easier turning… in 15 mins?!

Well, actually, with a just a very small amount of time and some quality attention, all sorts of things can change. Here’s a lesson which I recorded for the brilliant Feldenkrais Guild UK, as part of International Fedenkrais Week, earlier in May. Carve out 15 mins for yourself, sit down, give it a shot.


And if you like that, then have a look through some of the other goodies on the feldenkrais.co.uk site. Thanks to Scott Clark for sorting these.

And finally, there are loads of articles on the Guild site – freshly written for this years IFW. Here’s mine on Feldenkrais and Musicians. Enjoy.

On language

I’m reading Oliver Sacks’ book ‘Seeing Voices’, which he published in 1989. It strikes me just how remarkable it is to hear his voice springing so freshly from the page – a reminder of how writing can carry voices across and beyond lifetimes.

The book investigates the language and culture of Sign. He writes:

“I was astonished to learn about the history of deaf people, and the extraordinary (linguistic) challenges they face, astonished too to learn of a completely visual language, Sign, a language different in mode from my own language, Speech. It’s all too easy to take language, one’s own language, for granted – one may need to encounter another language, or rather another mode of language, in order to be astonished, to be pushed into wonder again.” – Seeing Voices, preface, p xii

There’s a discussion in the first section of the book about children who’ve spent their early years without language (neither Sign nor Speech); one of the things Sacks brings up is the lack of these children’s ability to respond to or ask questions:

“Children, healthy children, are endlessly curious: they are constantly seeking cause and meaning, constantly asking “Why?” “How?” “What if?” It was the absence of such questioning, and the very incomprehension of such question forms, that struck so ominous as note when I visited Braefield” – Seeing Voices, p52

Sacks talks fascinatingly about the interconnected-ness of the development of language (Speech and Sign alike) with the development of abstract thought, a sense of causation, and also the sense of orientation in time. This leads me on to think about other modalities of language and communication, and in particular the beginning stages of the learning of these modes. Sacks quotes the Abbé Sicard’s writings about teaching a deaf man to sign in the 18th century, Jean Massieu, who had “been language-less till the age of almost fourteen” (p36):

“Pronouns also gave particular problems. “He” was at first mistaken for a proper name; “I” and “You” were confused (as often happens with toddlers); but finally they were understood. Propositions aroused especial difficulties, but once grasped were seized with explosive force, so that Massieu found himself able (in Hughlings-Jackson’s term) to “propositionize”. Geometric abstractions – invisible constructs – were the hardest of all. It was easy for Massieu to put square objects together, but a different achievement entirely for him to grasp squareness as a geometrical construct, to grasp the idea of a square. This, in particular, aroused Sicard’s enthusiasm: “Abstraction has been achieved! Another step! Massieu understands abstractions!” exulted Sicard. “He is a human creature.”” – Seeing Voices, p40-41

So what does this mean for the modality of communication though touch, through movement? If it can be thought of as a language, what then are the possibilites for those of us who are aiming at fluency? Some of the detective work that Moshé Feldenkrais writes of in “The Case of Nora”, (a study of his work with a woman who had suffered a stroke) comes to mind. The labelling and differentiation of limbs seems to me to be the corollary of the naming of objects, nouns, in the formation of language. And the differentiation of left and right in an embodied way seems an important, even essential abstract concept. Orientation in space could be likened to orientation in time.

And what of asking and recognising questions? I’ve received many one-to-one Feldenkrais lessons where I’ve been helped non-verbally to differentiate parts of myself more clearly, and as a result to move in a completely new way. But I’ve also had some lessons which have been all about the questions – the how, why, what if… of movement. And those lessons were the ones where I felt like a child being invited out to play.  The sense of surprise and delight. And also of laughing out loud.

To be pushed into wonder again.

Fairlie, Scotland, June 27th

Yesterday I went to Fairlie, on the Ayrshire coast. An unusually warm day for this year so far. It was a pilgrimage of a kind, as in 1940 Moshe Feldenkrais had himself ended up in Fairlie. He’d escaped on the last boat to leave France in June 1940, as the Nazis were occupying Paris, and after a brief spell in one of the internment camps on the Isle of Man (a German sounding surname being a problem in Britain at that time), was recognised from his work in Paris in the Joliot-Curie laboratory and employed by the Royal Navy to work in Fairlie’s newly set-up anti-submarine base. Feldenkrais already had experience researching sonar technology.

