Some photos around the web

One big question about photographing Feldenkrais is: to pose or not to pose?

The PR Kit photos are posed; the Swedish Guild recently re-did their website and posed the photos. This is a very understandable step. It would be challenging to create an image that’s attractive and that communicates something where there’s the typical Feldenkrais “chaos” in the room.

The typical Feldenkrais chaos I’m referring to comes from the fact that everyone is following their own pace and engaging in their own exploration. Yes, there are lessons where we all coordinate in the end, but these are rare.


I really like the website of Feldenkrais Teachers in Seattle for its sense of spontaneity and variety.

Feldenkrais Teachers in Seatttle Website: from

Of course, this is only one person, so that’s another way of controlling the chaos. While using only one person in the photo is in a sense inaccurate, because the lessons are group lessons, it does capture the feeling I have of being alone (in a deep and pleasant sense) in my own exploration in an Awareness Through Movement lesson.

Photographing Feldenkrais

The FGNA Council of Regional Representatives did a lot for Feldenkrais practitioners in the last couple of years in getting a PR Kit produced for practitioners. (You can purchase it at the FEFNA bookstore or download it for free at the members site (off-line at the moment).)

Photos by dance photographer Rosalie O’Connor are among the gems of the kit.

I was recently using some of them to make cards publicizing our Wednesday evening class at the Yoga Loft.

Robert, the owner of the Loft, offered some advice that really made me think about what a good image for Feldenkrais would be.

You want to be able to take the whole poster in in a second or two. Assume that whoever sees it will be walking past it and may not stop unless something about the posters makes them. I keep coming back to this but in that moment they need to see the solution to some problem they have. That makes them stop and take a look. From there poster inspires them with the idea that Feldenkrais has the solution. But you never offer an idea of what that solution is. This part stays entirely within their mind. If you offer a solution they will start to question it. Its basic human nature and a lot of psychology…

457F.inpostReaching for something new: by photographer Rosalie O’Connor.How interesting it would be to explore what it is we’d want to give as a first impression of Feldenkrais, something that resonates for a person, even at a level below awareness, as speaking to their needs!

An interesting challenge in making Feldenkrais images is the cultural vocabulary available to us. There’s a basic cultural vocabulary around yoga at this point (as there might not have been thirty years ago). One can resonate with a sense of spiritual peace, or the sense of a quest that tests the limits, or connection with a community of conscious living, or the sense of taking time to come into touch with oneself, or relaxation, or challenge…. What vocabulary do we want for Feldenkrais?

242F.inpostA new angle: by photographer Rosalie O’Connor.

I particularly like the sense in this image of looking at things from a different perspective; maybe this gives people the sense of that characteristic Feldenkrais feeling of delighted but relaxed discovery of a possibility that never even occurred to one before.

I’m thinking now about exploring this topic in various modes, as a kind of “marketing research” in the best sense. A contribution to our on-going process of self-definition and development of our understanding of what our work is about. We talk and write about that a lot, but how about connecting those words with images? What experience, sense, thought, feeling, mood, possibility that you connect with through Feldenkrais would you like to communicate?

You can leave comments below, or on the images in the gallery here. The comment form lets you submit your own images of Feldenkrais or the “sense of” Feldenkrais!

Self-help or holistic health?

I am reading a paper by Anthony Weston called “On the body in medical self-care and holistic medicine” that explores the difference between what you might call two kinds of challenges to medical authority: self-help movements (the Boston Women’s Health Collective and the book “Our Bodies Ourselves” would be a paradigmatic instance) and alternative health practices (chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine, ayurveda, homeopathy etc. etc.).

(The essay is in a book edited by Drew Leder called The Body in Medical Thought and Practice. You can search it on Alibris or Powell’s but it’s a frightening price on the used book market–hopefully your library has it!)

He starts with a fairly basic observation, and one that was rich for me to reflect on in relation to Feldenkrais. He points out that some of the rhetoric surrounding CAM would have us think that CAM practices are intrinsically self-help practices, but this is not so: in contrast to self-help practices, CAM practices sometimes (not infrequently) replace the external authority of the mainstream physician with the external authority of another kind of practitioner, one whose authority is based in an esoteric system with an alternative metaphysic to the mainstream scientific metaphysic. As a first approximation, it seems plausible to say that the metaphysic can change and all the authority structures remain the same.

