that arm’s elbow up towards the ceiling.

Next you sit cross legged. Your hands are behind your head, and with your left hand you pull on your right wrist to get hold of your chin on the left side of your face. Only now we get the cue to focus on the elbows and how we move them through space in relation to… well, there’s like 6 or so variations of this.

The last strategy is on the belly, in prone position. The hands—first one by one and then in unison—slide down the neck, over the shoulder blades, towards the lower back. May the elbows touch together?

Ok- my surgical dissection of Sharon’s lesson is done. I hope now you too can see the lesson clearly. The strategies, the positions and the reasons for the various positions, the constraints and possibilities. How a glued up shoulder and upper chest is invited into movement without the use of classic stretching, elastic bands and kettle-bells. And how the movements of the shoulders are brought into relation to the rest of the body. I would think that for many people these movements are difficult, hard to do, but nevertheless it’s a wonderful, quite intriguing sequence.

I was riding my 🛵 to a ☕️ shop, where I now sit and write this blog post. While driving I was thinking that a very flexible person might look at these movements and say, “So what, I can easily do all of these.” Probably a quite stupid, imaginary conversation with myself in my head. But there I was, searching for a metaphor in the crypts of my brain… that’s like someone picking up a book, for example Harry Potter Volume 1, and saying: “So what, I can easily read all of that.”

Here’s the adaptions I would introduce:

I would change the reference movement, to turning the head. And how well that movement is connected to the chest, and how (and if) the chest moves at all while turning the head. A side-bending, a twist, a shortening and lengthening, maybe the pelvis tilts sideways, maybe the even the legs move? And I would ask about the breathing in the upper part of the chest. I might keep the arms-over-head as a test, but wouldn’t make it the main reference movement, the main point of the lesson.

I would have the hands relaxed, and pull on a wrist rather than a fist. I would cue to focus on the movements and trajectories of the elbows already, and not wait until later in the lesson. I would start into the first movement with approximations: the hands in-front of the chest. I would allow the head to follow, to react, to roll. I would observe the movements of the chest and my breathing. With each pull I would bring my wrists further up in-front of my face, and then over head, and only eventually behind my head. Only then I would lift my head, and it will stop rolling, because it’s now lifted, the neck and chest under tension like a hoisted sail on a sail boat.

I would use more time for the rolling into side-lying. I would bring attention to how my head is carried over—or even lifted over—the arm that’s on the floor. How the lifting of my head will lengthen the side that’s pressing against the floor, and at the same time shorten the side that’s facing the ceiling. And how I would press my side against the floor to lift my head.

I would think about the elbows again. How my elbows can move my upper chest, neck and head in lines and circles. How my head can push my arm around (the arm that’s on the floor), backwards. How my whole body extends and flexes and twists and moves to point my elbow.

I would start holding my chin in lying on the back, and not in sitting. In this way it’s easier to get the whole chest to move, instead of risking the movement being done mostly in the neck only. The middle of my back presses against the floor, my pelvis can tilt backwards, my right elbow can point towards the right foot (or the left, etc.) After all, in Youtube videos I cannot see my students and this progression is safer for both, my student’s necks and my teaching goals.

For the part that’s done in sitting, I would not guide students through all 6-or-so variations. I think it’s just too much. I would introduce some ideas and leave it up to the students what they do with it. Keep it simple, and allow time and space for their own discoveries and explorations. Maybe someone will turn it into a rolling lesson, so be it, great fun!

Lastly, before wrapping things up, again I would start with a lose lifting of the elbow, borrowing parts of that classic Feldenkrais extension lesson, to ease into sliding the hand down the neck and over the shoulder blade towards the lower back. With a mode of easiness. Instead of focusing on the actual movements, I might try to drive students towards observing their movement learning and their building-up of consciousness.

Ok- that’s all I have for today. A demonstration of how I would listen to another practitioner’s teaching; of how I would analyse, modify and adapt a movement sequence for myself and for my own teaching.

The act of participation

Alternative titles: The movements and being in movement. The WHAT and the HOW. Ideas and execution. The rules and the actual game. A thought and the spoken word, the pen and the sword. The mind and the body. Making something imagined become real.

In the springtime of 2019 I assisted in a Feldenkrais professional training program in the south of China. In the role of a teacher I tried to learn about the students. How are they doing? How are they learning? What are their strategies, what are their ways of participation?

For example, there was this one student, a famous Pilates teacher and personal trainer (from and) in China. He was obsessed with understanding and writing down the movements. Instead of deeply engaging in a conversation with the movements, in movement, after each and every instruction he would reach for his phone and type down the instruction, thus building his own database for his own teaching. This movement does this, that movement does that, he wrote. All the while knowing perfectly well, that all lessons are recorded in both video and audio, and that he will receive the recordings at no extra costs after the training. Since he didn’t fully invest himself, I asked him “Don’t you have the feeling you’re missing out?” To which he replied, “Not at all. I’m just using my time more efficiently than the others.” I didn’t argue with him, I merely liked to learn about his thinking and approach.

Contrariwise, I found the following comment on one of my videos just yesterday. Comment by Sylvia Bahr, on the video “Learn how to roll easier | Rolling into deep”, youtube.com/watch?v=u3hRUgd7_q0

“For me, the degree of ease of rolling movement was a direct result of the relaxation session in the first part of the video. If the quiet time was shortened, then I think that my movements would have been impeded. This is now one of my favorites. Thank you for your patience with making videos.”

Sylvia invested herself fully. She accepted my pacing of the lesson and instead of skipping forwards or taking notes she practiced. Instead of just shortly assessing the movements, instead of looking at them with mostly her intellect, she immersed herself, applied herself, allowed herself to move, rest, to experience the movements fully. Maybe that’s why some Feldenkrais people like to call themselves practitioners, rather than teachers.

Of course- the movement instructions are important. They are the pieces in the game. But how we move, how we apply ourselves, to observe how we learn, how we are making progress, how we are conscious… to become more conscious, to accumulate consciousness so the speak (or maybe not), and all that, et cetera, is just as important. These things are not something reserved for the grand masters of the Game of Chess (or Mahjong in China), or something for the fans to observe and rave about. These things are just as important, they make up the game: the actual practice, the act of participation, the practice of being alive.