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  • #31
    The Culture of the Feldenkrais Community

    Let me be clear, there are many wonderful, intelligent and dedicated people who are working with clients and helping them. But the Feldenkrais community has some endemic dysfunction. If you've had an incredibly positive experience with the work and wonder why more people don't know about it, I think these are some of the things holding it back:

    Non Athletic "Movement Experts"
    Moshe Feldenkrais was an athlete and in his younger days a physical laborer. The man knew how to carry weight, and even in his seventies--with his damaged knees--he could still execute Judo throws (or so I hear). But many of the current trainers did not have a rigorous background in athletics. I get the impression that many were drawn to the work as a way to address emotional trauma. Many others seemed to come from a New Age background. I think that very few were high level performers seeking to improve their ability to move in a skillful way.

    The lack of athleticism among those early American students seems to have colored how they study and apply the work. It becomes easy to use lessons as a way to achieve a state of pleasant calm, even if you haven't quite figured out how to mobilize yourself for action. Consequently, what you understand and are able to teach becomes increasingly esoteric and divorced from functional improvements that most people care about.

    Lack of Intellectual Rigor
    Becoming certified does not require any kind of academic background. You do not need to know basic A&P, pathology, basic contraindications, how to recognize if you should refer out...

    Feldenkraisers often discuss MF's intellectual prowess and will throw around words like "neuroplasticity" and "sensorimotor homunculus", but the truth is that huge swaths of the Feldenkrais community do not have the basic science foundation that you'd expect them to have---and I'm just talking about introductory material that many teenagers are able to learn without issue at their local community college.

    In order to create a "safe" training environment, discussions often get dumbed down to accommodate the least knowledgeable person in the training room. I think that this ends up creating a culture of ignorance.

    People in the Feldenkrais world often have a "big tent" mentality. If you throw in a little reiki with your FI, no one seems to mind. Some amateur psychoanalysis to explain that crick in your neck? Sure, why not? A myriad of perspectives are embraced--provided they aren't conventional.

    I think this creates a situation where many people have had negative or simply baffling experiences with "Feldenkrais", and they categorize the work as woo. It's an uphill battle from there for the more skeptically minded practitioners.

    There is very little discussion regarding approaches that MF took that were not productive, or ways in which to improve the teaching process.

    In many people's minds, the work still belongs to Moshe, and I think that throws up a substantial hazard. You are encouraged to be creative and think freely, just so long as you stay true to Moshe's Legacy. It's a double bind, and it relegates many to being a poor mimeograph of the man.

    The Hobbyist Practitioner
    A huge swath (perhaps the majority, almost certainly a plurality) of the Feldenkrais community is made up of hobbyist practitioners. These are people who enjoy the work, maybe have a weekly group class and give some FI's. But they aren't paying their bills with it. There is nothing wrong with this, but I would note that it changes how you relate to the "profession".

    If you aren't actively trying to make a living as a practitioner, then the problems in the community that keep the Feldenkrais Method as a fringe activity are inconsequential, so nothing really gets done about it.

    Next time: The Method Itself


    • #32
      I can't add much to this beyond "ditto".

      We're not where we could be and it's our own damn fault.

      If you don't share your toys, eventually the other kids won't want to play with you. Which is dumb, because we have some dandy ones to share.

      I'll get to the FM @ CERN clip soon. Not sure what much more I can add to it, but I'll give it a crack. Other eyes are welcome too -
      Last edited by Dan84; 28-05-2013, 04:11 PM.
      Tactile Raconteur


      • #33
        Hi Mac

        Thanks very much for coming forward and voicing your opinions. Of all the people that I'd invited here, you're the only one that seems to have taken the time to stop by.

        I have to admit I echo a lot of your sentiments and am deeply...morose...about the outcomes. I think I mentioned elsewhere about a friend of mine, who upon graduating the training (the next month, IIRC) enrolled in Physio. When I asked her why, she stated (plainly) "I love the work; I want to be paid to do it". Smart cookie. Today she runs her own physiotherapy practice, utilising FM. Part of me thinks that's a touch disingenuous...most of me wishes I had done it too.

        Like you, I'm looking at PT school (though age and opportunity-cost are getting hard to defray).

        What I find ironic that most of the people who have success in earning a living with Feldenkrais work are PT/OTs/Psychs...yet those are the very people our culture seems to sideline. We should be talking to them more - not less - to see we can share with each other.

        Next post: the FM video
        Last edited by Dan84; 29-05-2013, 10:03 AM.
        Tactile Raconteur


        • #34
          So, one of the things I like about the CERN video is that it's one of the few publicly available videos of Moshe doing hands on work. Like me, you've probably seen the tapes from Amherst etc that show Feldenkrais working with CP kids, stroke victims etc but in their infinite wisdom, the Feldenkrais community has hidden those from public view.

          The other thing I like is: Moshe actually tries to explain what he's doing (and why), in something approaching a succinct manner. I don't know about you, but I find most of his works difficult to read/understand, so this was a rare treat.