(The same can be said, Weston points out, of the so-called “holism” of such practices, but for me this is a topic for another day.)

I believe that by using the distinction Weston works with, we can focus a crucial question about the nature of the Feldenkrais Method (and perhaps related forms of somatic education, though I can’t speak for these), a question with deep implications for how we practice and teach, how we propagate our work in the world, what structure these “professions” (if that is what we will turn out to be) will have.

These questions are at the same time questions about the nature of expertise in the Feldenkrais Method. (And perhaps that question is one of many that stands behind the defining of “competencies.”)

It seems to me that in the Feldenkrais Method we have a practice that is in the deepest and most fundamental sense one of self-care as Weston describes it. For one thing, it fundamentally rejects the formation of an alternative esoteric metaphysics to underpin its practice. This is a controversial claim, I’m sure, but I would be commited to the view that Feldenkrais approached his work as a scientifically-trained engineer with an interest in scientific approaches to the nature and activity of the nervous system in human action.

For another thing, the process we teach is fundamentally one of empowerment, for people to develop the capacity to have a sense of agency in relation to facets of our embodied existence that otherwise we feel at the mercy of, in need of medical expertise to fix or manage. Like restrictions of back pain, for which we think we need MRI scans and surgery, for example–or for that matter restrictions in imaginative approaches to thinking and planning for action in the world, which we think are just our nature or character and nothing we can do anything about.

And for another — the Feldenkrais Method is a development of the natural functions of the human nervous system to learn and explore and experiment in the direction of maturity and growth.

In all these senses we have a practice of self-care.

And at the same time, I would argue, we have practices of teaching classes to the public and of maintaining our training structures that treat Feldenkrais as though it is an esoteric body of knowledge, to be grasped in awed silence. The public comes and lies on the floor; they go through this experience that seems astonishing and mystical in its powers and effects; we keep them passive and self-involved, quasi-sedated, on the floor while one and only one voice leads the lesson; after some time doing that, if you’re addicted, you go away to a training program for 800-1000 hours not infrequently spent doing a lot of more of the same. I’m not really trying to enter into those same old tired discussions we have about The Trainings (as though there is only one, and it’s run by bandits). I want to start to think in other directions, about how we teach our ATMs to start with long before anyone gets to the trainings.

What would it be like to start to teach the Method on Day 1 as though it were a natural extension of processes we all already carry deep in the brain and nervous system? As though from Day 1 it were something people could understand and use for themselves and amongst themselves? As though the first day you do an ATM, you also invent an ATM and take yourself through it? So the Method belongs to the student from the first day of learning it, the way that you start to write your own name the first day you learn how to write letters, and go on writing more and more complex text to express yourself and explore the world without having to go to a training program and get certified in it first. Not because I think training programs aren’t necessary for practitioners! Of course they are. But because I think our students should from the beginning have a more mature relationship to the work.

This is the question that occupies me now. I’m working on a book that takes this approach, and looking at piloting the content in the fall in a different kind of Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement class process…watch this website or sign up to the mailing list on the right for news.

(Weston says a lot of interesting and subtle things as his article progresses, about how entering deeply into the realm of self-care may after all take one to a different metaphysic than the mechanistic, though without the authority structures of esoteric or mainstream medicine, and I hope to return to the topic to write more about those thoughts soon. The question of the nature of expertise in practices of self-care is also a deep one in need of further reflection!)

Dominant leg?

Robert Schleip has an interesting discussion at his website, The Dominant Leg, summarizing an article by Simone Kosog in the science section of the ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin’ (1999) on the fact that we tend to walk in circles to the left, when bereft of external cues to orient us to a straight line.

From our experience with our hands/arms, we create a certain idea for ourselves of what it is to be right-handed, to have a certain dominant hand, to be “stronger” on one side. And if I’m right-handed, am I right-legged too?

But is one side stronger, faster, better–or do they specialize, and typically play different roles, each doing some things more skillfully than the other?

One night, during my Feldenkrais training, with some irritation in one shoulder, I decided to wash dishes “the other way”–to use my left hand to wipe the dishes. To my surprise, far less challenging that using my “weak” arm to wipe was using my “strong” arm to stabilize the dish being wiped. It became evident quite quickly that one side was not so much weaker than the other as it was accustomed to, and skilled in, doing certain activities.

