One workshop done, next to come

Maybe more of a diary entry than a blog post, in case you wonder how my 3-hour-long online workshop in China went:

I totally over-prepared. In total I’ve spent more than a full day preparing, and then what-do-you-know I wasn’t able to teach nearly half as much as what I’ve planned. The workshop flowed smoothly, students were participating attentively, asked questions, learned a lot (so they told me) and seemed to have enjoyed it. During movement segments only one student fell asleep, so maybe next time I should teach a little bit slower. I kept quite a brisk pace and thus students hardly had a chance to doze off.

Which brings me back to my age old question, how would my own training course look like? And when would it look like to be happening?

Our choice of Thinking Hats and Action Shoes

“They began with a broth of crab and monkfish, and cold egg lime soup as well. Then came quails in honey, a saddle of lamb, goose livers drowned in wine, buttered parsnips, and suckling pig. The sight of it all made Tyrion feel queasy, but he forced himself to try a spoon of soup for the sake of politeness, and once he had tasted it he was lost. The cooks might be old and fat, but they knew their business. He had never eaten so well, even at court.” – George R.R. Martin, A Song Of Fire And Ice

When looking at mouthwatering, delicious dishes (in my preference plant-based) there’s various ways to look at it. For example, from the perspective of

  • a cook, who would like to produce the best version of such a dish,
  • a nutritionist, who would like to investigate the chemical profile,
  • a hungry person, who would simply like to eat something delicious.

Right? How do they put this… Edward de Bono became famous for his Six Thinking Hats and Six Action Shoes, something like that.

The same could be said about movement sequences. The choice of movements, stretches, pushes, twists, lifts, reaches, squeezes, contractions, differentiations, etc, and why they are chosen, and how they are put together, and in which sequence they are put together, could be looked at from different perspectives, or with different Thinking Clothes donned:

  • the engineer, who is interested in the biomechanics,
  • the patient, who is interested in healing and the absence of pain,
  • the talent, who wants to improve performance,
  • the psychologist, who is interested in human emotions, behaviour and statistics,
  • the philosopher, who is in search for ethics, logic, meaning and lengthy disputes,
  • the business person, who wants to know if this can be trademarked and monetised,
  • the teacher, who is interested in how it is taught…

Innit? Do we always wear the same hat? Or do we have a large wardrobe to chose from? What thinking gear do we wear for which occasion? From which perspective are you looking, what would you add to this list?

Turn on, tune in, drop out of fixed schedule online workshops

Silence. Nobody dares to say a word. Then this one person speaks up and keeps talking and talking and everyone starts to grow tired-of if not upset-at this one person that does not seem to notice that there’s other people in the room as well. And then, the next time I ask a question, the same drama will happen again, just worse.

So- that’s one of the situations I want to avoid when conducting a workshop online, via video-chat.

I have a three hour long workshop scheduled for Saturday. I wonder about the fixed time of exactly three hours. Participants clear three hours in their schedule, they pay for three hours, they expect three hours (or at least two hours and a half, if they are that one busy person who is always sneaking out first.)

Contrariwise, when I call up a friend for a scheduled catch-up Skype call, we don’t put an exact duration for the call in our calendars. We note the time we meet, and we make sure that we have some time to chat (otherwise we would say, “let’s make it quick I have only a few minutes, but let’s catch up next Saturday afternoon I will be free then”).

So- I guess, online workshops are viewed more like commercial products. Like a movie that’s been in production for 2 years and then it’s 1 hour 53 minutes for the viewing. But my workshop is not like that. My expertise has been in the making for a few decades, and the viewing, the teaching, the online workshop teaching, how many minutes is it? The many participants, who have a lifetime of experience in all kinds of things and walks of life themselves, how minutes may I have of each of them to tune in?

“One morning, while I was ruminating in the shower about what kind of slogan would succinctly summarize the tactics for increasing intelligence, six words came to mind. Dripping wet, with a towel around my waist, I walked to the study and wrote down this phrase: »Turn On, Tune ln, Drop Out.« Later it became very useful in my function as cheerleader for change. »Turn on« meant to go within and become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers engaging them. »Tune in« meant to interact harmoniously with the world around you. »Drop out« suggested an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. This meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change.” I paraphrase Timothy Leary, as he wrote in his book Flashbacks.

