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Featured Region: Southern California, Southern Nevada and Hawaii

By Laura McMurray, GCFP

What is commonly abbreviated as the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America’s Southern California region actually includes all of Southern California, Southern Nevada and Hawaii.  Our region’s 200 plus Guild Certified Feldenkrais PractitionersCM are as diverse as the geography itself. The Region is focusing its energies on its So Cal Expo 2007: Increase Your Awareness—Move to Connect Body, Mind and Spirit Through the Feldenkrais Method®.

This special event will take place on Sunday, April 22, 2007 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Thalians Auditorium (Plaza Level), 8730 Alden Drive, Los Angeles, California 90048. 

The Expo is being hosted by internationally recognized author and Chaplain of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Rabbi Levi Meier, Ph.D. A licensed clinical psychologist and a marriage, family and child therapist, Rabbi Levi’s books include Seven Heavens - Inspirational Stories to Elevate Your Soul.

This event is free and open to the general public. In addition to informative lectures and demonstrations about the Feldenkrais Method, attendees will have the opportunity to experience both group Awareness Through Movement® classes and one-on-one Functional Integration® lessons with Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teachers®.

This is a great place for those already familiar with the Feldenkrais Method to send curious people. Many people struggle to explain the benefits of the Feldenkrais Method to friends, family and other care providers. Some students may have taken group ATM classes for years without trying a private Functional Integration lesson, and vice versa.

A group of enthusiastic, skilled Feldenkrais Practitioners have come together to make this unique community outreach event possible. I had the privilege to recently discuss the event with a few of the key organizers: fellow Southern California Feldenkrais Practitioners Bridget Quebodeaux, Stacy Barrows and Cathy Sweetman.

Bridget Quebodeaux

When asked why she was personally devoting time to an event of this kind, Bridget Quebodeaux replied, “I have a dream.  I want to meet new moms in the sandbox and have our conversations go something like this:

New Mom:  ‘Are you a stay-at-home mom?’
Me: ‘No, actually I work, but my schedule is rather flexible.’
NM: ‘What do you do?’
Me: ‘I’m a Feldenkrais Practitioner.’
NM: ‘Oh, I love the Feldenkrais Method.  My Feldenkrais practitioner was a lifesaver during my pregnancy.’

This is instead of the usual…‘Feldenwhat?!’ 
My hope is that events like the Expo will give the Feldenkrais Method the exposure we need to make our life’s work a household name.  No one knew what Pilates was 15 years ago.  My grandmother knows what Pilates is and yours probably does too.”

Stacy Barrows

One of the key organizers and presenters at this year’s event is Stacy Barrows, PT, GCFP, CPI.  Serving as the director of Century City Physical Therapy, Inc., Stacy just successfully patented a unique foam roller design called the Smart Roller®. Although Stacy’s Awareness Through Movement classes have a waiting list, she still strives to get the Feldenkrais Method more recognition in the general public and among health professionals.  She was clinical director of a recently completed research project measuring the “Effects of Awareness Through Movement with People Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia”.

LMcM: Stacy, Do people with fibromyalgia make up a significant part of your Feldenkrais practice? 

SB: Yes, a lot of them are categorized as myofascial disorders as well. Fibromyalgia tends to be a catch all diagnosis but it has very specific diagnostic criteria. I have found the Feldenkrais Method to be extremely beneficial for these people, especially to improve their quality of life, and to assist them in being active.

LMcM: Do you perceive a change in how the medical profession understands the Feldenkrais Method because of research or is the research driven by the medical communities growing curiosity about the method?

SB: Both. The reason I thought fibromyalgia was a good entity to study is that there is very little research that demonstrates conservative effective treatments that help this population. I knew that the medical professionals would love to have an effective modality that is cost effective and accessible to share with these patients.

LMcM: What is the easiest way for readers to find the study and read it?  Is there an abstract available?

SB: The study has been donated to the Feldenkrais Guild of North America and to the library of the Southern California region of the Guild.
LMcM: Are there audio recordings of any of the lessons used for the study?

SB: Yes, they are available on tape and CD. The lessons for the study were developed and recorded by the late Mark Reese, a Feldenkrais Trainer.  The research could not have happened without his help.  The series of 16 recorded lessons is called:

Moving Out of Pain with The Feldenkrais Method
by Mark Reese, Ph.D.

They can be ordered directly from:
Feldenkrais Resources
Phone: (800) 765-1907
E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The study showed that working directly with a practitioner is more effective, but the important point is that tapes are effective as well.  It is good for people to know they exist as another resource for their experience of the Feldenkrais Method.

Cathy Sweetman

Coincidentally, practitioner Cathy Sweetman was first introduced to the Feldenkrais Method through audio-taped lessons. I asked her how she came to try the Feldenkrais Method
CS: For about eight years I underwent unsuccessful “traditional” physical rehabilitation for injuries to my pelvis and lower back. I should mention that I tried about every non-conventional treatment as well. Chronic pain and fibromyalgia confined my once active, vital self to my bed.  I was living in Muskegon, Michigan at the time and someone gave me the name of a physical therapist who sent me some Awareness Through Movement  tapes. I had no knowledge of the method but listened to the tapes and tried to do the movements as best I could.  I was very intrigued and thirsty to learn more.  I traveled eight hours in a snowstorm, lying down in the back of a Chevy Blazer to attend a workshop with Michael Purcell.  I was excited; finally something made sense even though I couldn’t explain it to myself or anyone else.  He recommended a practitioner (the closest one was four to five hours away) who told me about the training programs in 1993. The seed was planted.

LMcM: What lead you to make the commitment to start a professional training?

CS: I completed one year of the training in 1994. I wanted to reclaim my life back, to learn how to move without pain.  I have to admit I wanted healing and if I had a new profession afterwards that was icing on the cake. That year was just the beginning of a long hard journey but it was transformational.  It was so freeing to hear that I had options about my movements as well as my thinking and that they were so interwoven.  Although for years I couldn’t do much, I loved the exploration; I felt like I was discovering the real me. Upon the recommendation of Educational Director Jeff Haller, I came out to West Los Angeles to work with incredible practitioners at the Center for Physical Health and I worked closely with them for about three years.  I was very fortunate to work with Pat Barragan, GCFP, who was so flexible–I’m speaking of her mind–and imaginative. I was inspired to do what had transformed and enthused me.  I studied Bones for Life® with Ruthy Alon and was certified to teach.  I became a Pilates instructor so I could make a living. And when I wanted to offer more to my clients and continue my learning, I was informed that a weekend training program was starting with Mark Reese & Donna Ray. I never hesitated. I graduated in August of 2005.
Laura McMurray is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais PractitionerCM and the regional representative for the Southern California Region.
e-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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