You can’t teach Feldenkrais® online

Ever since I started talking about teaching Feldenkrais® online, at least ten or twelve years ago, I noticed a big difference between how my students responded compared to how my colleagues reacted. 

My students and other members of the public were, by and large, mostly curious. Online meetings were a new thing and relatively rare in the pre-COVID 19 era so their questions mostly revolved around the technology and the specifics about how exactly this could work. For instance, they were curious about whether I would be able to see how they were moving during a class. Back when I first started doing this, online meetings were audio-only so the answer to this question has certainly changed over time. Those folks who equated the method with hands-on lessons didn’t understand how it would be possible to receive lessons without being touched. 

A few of my fellow Feldenkrais teachers were enthusiastic about the possibilities for learning but many weren’t. Indeed, most of my colleagues rolled their eyes, shook their heads, tut-tutted, and told me, quite emphatically, that you can’t teach Feldenkrais online. 

The negative responses took me by surprise, made me intensely curious, and that, in turn, led to many conversations. Here are the highlights of what I learned from these conversations:  

  • Though I and a few other pioneers had started teaching Awareness Through Movement® groups via the Internet five or more years ago, I was surprised that most of my colleagues couldn’t imagine the possibility of offering classes and workshops online. This didn’t start to change until the advent of “An AY a day,” precisely three years ago today.

  • Most of my fellow teachers and trainers automatically took it to mean that I was talking about training people to become Feldenkrais teachers — or helping existing Feldenkrais teachers improve their skills and abilities — online. For them, that our method is a “high touch” endeavor automatically and absolutely ruled out the possibility of teaching it via high tech.

Even as video conferencing became better known, my colleagues were adamant that so many aspects of being a Feldenkrais teacher were impossible to teach via distance learning. As we talked about the method, it always came down to one thing that couldn’t be taught online: the hands-on aspect of the method, aka Functional Integration® lessons.

My, how things have changed with the coronavirus pandemic!

The constraints of sheltering at home and social distancing led to ATM® classes popping up all over the world. Fellow Feldenkrais teachers started offering individual sessions online, teaching their students how to “work on themselves” and discovering how this was a wonderful way to help them become their own authority.

If they didn’t want to postpone their next sessions, teacher training programs around the world had no choice but to move online as well. The problem is that there still remains a great deal of skepticism about the feasibility and efficacy of online training in our profession. Most of the International Training Accreditation Boards have been slow to recognize distance learning as a viable option and reluctant (at best) to consider the training that has happenend (and is still happening) online as valid.

The major stumbling block is, of course, the teaching of touch. Granted, learning the art and science of Functional Integration requires being in the same room and making physical contact. However, dismissing the possibility of learning any aspect of the touch that teaches via the Internet only demonstrates a lack of flexibility and imagination.

As you can appreciate, I wondered how these attitudes would affect the enrollment for A TRAINING SEGMENT ONLINE (ATSO) earlier this year. It’s one thing if your training program was forced to move from happening in person to meeting online and an entirely different matter for Feldenkrais teachers and trainees to choose to participate via the Internet. Much to my surprise, the course sold out. 

What’s more important is that the course turned out to be an incredibly positive and productive learning experience. The participants loved considering the basic aspects of the training — the ATSO segment was based on the second year of the fifth Amsterdam International Teacher Training — from an advanced perspective. They appreciated learning to unpack and understand the structure of ATM lessons and how that took their teaching abilities to a whole new level. Even though the hands-on aspects were a new frontier, the participants found this aspect especially enlightening and useful. And they treasured the opportunity to get to know and work with colleagues with varying levels of experience, from those still in training to others with decades of experience. 

A TRAINING SEGMENT ONLINE was such a success that I’ll be offering it again this summer. So you know, the summer session of ATSO begins on 17 June and registration opens on the 3rd.

If you’re interested in finding out what happened when 60+ Feldenkrais teachers and trainees took part in the program, what we learned from this first-ever event, and how I’ve improved it for the next time around, you’re invited to the free webinars I’m offering this coming Wednesday, the 3rd of June. To sign up for either Zoom meeting, please click on one of the links below:

10:00 AM US Pacific time
Wednesday, 3 June 2020

6:00 PM US Pacific time
Wednesday, 3 June 2020

There will be ample time for Questions and Answers.

* As part of the third year anniversary celebration, I’ll be teaching the 8:00 AM Pacific time AY a day lesson this coming Thursday, 4 June 2020. If you’re a Feldenkrais teacher or trainee, you can join in by visiting www.anayaday.com.


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Responses

  1. Good morning Larry. As a 4th year student, who was 11 live days away from graduating when Covid descended the world into chaos, this is a very relevant topic. We have been using zoom in an ad-hoc manner for 3 years mainly in our study group practicing ATM and studying FI videos. ATM online doesn’t seem too far away from listening to recordings of ATM’s for example in some editions of Moshe’s awareness through movement book his lessons are there. DVDs and more recently YouTube videos have allowed a more visual learning. But both these are noninteractive so online live ATMs take this further with some element of interaction. This week we have spent some time on self FI practice and the feedback has been very positive. Yes there are limitations but you can still practice your touch, and do some anatomy learning all without bothering someone else. Good luck with the next online training module. Regards

    1. Hello David –
      Thanks for letting me know about your online learning experience with your study group . . . and for your good wishes for the next round of A TRAINING SEGMENT ONLINE.
      Cheers