Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Feathers, New Hat

Connection Matters      Movement Matters      Mindfulness Matters

“So…why’d you become a Feldenkrais teacher?   And what’s the difference between that and physical therapy, anyhow? ”

I get asked this A LOT.  I became a physical therapist in 1975 because I wanted to help people, stamp out disability, and cure mankind.

Lofty, no?

As a young PT, I didn’t just want to help people and make them feel better, I wanted to save them.  I took as many post graduate classes as I could find.  I found that once I was out of school, I loved learning. I took loads of courses on neurophysiologically-based treatment approaches. I took too many manual therapy courses to count.  I had studied with Maggie Knott herself and was considered a PNF expert.  I served on the faculties of two physical therapy programs.  

Still, I had nagging doubts.

Why did some patients recover quickly and fully, while others did not?  

Even when dysfunctions or disabilities were similar, about 20 percent of the folks I worked with just did not get better, though I certainly did just about the same thing on everyone.

So what was up? 

I decided that I needed see something different.  I needed to look at what I had learned, how I learned it, and what I thought I knew. I realized that being a “therapist” who knew everything, wasn’t working.  It was actually a heavy burden. I didn’t want to work with people by rote and I certainly did not want to “burn out.”

Well, I would soon find out that we don’t get better answers until we start asking better questions; and I was clearly asking the wrong ones concerning my patients. 

I decided to get out of my “box.”

What??  I didn’t even know there was a box…let alone that I was *in* one!  So how could I get out?   

I knew there was more, and, I knew it had something to do with the brain and the body/ brain connection.  That meant it had to involve movement.

I heard about the Feldenkrais Method®  and it looked interesting. I went to an introductory workshop with trainer Mark Reese, who was later to become a mentor to me.  The first day of that workshop, I thought I already knew what he was saying.  I knew about the brain, right?

The second day, when he worked on students, after I picked up my jaw, I said to myself (and to anyone who would listen), “I need to know what he knows, see what he sees, touch the way he touches.”  I was sold.  I knew I had to learn THIS approach.

When I started my training to become a Feldenkrais Teacher® in 1988, I thought I was going to get another feather in my cap.  Another tool for my toolbox, if you will. 


What I soon found out was that what I was getting was a whole new cap.

I am privileged to have had the opportunity to go from being a therapist who “fixes” people to one who helps people learn.  I teach them how to pay attention to how they are moving, and empower them to become investigators who can explore how they hold tension and how to change the habits that are the culprits of their pain or other issues.  I also learned how to learn with them.  Better still, I found I didn’t have to KNOW all the answers. I just had to help them ask better questions.  Our dialogue became not about what was wrong but about what was happening. I now help my student (rather than patient) sense and feel what has been invisible to her. Together we explore how to use her whole self differently, or more efficiently.

This delights me, this exploration and discovery.   And I love that this method is soundly based in the science of neuromuscular reeducation and neuroplasticity.  Current research tells us that by utilizing mindfulness and motor and sensory information, the brain can reorganize and form new pathways for thinking, learning, and recovering skill.  

We all are controlled by the information we give our brain, and by the information our brain gives back to us.

I love this work because I too, explore, discover, and grow.  My specialty is working with Baby Boomers, who, like me, want to keep moving and stay fit as we age.  We are limited by our habits, and we can’t change if we aren’t aware of them.
 Check out my new hat, full of beautiful feathers. 

I look forward to continued awareness and learning every day.

All plumed,


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