To pivot

In the world of technology start-ups to pivot refers to the process of shifting your business strategy when things are not working out the way you’d hoped, either because your initial plans don’t pan out or because that which had been a success isn’t any longer. 

Earlier this year, shelter in place orders and governmental lockdowns required fellow Feldenkrais® teachers and trainers to pivot. Like so many others whose professional lives had been conducted in-person, we found ourselves asking ourselves: 

How do I offer my services in a suddenly changed world? 

The coronavirus pandemic disrupted — just between us, that’s another one of those fashionable terms I’m getting tired of — our work by imposing constraints few of us had contemplated and far fewer would ever choose. Needless to say, the conditions weren’t up for consideration. The question was, “How do we bring our work online?

Some of us have been exploring the possibilities for years already. It wasn’t easy. No one had done it before, so there was no roadmap to follow, and the idea, to be kind, received a less than encouraging response. More often than not, folks were somewhere between puzzled and annoyed. Both students and fellow teachers told me that they just didn’t see how our “high touch” approach could work in this high tech way. 

I have to confess. These reactions confused me. 

You see, I started giving my mom Awareness Through Movement® lessons over the phone decades ago. Mom was a Feldyfan from the get-go. She liked doing ATM® classes and knew she needed them but didn’t want to trudge across town to attend them. So our over-the-phone line lesson, back in the day when telephones had cords attached to the walls, was a way for me to pay her back for helping out with my training tuition. When I started teaching online, some ten or so years ago, I was struck by how much more is possible when we have a two-way video connection. 

The nay-sayers made me curious, so I’d reply, “Really?” 

My interest piqued, I’d follow up a moment later by asking, “What do you mean?

You know what? 

It didn’t take long. Almost every time, it came down to the same thing. Everyone asked, in one way or another: 

How does hands-on work happen on the web?

Now there are two ways to understand this question. 


How does a hands-on lesson happen when you can’t touch someone?

And, second:

How do you teach someone to give a hands-on lesson online?

While both questions are crucial, I’m going to tackle the first question, the one about how individual learning can happen online, another time. Promise!

For the moment, let’s take on the professional training angle. Can someone learn to give a hands-on Functional Integration® lesson over the web? 

Speaking from my recent experience leading remote Feldenkrais teacher training segments in Australia, France, and the US and teaching in online postgraduate programs, I say the answer is, “YES, absolutely.”

To be clear, I am talking about teaching someone who has already learned the basics to become a better Functional Integrator. Starting from scratch with someone who doesn’t know the essentials — how to make skeletal contact, to track kinesthetically, substitute effort, etc. — is not the aim. On the other hand, someone who has already benefited from personal guidance in the fundamental tactics and techniques of Moshe’s method can make progress through online learning

To be sure, this requires reconsidering how we understand the skills — the pedagogical reasoning, hands-on sensitivity, perceptual acuity, and self-use — the teacher needs and reinventing how we develop them. While distance learning certainly changes the limitations under which we operate, who better to understand how to benefit from constraints than Feldenkrais teachers? (-;

Curious about how this works in action? 

Here’s a chance to find out how Feldenkrais training pivots in today’s online world . . .

We had hoped to offer the upcoming ARTIFICIAL FLOOR master class — an advanced course for Feldenkrais teachers and trainees scheduled at the beautiful Vienna Feldenkrais Institut — as a mixed-format course. The idea was to beam me in, from Mind in Motion’s international headquarters in Santa Cruz, CA, to the folks participating at the institute and, thanks to the miracle of Zoom, to everyone participating from afar. That meant participants could attend in Vienna or could take part from home. 

The FI® lesson the participants would be learning was perfect because it doesn’t require direct contact. Using a board or book to work through the student’s feet, the teacher maintains distance while simultaneously creating a deep sense of connection, which happens to be perfect for these strange, socially-distanced times. This lesson evokes a newfound feeling for standing and an easy, efficient, enjoyable way of walking by tapping into the foot’s neurophysical influence on the entire body.

However, it wasn’t meant to be. 

If you’ve been following the news, you know what I mean. The dreaded second wave of the pandemic has arrived, spawning a recent spate of shutdowns around the world, including in Austria. When we heard that meeting in person would no longer be an option, the Institute’s faculty and I got together to figure out an ALL ONLINE format for the course.

We have pivoted to offering THE ARTIFICIAL FLOOR in two phases; the first phase meeting, as planned, next Thursday (Thanksgiving in the US) through the following Monday :

Phase One – Learning the Score

  • Thursday to Sunday, 26 November to 29 November 2020
    3:00 to 7:00 PM in Europe
    9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on the east coast of the US
    6:00 to 10:00 AM on the west coast of the US

  • Monday, 30 November 2020
    3:00 to 6:00 PM in Europe
    9:00 AM to noon EST
    6:00 to 9:00 AM PST

The second phase will meet at the beginning of next year after the participants have had a chance to review the recordings and to apply what they’ve learned.

Phase Two – Reviewing and Refining

  • Saturday, 9 January 2021
    3:00 to 7:00 PM in Europe
    9:00 AM to 1:00 PM EST
    6:00 to 10:00 AM PST

  • Sunday, 10 January 2021
    3:00 to 6:00 PM in Europe
    9:00 AM to noon EST
    6:00 to 9:00 AM PST


Both phases are included in the course tuition, as is access to the recordings of both phases, including the audio files of the specially designed ATM® lessons and the videos of the hands-on demonstrations, deconstructions, debriefs, and discussions. 

Please note that this is a course about working hands-on. Participants need to have someone to practice with each day of the course at 4:30 PM  in Europe (10:30 AM EST and 7:30 AM PST) during both the first and second phases. To participate, you will also need a Feldenkrais table and stool, a board, pads for the student’s head, and a couple of rollers, a padded one for behind the knees and firmer, smaller one for behind the ankles. (While this lesson can be given on the floor, it is so much easier for the teacher — and, therefore, better for the student — when the student is lying supine on a table.)

There is still room in this course. 

You’ll find more information about the course at the Institute’s website. If you have questions or if you would like to enroll, you can email the Institute by clicking here or call them at +43 699 1133 1043.

If it doesn’t work out for you to participate in THE ARTIFICIAL FLOOR next week, fear not. I will be teaching the course live at the end of April 2022 in Munich.

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