Still- I need to plan my three-hour workshop. I imagine:

I could orchestrate movements for 3 hours straight. All 6 lessons of my “Hip Joints 2” series in one go. In this way all participants will feel something. Even the least sensitive person will clearly feel an improvement (the most sensitive probably to the point of being overwhelmed.) Also, nobody will complain that there was too much talking and not enough movement.

Ok, that’s stupid; to turn humans into programs that execute movement instructions. How insensitive. How immature. What a waste. Let me imagine something else:

  1. I will start with a movement sequence.
  2. Then I will point out the delights and benefits of studying movement sequences in their purest, their most pure form, a study of movements. I will let participants recall and write down the movements. I will have them collaborate to clean the meat from the sequence, to bleach the bones so to speak, and then identify which movement is good for what purpose.
  3. Then I might tell them a story about my grandparents. How they were born in the house of my grand-grandparents. How at that time babies were brought to the only grocery shop in the village—they used the deli scales to weigh their newborns. How my grandparents grew into a community and into the family business. I might tell my workshop participants about compulsory schooling, obedience and how having done time in schools may have shaped their thinking and acting. I might tell them about life and trauma. About trauma healing and the depths one can go to. About freedom of thought and physical movement creation. And about the freedom of the soul to move wherever it is drawn to.
  4. And then I’ll teach another movement sequence. Maybe it will be a different movement quality then.

With a bit of a mind flip

In his book Understanding Reading the much regarded (by me, at least) psycholinguist Frank Smith writes:

“it is misleading if not inaccurate to regard reading as a matter of »following the text« or to say that a listener »follows« the meaning of a speaker. Language is understood by keeping ahead of the incoming detail. By having some expectation of what the speaker or writer is likely to say, by making use of what we know already”

I wonder if the same could be said for movement classes (of Somatic Education, where sequences are like coherent stories.) Sometimes students anticipate the next movement, or a movement that I had planned to share half an hour down the road.

In spoken conversations I sometimes dart sideways, especially if I have the feeling my conversation partner can handle it, or is up to it. Not so much as a test of skills and judgement, but for fun, a breeze of fresh air, to stimulate the mind. I sometimes do this when I talk to children, to show them that not all grown-ups are stiff and boring and dead serious to the point of grey face… and hope that they figure they may play with words and thoughts themselves as well. Can you follow me? I think comedians do this too, they put things in a new context, introduce a new twist. It’s just a jump to the left. And then a step to the right. With your hands on your hips. But they do it in order to stimulate the mind AND to get a laugh. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to listen (to some of) them.

I think there’s much to be said about movement classes. Might be we’re just at the beginning.

Two Workshops from 3pm to 6pm

Workshop 1: Why move so slowly? Focus on Pelvis

We will experiment with a progressive sequence of movements. In the beginning we will move very slowly, and then make the movements bigger and bigger. The overall goals are:

  1. Release tension around the hip joints (IT-Band area and adductors),
  2. Activate the rib cage to support the movements of the pelvis
  3. Comfortable and safe movements that are suitable for every age, from young fitness professionals up to the active elder community.

Workshop 2:  Why move so slowly? Focus on Neck and Upper chest

We will experiment with a progressive sequence of movements. In the beginning we will move very slowly, and then make the movements bigger and bigger. The overall goals are:

  1. Release tension in the neck and upper chest (in between the shoulder blades and under the arm pits),
  2. Learn to use movement differentiation as a tool
  3. Comfortable and safe movements that are suitable for every age, from young fitness professionals up to the active elder community.

Workshop benefits for the student / workshop attendee

Students will experience first hand

  1. Rather than challenge your skills in the areas of flexibility, strength and endurance, in this workshop you will improve your skills in the areas of movement refinement and how well you can sense movement.
  2. How movements that are done very slowly and small can have a big effect.
  3. Make upright walking feel and look smoother, lighter and more elegant.

Short Bio of yourself

Alfons Grabher, born in 1974 in Vienna, Austria, is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, and a graduate Engineer from the University of Applied Sciences, Vienna, specialised in Biomedical Engineering. Alfons has worked for over a decade as a Software Engineer, and since 2006 as a teacher of Somatic Education and the Feldenkrais Method.

The workshops will be online on Zoom, Language: English with translation to and from Chinese, Main audience: China, Time Zone: CST, Dates: 22.10.2022, 5.11.2022

How to structure a three hours online workshop?