The same is true for our “leggedness”. If you want to know which leg is stronger, ask what for first. To hold your weight? For most people, the left leg. To kick a ball? For most people the right leg. Yes, this will have expression in muscular development among other things down the line.

Moshe’s instruments for teaching included a long thin stick, about the height of a human being. If someone lies on the table and you hold such a stick over him or her, parallel to and above the centre-line of his/her face, you will probably find that the continuation of the centre-line of the face comes closer to one foot than the other: it orients over one leg. Usually the left leg. Usually, then, the left foot is more pointed to the ceiling than the right foot; the latter has its toes turned out more to the side.

The drawing here is obviously very rough, and it exaggerates the phenomenon I’m pointing to! [[I just redid the diagram in 2011: improved the spine, and the tilt of the head. And I did it opposite to what I’m describing–because my own organization produces a more fluid tilted circle and the rest if I’m drawing the stick figured organized in a mirror way to that in which I am organized.]]

If you ascertain which leg this person would find it easier to balance on–the answer is likely to be “the left.”

The right knee might be slightly bent as well, slightly turned to the outside and/or lifted minutely more away from the floor than the left.

Schleip summarizes Kosog’s explanation to say that the right leg is stronger, and therefore we take larger steps with it. And all that hard work of the hard-working strong right leg wears it down, making it shorter.

This is actually a very funny view of walking! Wouldn’t I in fact push off more strongly with my stronger leg–and so take longer steps when the weaker leg swings forwards? Moshe, quoting Mabel Todd quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes, says “legs are spokes” in walking…you don’t reach forward with your leg when you bend it, grab the ground, and pull yourself forward; you swing it to come under yourself just as you pass over it and come onto its support under you. How far you move ahead to pass over it depends more on the leg pushing off from behind–how far that takes your whole body forward; your leg going forward only needs to manage to get far enough forward to be in the right place to receive the weight of your body.

So if the question is “stronger at doing what?”–then the usual pattern is that the right leg is stronger in bending (flexion) and more agile in manipulations in flexion, and the left leg is stronger in stabilizing and pushing off (extension). The right leg carries this preference for flexing into rest–hence it typically lies shorter when I lie on the ground. And you can see that with that configuration, you may well rather stand on your left leg (stronger at standing) and kick with your right leg (stronger at kicking). But not because you’re “right-legged.”

But is it really fundamentally about strength? According to what I just said, I should walk in circles to the right, not the left, without those external cues to help me correct the line, because my left leg will push me off more strongly.

The next level of explanation is to consider the extent to which we, in action, are orchestrating a symphony of inertial forces. Looked at from a certain perspective, we don’t so much act as manage our tendency to fall in this or that direction in the course of carrying out our intentions.

Walking exploits the capacity of ourselves in gravity to act as a spiral pendulum. Take this figure lying on the table with the plumb-line through the centre of his or her face and continuing closer to one foot than the other. Now see this image as vertical, and see the green line as the pivot around which the spiral pendulum turns. Remember that this pendulum involves not just the legs swinging in the hip joints–that’s just the last finesse of walking–but the whole spiralling movement of the spine from the base of the skull down. The left leg swings a very small amount (taking small steps); the right leg swings a lot (taking large steps). The tendency, then, is to drift to the left.

Other explanations or considerations?

Thanks to Eva Laser, Russ Hall, Michael Krugman and Paul Rubin for our lengthy “legs as spokes” discussion on Feldyforum in 2003!

learn one CMS; use one CMS

I discovered open source content management systems a year and a half ago when the IFF needed something along those lines. I put Kinesophics into the first one I learned, phpwcms, a fine system.

The IFF, however, needed something more flexible, and I entered a year and more of challenge with drupal. Even with some pro help, it was a lot of learning. If only Lullabot had started those podcasts a year earlier!

Once you’re dealing with one system, best to stick with it. They all have quirks; they all need upgrades for security reasons. I just spent a couple of days putting kinesophics into drupal.

Smooth sailing indeed compared to my first go round.

I’m not just re-doing the technical basis; I’m rethinking the organization of the content and the conceptualization of my teaching and research in Feldenkrais. The “blog” expands; I separate out now “classes & events” from “learn more,” which gathers together resources for anyone wanting to explore Feldenkrais further.