          A few brief observations from the first 10 minutes
          • Note his explanation of whiplash: maintained isometric tension arising from shock to the nervous system and spreading (generally) throughout the body as a protective pattern.

          • Notice too that he doesn't try to strip the protective pattern away from the woman ("No, don't change...don't try to change it"). I was heartened to see that in light of the discussion here re: defense vs defect

          • Note that he mobilises distally to her chief complaint...way,way distally. One of the common responses one hears is "No, it hurts in my x". I think what FM is doing here is clever on several fronts. Firstly, there's an attempt to regulate her breathing by making her aware of abdominal contraction. Secondly, he achieves neck movement by sneaking up on her through the movement of her pelvis/legs/spine, in such a way that his central message ("it won't hurt you to move") gets across concretely and physically. It's almost as if he's sequentially building up a repertoire of pain free movement and then convincing her brain to take them on...until the inevitable conclusion becomes "oh yes, and the neck too". He gives a good explanation for this around the 8:40 mark
          • OTOH, I wonder what other effect shifting weight side-to-side in that manner has? IIRC, the vestibulo-occular & cervico-occular reflexes can become damaged in whiplash and may be implicated in maintaining neck rigidity (I'm sure someone will correct me if that's wrong)

          • I liked his assessment methodology: very succinct and without ritual, but nonetheless meaningful to both of them (for different reasons). I note too he frequently returns to these test movements, I think partially for himself and partially as further evidence for her ("You see? It really doesn't hurt"). I don't think this is especially unique to FM but it's good to see Moshe doing it specifically.

          • @9:00 onwards - "pain in her brain" (OMG, did he actually just say those exact words?) + demonstration of why language can harm or heal

          That's all the time I have today but hopefully it keeps the ball rolling
          Last edited by Dan84; 29-05-2013, 10:08 AM.
          Tactile Raconteur


          • #35
            Huh, I was wrong. More stuff seems to be trickling out. Here's Feldenkrais with Erin (little girl with CP). It's narrated by Jerry Karzon.


            It's fairly protracted: I think the dialog begins around 4:30

            This appears to be the companion clip, showing Erin's initial walking pattern / use of crutches


            I'm hoping we can analyse this one too, Mac (and others).
            Last edited by Dan84; 30-05-2013, 09:00 AM.
            Tactile Raconteur


            • #36
              Originally posted by Dan84 View Post
              What I find ironic is that most of the people who have success in earning a living with Feldenkrais work are PT/OTs/Psychs...yet those are the very people our culture seems to sideline.
              Yeah, I went through my training hearing snide remarks about PTs time and time again. On one level, it's just another way to mimic Moshe who aggressively criticized pretty much everyone.

              On another level it's an issue of simple economics from the Trainer perspective (and then this gets picked up by the rank and file).

              Trainers are often making the bulk of their living either directly from the training programs or from their affililiation with the training programs (as a major generator of a referral network). If they limited their audience to professionals like PT/OT, then they couldn't get enough people in their training to make it financially viable, so they let pretty much anyone in.

              If they were upfront with those non-professional students about their chances of success without more mainstream education/training/credentials, many of them would drop out of the training. So there is a financial incentive to downplay members of these professions in order to keep the hobbyists feeling special and paying their tuition.

              I recognize that's a pretty cynical take on it. But there it is.


              • #37
                Maybe we could compare notes with the Bobath / NDT folk here (assuming there are any). I understand we share a kindred methodology in some ways.
                Tactile Raconteur


                • #38
                  I was fortunate enough to spend time watching both work personally (Bobath here).

                  I had the sense that they felt much the same about the person they were handling.

                  Recently I spoke to a therapist who worked primarily with children with CP and she told me she'd never heard of Bobath. In my experience, about 10% of therapists have heard Feldenkrais' name (usually mispronounced) and none really know what he said or did.

                  That's pretty much where we are in PT these days, as far as I can tell.
                  Barrett L. Dorko


                  • #39
                    Fantastic :thumbs_do

                    I had understood Bobath to be popular with PTs/OTs...looks like I was fibbed to.

                    Are PT's not interested in this stuff? Wait...maybe don't answer that :/
                    Last edited by Dan84; 29-05-2013, 08:04 PM.
                    Tactile Raconteur


                    • #40
                      Most have heard of Bobath's name, but that's it. They can't tell you anything of her original work or how that differs from NDT.
                      Barrett L. Dorko


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by Dan84 View Post
                        Like me, you've probably seen the tapes from Amherst etc that show Feldenkrais working with CP kids, stroke victims etc but in their infinite wisdom, the Feldenkrais community has hidden those from public view
                        I went and checked on the status of a project the IFF (international feldenkrais federation) has been working on:


                        If you click a video link on the page above (and not try to pay to download the video) I think there is an option to register.

