My First Experience as a Feldenkrais Student
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
by: Frederick Schjang, GCFP

Section: Introduction

A little over twenty years ago, I joined a new mom and pop (actual it was five siblings) fitness start-up called Equinox Fitness Club. At the time, my personal training business was thriving and I was managing a residential club nearby, but I felt this new fitness company was somehow different from the rest.

The Personal Training Director, who went on to coach in the Olympics, asked me to develop an education program for the personal trainers to bring them up to my level. At first I was honored, thrilled in fact. But then I realized I had no idea how to develop an entire curriculum. I knew I couldn't send the trainers to college to get the four years of education I had. 
Instead, in my extreme naïveté, I decided to take a class in a modality I’d  heard about. A modality with a reputation for having a great training program. It was one of those mind/body modalities that seemed to enable its practitioners to see and do things that my extensive background in cardio vascular, strength, and flexibility training didn't enable me to see and do. It was the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education and I found out that there were classes down the block from my new place of employment.  
I went to take a class. Remember, I was already a self-anointed and professionally respected "body expert" in my field. I’d presented at national and international conferences. Equinox had chosen me to develop their education program for trainers. When I got to the Feldenkrais venue, I was unimpressed. Equinox had the latest sound and lighting systems; the Feldenkrais venue was a dump. I rode a rickety elevator up to the venue. I waited, along with my fellow students, for the teacher to arrive and let us into the single room where the class would be taught. I thought, "This is something special?"  
It got worse. The instructor sat in a chair and asked us to lie still on a mat for several minutes. He then had us roll onto our sides and do a series of what I thought were ridiculous, too gentle movements. I decided to go along for the ride. I did what he asked. I attended to what he asked us to attend to. As an "expert" on the body, I knew as gospel that to effect change I needed to either tax my cardiovascular system by working it harder or overloading muscles via strength training. Even stretching required the effort of lengthening my muscles more than they ordinarily would lengthen. Every way I knew of working with the body to create change necessitated working harder or more than usual. Needless to say, I was perplexed. But I was there. I complied. 
After exploring the gentle movements on my side and expecting nothing, I returned to lie on my back. I was floored. Half of me had been transformed! It was as if one side had a completely different personality than the other. More perplexing was noticing that the teacher had been reading the instructions out of a book! That meant that the processes and changes were species-wide! The sequence of instructions had been written down long before I had even entered the room!  
I immediately signed up for a series of lessons. I also asked about the training program and found out that it, like my college background, was four years. I ran back to Equinox to let them know that I had discovered the "future of fitness."I described it as "the way to tap into several demographic groups that might never think of coming to a gym." 
Not persuaded, they thanked me for my enthusiasm. Shortly thereafter though, I signed up for the first accredited Feldenrkais Training Program in New York. Equinox, to their enormous credit, altered my work schedule to allow me to attend the training. I never quite told them exactly how long the training program to become a Guild Certified Feldenrkais Teacher® was; I thought I'd better not be too forthcoming after they asked if the training lasted more than a month. 
A decade and a half later, I’m teaching the Method to dozens of people a week in both Awareness through Movement® and Functional Integration® formats and I host presentations and workshops to spread the word. 
The Feldenkrais Method is unique in many ways. Often it is perplexing. At the present time, it has not achieved the cult status of many other approaches that are easier to describe. As a Fitness Industry Professional, I see so many new approaches come, stay awhile, and then get debunked. I often see people in those classes straining and getting hurt as they ignore or disavow their sensations of pain or exhaustion.
As a Feldenkrais teacher, I watch the evolution of my students, many of whom are younger in their minds and bodies now then they were when I met them. When I see the light in the eyes of Feldenkrais adherents and watch them move with graceful awareness in space, I think we Feldenkrais Method adherents may well be the future of fitness after all!

Frederick Schjang, GCFP, is one of the Founding Faculty members of New York University Doctorate Program in Physical Therapy, and is a 35 year veteran of the fitness industry. His Awareness Through Movement class was chosen in the "Best Fitness Class" category by TimeOut NY. Frederick maintains a private practice and mentors other practitioners in the field.

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Comments (3)
veerle van de ven
11/11/2015 1:14:55 PM
today I did have a colleague crying by watching a patient telling her how she could really feel the difference in standing and walking after half an hour of Feldenkrais, it is a MS patient and who did start today a rehabilitation program in our clinic, I'm in a training program and it so incredible what Feldenkrais did create, we only know the top of the iceberg, as you did write, seeing the light in the eyes make you cry

Margot Niederland .
11/10/2015 8:31:50 PM
Enjoyed reading Frederick Schjang's genesis to becoming such great Feldenkrais teacher.

Peggi Honig
11/4/2015 10:17:30 PM
Just love it! Why aren't you going to Garrison this December to discuss the future of Feldenkrais!

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