Fairlie, Ayrshire, Scotland
Fairlie, from the north of the bay

The village still has its handsome rows of victorian terraces, and by the looks of it, the Village Inn Fairlie is going strong too. Tempting to imagine Moshe Feldenkrais drinking in there…

So during the day he was working on anti-submarine technology, and in the evenings was teaching his fellow scientists Judo and giving lectures on movement and learning. In 1949 he published the groundbreaking book Body & Mature Behaviour, writing in the Acknowledgements at the front of the book:

“The substance of this book was presented before the Association of Scientific Workers at Fairlie, Scotland, in a series of lectures given in 1943-44.” – Moshe Feldenkrais, from Body and Mature Behaviour pVI

The first person mentioned in the Acknowledgements is Professor J.D. Bernal, one of Britain’s key war-time scientists and the person who has secured Feldenkrais’s release from internment.


Fairlie, Ayrshire, Scotland
From the north of Fairlie, looking over to the Clydeport Cranes. The mountains of Arran in the distance.

I was telling my father about my visit yesterday. He visited Fairlie in the war years, and remembers the intense buzz of military activity there. I wonder if he and Feldenkrais passed each other in the main street…


View of Hunterston from Fairlie
From the south of Fairlie looking over the SSSI Southannan Sands to the Clydeport cranes

So I have the views in my mind that Feldenkrais himself had when he was doing all of that thinking and exploring in the 1940s. And it was all happening an hour away from where I live now.

Marie Curie Field of Hope, Fairlie, Ayrshire, Scotland
Marie Curie Field of Hope, Fairlie

To the south of Fairlie I came across The Marie Curie Field of Hope. A poignant connection. Feldenkrais worked alongside Marie Curie’s daughter Irène Joliot-Curie in Paris. It’s also strange to think of Hunterston B just around the corner, one of Scotland’s nuclear power stations. It was in the Joliot-Curie lab the the atom was first split in March 1939.

acknowledgements: Norman Doidge’s The Brain’s Way of Healing, Chapter 5 Moshe Feldenkrais: Physicist, Black Belt and Healer – Healing Serious Brain Problems Through Mental Awareness of Movement

June’s reading list

Time now to begin to catch up with some of the book recommendations from Paul Rubin last week. So I’ve just ordered Helen Keller‘s The Story of My Life and Milton Erickson‘s My Voice Will Go With You. Also still mulling over the very interesting chat I had with Vivien Ellis across Susannah Pell‘s kitchen table, about the arts and health and healing. Lots of leads to follow up there, one of them being the extraordinary project The Manchester Colour Wheel.

Kitchen tables – great places for serendipitous meetings.

Paul Rubin and Julie Casson Rubin’s visit to Glasgow

Last week, the three of us at Feldenkrais Glasgow welcomed Paul and Julie to Glasgow for the first time. It was unseasonably cold, but undaunted they gave a great public workshop followed by 4 days of Feldenkrais practitioner training. Over 40 came through the doors of the Websters Theatre hall to explore how they use their hands and arms. Some great comments after the event: ‘I had rehearsals and a concert last weekend and I felt great when I played’; ‘So delighted I went as it more than lived up to my expectations, and am most definitely hooked…’; ‘best night’s sleep for a long time!’.

photos by Alison McGIllivray & Emily Walker. Feldenkrais Glasgow postgraduate practitioner training May 2015
Glasgow May 2015, Feldenkrais postgraduate training. Paul Rubin, Emily Walker, Steven Whinnery, Steve Cheslett, Rebecca Meitlis, Regina Dietschy, Jae Gruenke, Jane Meek.

We went on to explore the theme of hands and arms in more depth with the practitioner postgraduate training. Ten teachers converged in Glasgow from Switzerland, East Sussex, Cumbria and across Scotland. There was a real warmth in the atmosphere  of communal learning and exploring. And Julie and Paul’s teaching was quite exceptional – lots of tales of their time in the 70s studying with Moshe Feldenkrais. We all benefited hugely from their generosity is sharing with us over 40 years of experience practising and teaching the Method. Some excellent food in North Star Cafe and the Ox and Finch helped too.

photo by Alison McGillivray. Glasgow May 2015 Feldenkrais postgraduate practitioner training. Paul Rubin and Julie Casson Rubin
Glasgow 2015, Feldenkrais postgraduate training, Paul Rubin & Julie Casson Rubin, Alex Frazier, Regina Dietschy, Emily Walker, Hugo the skeleton, Jae Gruenke