                        I'm not sure if you need to be a practitioner to have access to these videos, but I would be interested to find out. If it's freely available and the IFF is just trying to collect contact info with the registration function, then maybe there's hope yet that they'll actually get this stuff out to the public (though 30 years late).



                        • #42
                          Originally posted by mpnyo View Post
                          I'm not sure if you need to be a practitioner to have access to these videos, but I would be interested to find out. If it's freely available and the IFF is just trying to collect contact info with the registration function, then maybe there's hope yet that they'll actually get this stuff out to the public (though 30 years late).
                          I think you can just register. I tried making a dummy account just now using random gibberish, and putting in n/a for the training director. I thought it might check some kind of central register, but apparently not.

                          Just use 10 minute email or something as the email confirmation address and flub the rest.

                          Which raises the question - why not just release it on Youtube?

                          Thanks for the tip tho, Mac. Looks like there are lots of samples there of Moshe working with all sorts of conditions (MS, CP, stroke, aphasias etc etc). This could be a great resource!
                          Last edited by Dan84; 30-05-2013, 07:28 AM.
                          Tactile Raconteur


                          • #43
                            I wonder what would make FM more interesting to PT's/OT's/ATCs? I wonder too whether it says something about FM culture (or PT/OT/ATC culture) that it isn't already.

                            Maybe I'm lazy; I never did like to crunch, bend, push and cajole patients (too much work) so I drifted in FM. Maybe that answers the question - FM is predicated on doing less and knowing more. Unfortunately, I don't think FM quite ticks the 'knowing more' box for some(most?) of us and so we end up stuck in some kind of incommunicado limbo.

                            Let me see if I can't find an ATM breakdown from my training notes. I'm pretty sure I have one of the classic ones (like pelvic clock), which is available on People could download it, try it and then compare notes.

                            EDIT: Here's a good one I've regularly done myself and taught to classes-


                            Even 5-10 minutes could be enough to spark a productive dialog and it might be nice to compare the 'why is it done that way' from different perspectives.
                            Last edited by Dan84; 30-05-2013, 09:23 AM.
                            Tactile Raconteur


                            • #44
                              I suppose by this stage I'm talking to myself (c'est la vie).

                              In reflecting on the issue some, I think the reason Feldenkraisers dislike PT is because the intuitive understanding (belief?) that a person is more than a collection of muscles, bones and fascia. Or rather the understanding that those things dance together in different way then we presume a typical mesodermal PT might approach them.

                              Where I think we go astray is that we stop there and don't develop a deep model, nor the tools to think in a deep way. Empiricism and observation are brilliant first steps, but without a coherent language, are difficult to share. Actually, I think this is the exact problem Ellis Amdur identified in his essays

                              I would be among the first to assert that Saito's successors did not and do not exhibit any ability -- or interest -- in training in aiki. It is very possible that such "strong" training, given that it makes physically powerful people, became an end in itself.[xxvi] It is certainly possible that Saito, like so many others in this field, kept internal training methods to himself, but I think it is more likely that Saito was, in large part, an example of what I have termed "osmosis": that, given sufficient intense and intimate interactions with an expert, one can unconsciously steal some degree of the skill, without really knowing what one has accomplished, or at least, how one accomplished it.

                              A product of such osmosis would surely reply, when asked how to replicate the remarkable things he can do, "More practice," which results in the skills passing onwards in increasingly attenuated fashion to subsequent generations.[xxvii] Without a curriculum, transmission is almost impossible.
                              Just my $0.02
                              Last edited by Dan84; 05-06-2013, 08:17 PM.
                              Tactile Raconteur


                              • #45
                                Hi Dan,

                                I'm checking in on this occasionally, so you may not be talking to yourself. I think I've abandoned the idea of writing up my thoughts on "The Method Itself". I don't have the time or energy at this stage to articulate my impressions. There's too much to say and much of it depresses me.

                                I may still type up some warnings and suggestions for the interested, but as my plate gets more full, my drive to do that diminishes accordingly.

                                Regarding the question of why Feldies don't like physical therapy, I mostly agree with you. I would only add that the Feldenkrais practitioners who hold a negative impression of PT are likely operating with a skewed and simplistic understanding of the profession...which has become self perpetuating among Feldies.

                                I know I used to have a negative image of PT which was formed entirely by my interactions in the Feldenkrais world. It wasn't until a period of soul searching that I actually shadowed a good PT and began to appreciate what the profession was and also the quickness with which it was evolving. I realize the PTs on this board may not feel that same way, but from the perspective of someone who has been an actuary/feldenkrais practitioner, it's moving at lightning speed.

                                Regarding how people have gone "astray", I think that your quotation from Ellis Amdur pretty much nails it on the head. But not only has information not been transmitted effectively, I think that it's worth noting that there were gaps in MF's approach. Even if a person ignores a deep model, they can still attend to a critical evaluation of what empirically works. But few feldies will swim out into the "where was Moshe wrong?" water.

                                Poor transmission + No growth --> well...something not good.