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Featured Region: The Eastern United States

By Chrish Kresge, GCFP

The Eastern Region of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America comprises Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. Currently, there is one ongoing Feldenkrais® professional training program in this region: David Bersin’s Baltimore-Washington III training, with 50 students enrolled. Trainees are in the middle of their second year and will graduate in the summer of 2010.

There are 150 Guild Certified Feldenkrais PractitionersCM in the Eastern Region. We wanted to highlight just a few of the many talented and creative practitioners of the Feldenkrais Method® in our region.

Several practitioners work with horses or equestrians. Keith Johnson, GCFP, writes from Charlottesville, VA. “Currently I find myself offering a combination of services I had not imagined when I started the Feldenkrais training. An intensive series of lessons with injured equestrian athletes morphed into doing mounted Feldenkrais lessons for the riders, and then morphed again into doing Feldenkrais lessons for the horses themselves.  Unlike some colleagues, I came to the work not as a horse work expert (although I was a horse-husband for a number of years).  Now I find myself offering a peculiar combination specialty that coordinates the rider’s movement development with hands-on and in-motion lessons for the horses.  My depth of expertise is with the Feldenkrais Method and human learning, but I have enough experience to be a valuable contributor to the rider’s training of their horses seen from the Feldenkrais perspective.”

Paris Kern, GCFP, who lives and teaches the Feldenkrais Method in Baltimore, MD, calls herself “a Feldenkrais fundamentalist, working with everyone from children to the elderly.” However, she also specializes in working with equestrians and teaching riders “to Ride with the Whole Self”. Being a horseback rider herself, she has worked with many riders who experience frustration in executing their intentions or have a lot of pain. Once they have done a clinic or had a series of lessons, they often report that not only has their effectiveness with the horse increased, and their pain decreased, but they are also riding better. Many times the horses’ pain has also gone away! “I just see what it is that is getting in their way,” reports Paris.

Steve Shafarman, GCFP, lives and practices in Washington, D.C. “In the Amherst professional Feldenkrais training and while I was traveling with him, Moshe Feldenkrais often talked about the harms of exercise. He didn’t like yoga, jogging, stretching, or exercise machines. I’ve thought about that a lot, especially when people come to see me after hurting themselves while exercising.  Watching people do sit-ups, push-ups, and such, it’s easy to see the habits of straining, stiffening, and holding the breath. Treadmills and stationary bikes, it seems to me, condition people to be mindless, robotic and machine-like, particularly when people exercise while watching television or listening to headphones. With yoga and Pilates, people tend to be very concerned about doing it right, and the focus on achieving a specific goal can sometimes impair learning. “

After Steve wrote Awareness Heals, he began to explore ways to exercise that were compatible with the Feldenkrais Method. He devised some vigorous and demanding exercises that teach people to be more aware, to breathe more fully, and to move more comfortably and efficiently. “Students who exercise with awareness,” he says, “gain much greater benefits from Feldenkrais lessons, and they are more likely to retain the benefits.”

He believes that combining the Feldenkrais Method and exercise will be a powerful vehicle for introducing people to the Method. “I want us to be teaching in gyms, health clubs, and everywhere that people do any type of exercise. “

Jaclyn Boone, GCFP, from Princeton, New Jersey, has learned to teach another form of movement in addition to teaching the Feldenkrais Method. Several years ago, the program director of one of the local fitness and wellness centers where she teaches Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) classes persuaded her to take a Tai Chi instructor certification course offered by the National Arthritis Foundation.

“Many who attend my ATM classes suffer from arthritis and have received benefits from regular practice, and so I imagined that teaching a separate Tai Chi class could complement their Feldenkrais experiences. When I attended the Tai Chi workshop, one of the first things that I noticed was the way the instructor’s style of teaching was similar to how we teach an ATM class — gentle, thoughtful, slow speed. I told him this, and he said that he had learned a lot about the Feldenkrais Method when recovering from a martial arts injury. I found the ease and effortlessness associated with the practice of the Sun style of Tai Chi can be as enjoyable as practicing a Feldenkrais lesson. It was also easy to incorporate a new perspective in movement practice into my own teaching style — as if my handwriting became more refined.

When teaching, I keep in mind that there is visual, audible, and kinesthetic learning. In the learning process there usually is an anchor point, or starting place for the student, and a process of exploring and working forward to learn a movement. The ability to have a quiet mind and listen to our nervous system is a skill that improves with practice. And I think that just about everyone can get the benefits of Feldenkrais lessons, whether they learn Tai Chi or not:  reduced pain and stiffness, increased sense of tranquility, improved flexibility, and probably most importantly — continuing enjoyment of practice.”

Anne McDonald, OT, GCFP, is a Feldenkrais practitioner living and working in Washington, D.C.  She says, “As a former pediatric occupational therapist and dancer, I continue to see teenagers with learning disabilities as well as performing artists. Each year I teach a Feldenkrais workshop at The University of Maryland to graduate opera students. Both populations appear to benefit from ATM’s and FI, not only in their improved awareness and use of themselves, but also in their increased stamina for paying attention. Being distracted by that internal “over-excitement or fear” that comes right before performing or being a very excitable kid in a classroom of friends, is considerably reduced by learning the Feldenkrais Method. It’s really exciting to see!”

Tammy Spitzer, PT, GCFP, owns a health and wellness center in Hagerstown, MD, where she offers the Feldenkrais Method as her specialty along with physical therapy.

Prior to her Feldenkrais career, Tammy was a physical therapist, with several specialties in neurology, rehab, pain management and wound care. She now uses the Feldenkrais Method to address many issues for her clients, from incontinence solutions for women to improved movement for runners and walkers.  Tammy suggests that by taking Feldenkrais lessons, her clients no longer consider exercising a chore, but will think of running and walking just as easy and effortless as when they were children. She takes her students through some simple Awareness Through Movement lessons that help them find easier connections of their whole body and make running or walking simple and fun.

Tammy further reports that she worked with a young lady who suffered a brain injury from a gunshot wound. “Over several months, we did many Functional Integration® lessons. Her balance systems were poor, but over time she was able to briefly balance on one leg, and then even jump. She started using a walker and advanced to no assistive device, returned to full work capacity and resumed a beautifully full life. She credits most of her gains through our work together using the Feldenkrais Method, and always recommends others to try the method.

There are so many wonderful stories to share about how the Feldenkrais Method can change the lives of people. I still practice as a physical therapist, but my passion is getting the opportunity to work with my clients using the Feldenkrais Method.”

Her wellness center offers ongoing weekly classes in the Feldenkrais Method.

Jane Johnston, GCFP (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and Chrish Kresge, GCFP(.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) are the Co-reps for the Eastern Region

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