This Saturday I’ll teach a workshop online, for a Chinese audience in China. Three hours. Part of that time will be painstakingly eaten away by the translation, English-Chinese and Chinese-English, since my Chinese language skills are not sufficient enough for teaching. And then, what to make of it? Three hours? I’m used to teaching 45-60 minutes online sessions.

However, I recall a Zoom session I had some time ago, where two students and me conferred ABOUT a one hour online presentation. We chatted away 2 hours in no time. We did that three times, on three separate appointments. In fact, the last Zoom session lastet well over 3 hours, and we could have gone on, that’s how lively, inspiring and interesting our conversation and sharing was!

Also, I recall a Zoom call with my brother and one of our best friends, a year ago or so. We too chatted away over 3 hours, and only had to stop because my brother had another appointment, en plus it was nearing 1am in my timezone and I grew considerably sleepy.

But an online workshop over 3 hours with a group? How would you structure something like this without getting that dreaded back-to-school feeling? I recall well—from multiple occasions—that people are shy to speak in front of others. Especially online. Probably for multiple reasons, good reasons. Reputation, social credit, hierarchy, all the heads of Medusa snapping at any student who comes forth to speak or ask questions at once. And for me the same problem, in the past I got criticised for answering some questions too detailed, and other questions too short. Back-to-school is politics, career, money.

So- I might go in like I did at the above mentioned two Zoom meetings. I might not prepare a set list. I might not plan set activities and times at all. I might just briefly re-read what I’m supposed to cover according to the advertisement copy I handed in to sell the workshop. I might go in as a human, come as a friend, come as I am, and will not “teach” but just be. Maybe something good will come from that. And if not, who needs three-hour-long Zoom workshops anyways?

The Clock-steps Workout

Five years ago—as of today—I made a little video with ideas for fall prevention [Youtube: A great exercise for fall prevention]. No, it didn’t go viral. No, it wasn’t picked up by the Good Morning America TV Show. No, it didn’t buy me a house and a Ferrari. But I always liked to think back to this video, I really liked the ideas in it. And, have you looked at pictures of yourself from 5 years ago? You looked amazing! And so did I.

So- yesterday I went ahead and did a new version of this [Youtube: Fall prevention & balance training for 65+] and I think it turned out pretty well. Oh- and I just now spend one more hour on the thumbnail. Would that I knew if it got better though. Have a look-see, which one is more appealing, in a clickedy-click on that thumbnail kind-of way? I tend to like the first one more. But the second one kind-of looks cleaner and more modern. Yes no?

The journey continues- this morning I was going through the movements again, since I really like them. And I figured this is not just for seniors, but for everyone. Maybe most of all for myself. My legs lost a lot of power since I was 17, and I need to build up again.

Maybe with music, or with a song. However, for the non-musical self inside of me I built it a bit more systematically:

  1. Imagine a clock face on the floor, with 12 o’clock in your front, 3 o’clock to yo’ right, 6 o’clock at your back, and 9 o’clock you-know-where.
  2. Stand with your feet (kind-of) parallel, your feet next to each other, that’s our starting position. Keep your right foot standing where it is, don’t move it. And then take a step with your left foot onto 12 o’clock and back to the starting position.
  3. Then a step to 11 o’clock, and back to start, and then to 10 and to 9, to 8… all the way to 6 (and maybe even 5), and so forth.
  4. And then the same thing, but turn your left foot, together with your leg and shoulders and head and pelvis. But always keep your right foot planted in the starting position. Stay with your right foot in the same position. Bend your knees. Bend your knees a lot. And so forth. And so forth.
  5. For a more Patrick-Step (The kneesovertoesguy) kind-of variation you could stand with your right foot on a wedge, or on a wedge shaped shoe, a women’s comfort slipper with a high heel, of all fashion items. And so forth. And so forth. And then walk like a crab in a circle.

I might make one more video of it. It’s fun! Or at least- not as boring as single-motion exercises, the ones that fitness professionals and fitness victims all alike perform in the gyms. Single-motion repetition drills really fry my brain, like, braindead and all. What good are muscles without a well functioning brain? People pumping iron with big headphones on and loud heavy-metal music, people trying to tickle some neurons while they starve them to death at the same time.