The shoulder moves forwards, do you consent?

Stories can be presented from various narrative points of view, in various timelines and structures, and in various styles, such as ornamented or plain. 

Could similar things be said for movement sequences?

Almost two decades ago, when I first studied the works of Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais in a professional training program, most of my teachers and fellow students didn’t seem to worry much about it, but I think how you address people makes a huge difference. Not just in terms of social class, but also on a psychological level in regards to how well a lesson will work to inspire, empower, and „restore each person to their human dignity.”

When I’m giving movement instructions, not making observations, but giving actual instructions, and I instruct you to „The shoulder moves forwards”, instead of „move your shoulder forwards”, what does that make you? What does that make me? Did you ever think about that?

„The shoulder moves forwards”, the disembodied shoulder moves on its own, and you as the owner of that shoulder are a mere witness, a silent observer. Who am I to support, maybe even create, this kind of silent disfranchisement? Did you sign a consent form before class that would allow me to subliminally objectify your shoulder?

Well, maybe, it’s a small thing. But keep your eyes peeled. When teaching I might make such statements too. And you, as my student, on that occasion, should remember to actively choose if you let that shoulder run like some young dog in a park, or would rather slide your shoulder around your ribcage.


In Austria, speaking ze German language, when we teach to groups, we need to choose between the singular thee and the plural y’all. 

When I would say to the group „Please move your shoulders forwards”, I would address all of them as a whole, like a flock of birds. Ontogeny, Phylogeny, boy scouts and classes, to-may-to, to-mah-to. 

People come to me on their individual paths. And even though they are all in the same room, flocked together, in mutual respect, and likely making new friends all along, they didn’t come for the purpose of forming a formation. I’m not training fitness nation, not a military platoon. This is why in teaching to groups I prefer the second-person singular over the plural you.

In a group class I can still see each person as an individual. I can see each student learning, I can see her (or his) physical movements, and to some extend even her (or his) mental activity and emotional state – as reflected through her (or his) movements and physical expressions. And through that strange thing that has no better name than „her (or his) energy”. 

And even though there might be 20 people in the room, and even though you might have chosen to lie down in the row furthest away from me, cozily curled up behind that support beam, next to the wall heater… „Please move your shoulder forwards”, or maybe even better: „Please move thy shoulder forwards”, I may not disturb nor judge, but yes, I care about you and… I see thee.