Comparing transcripts of Gaby Yaron and Jeff Cavaliere

Today I collected two very different styles of teaching. One is from The Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education, and one from a Physical Therapist.

The Feldenkrais bit is from a live class by Gaby Yaron, one of Moshé Feldenkrais’ original Israeli students. „During the second and third years of the San Francisco Feldenkrais Professional Training Program, 1977 and 1978, Mia Segal and Gaby Yaron shared the teaching of Awareness Through Movement classes two evenings per week. These were exciting classes attended by over 100 people including many training program students and members of the general public.” Says the cover of the textbook.

The following text is my own re-telling of the lesson, and not verbatim from the textbook – as these transcripts were never made available for purchase to the general public and intended for Feldenkrais practitioners only. However, I think my re-telling still is a very close representation of how sentences and ideas were phrased in this series. This lesson from San Francisco Evening Classes, taught by Gabi Yaron, „On the side, turning with a straight arm in an arc” started like this:

„Lie on your back, extend the legs. Arms and hands next to the body. Scan your body, feel how your body is resting. Compare your right and left leg. Same length? How do the hip joints feel, the knees, the breathing, the pelvis on the right and left? Compare ribs, shoulder blades, shoulders. Slowly, roll your head left and right. How far is the left ear from the floor, how far the right ear?

Slowly roll onto your left side, bend the knees, put the right one on top of the left. Now extend both hands in front of you on the floor, right palm on left palm.

Slowly lift your right hand towards the ceiling, follow it with your eyes, allow your head to roll along. Move your hand further behind to the right, as far as it’s possible without effort. Allow your head to roll along and keep looking at your hand. Return the hand. Lift the right hand, look at it, move it behind to the right, see how far you can go. Do not lift your right knee. Feel how you are breathing. Continue, forwards and backwards with the hand. Now lift the hand towards the ceiling, stay there, look at it, lengthen and shorten the arm towards the ceiling. The shoulder-blade lifts when the hand moves upwards to the ceiling. And back again. The shoulder-blade moves along. It lifts from and lowers to the floor. Do not bend the elbow. Only the shoulder-blade lifts and lowers.

[..] Slowly roll onto your back, extend the legs, close the eyes, scan your body. How do the heels lie, the ankles, the knees, the hip joints, the pelvis, the chest, the shoulder-blades, the fact? Do you feel how you are breathing? How is the movement in the rib cage? Does it expand to all sides? Do the small ribs at the waist move? Is there more space in the mouth, in the throat? The nose lets more air flow in. Roll your head to the left and right, how does it roll?”

The class started with a so called „scan”, which was then followed by movement instructions, and ended in another „scan”. In this way students have time and opportunity to observe some of the after-effects of the lessons, and the differences it made.

The second text I’m quoting is from a class by Physical Therapist Jeff Cavaliere, which was recorded on video. The teachings couldn’t be more different, both in style and reach. Unlike the textbook of Gaby Yaron and Mia Segal, Jeff Cavaliere’s video is public and free-to-watch. It’s called „The Official Bench Press Check List”, and has been watched more than 8 million times. Here’s the first few paragraphs of the transcript:

„What’s up, guys? Jeff Cavaliere, Today we’re going to talk about the bench press. Classic exercise. Now, it’s probably one that you’ve done a million times, but you’ve got to make sure you’re doing it right all the time because one bad rep on a bench press could lead to a lot of problems. A lot of times, in your shoulders. Sometimes in your elbow. Sometimes in your wrists. Sometimes in your chest, with a torn pec. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing it right.

So I’ve put together a checklist, and we’re going to go through it step by step and make it really, really simple so we’re making sure you nail each portion of this.

The first thing, when you load the bar, ideally you’re doing it in a cage here. Secondly, you’re putting a clip on the bar for safety.

However, I will point out – as someone that has learned this from experience if you’re training at home – you may not want to use the clips. Why? Because if you get stuck and there’s no one around to spot you, your only option to really get out from under that bar is to dump it and if the clips are on here, you’re not going to be able to do that. So again, not something I advise.I would rather you setup in a rack to do it.

Now, the next thing. This is stupid simple, but look over my shoulder here. What is the placement of the bar in the rack itself? Is it centrally located? Because a lot of times you’ll come up and find them kind of like that. All of a sudden it’s already throwing off your alignment and it’s really easy – again, stupid easy to do – but make sure you do it because it’s important.

[..] The next thing is the chest itself. You can’t bench with a flat chest. You’ve got to get your chest up. So what we do is, we pull our shoulder blades down and back, which again, creates a stable base that I can actually push off of. Same thing as I always talk about. You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe. You don’t want to try and jump from a canoe, or jump from sand. You want to jump from a hard surface. You want to be able to press from a firm surface on the other side. So we pull that together.

As the title promises Jeff Cavaliere goes through a comprehensive list of things that are important to know for the fitness exercise „the bench press”, and ends in a call to action (purchase from and support the video creator).

At a first glance his teaching style seems to differ from the default Feldenkrais Method style in the following ways:

  • easier to read / listen to
  • brighter, highly energetic language
  • short, expressive sentences mixed with longer, more difficult ones. As in engaging essay writing.
  • great use of presentation techniques for multi-modal learning
  • makes himself relatable, explains how he has also had to learn this and where he struggled with it
  • easier to understand what he’s getting at
  • works through an easy to follow list of important points
  • mixes in phrases of encouragement

There’s one point very similar to Moshé Feldenkrais:

  • Storytelling. Mixing-in personal stories to illustrate and to underline the importance of his points. And to give students a rest, time to integrate what they have just heard or learned. A moment to breath. In his teacher trainings in Amherst and San Francisco, Moshé Feldenkrais used storytelling extensively.

I see moving through extensive movement sequences a bit like Steven Krashen sees extended reading, for the purpose of improving reading and grammar: during extensive reading we might not notice that we are learning new vocabulary, expressions, or grammar. Nevertheless, learning and language acquisition is happening. We might notice only quite a while later when we are suddenly using expressions (or language) we didn’t even know we knew.

I haven’t watched enough of Jeff Cavaliere’s videos (yet) to see how his energetic style holds up in one-on-one sessions, when walking a person through a set of movements, step by step, while also responding to this person’s learning needs. For example if he had a client who cannot feel or control his shoulder movements, and has no concept (or self image) for the movements of his shoulder-blades. Or how Jeff Cavaliere would go about movements that are beyond stretching and strengthening. Teaching how to correctly hold a hammer to hit a nail might be different from teaching how to re-learn to play the violin after an accident that left one hand largely paralysed. Let’s see. I’m very much looking forward to learn more and to further explore his teaching style.

Ok, this is not a master thesis, just my daily blog post. Baby steps. Tomorrow I will try to re-write the Feldenkrais bit. Keep the core concepts of Feldenkrais, and freshen them up with some „Jeff Cavaliere.” To the best of my abilities, that is. This is an exploration how movement instructions can be combined with essay writing, no promises.