For Those Entering the Profession: My Story
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
by: Frederick Schang

Section: Personal Stories

Many people consider me a successful Feldenkrais teacher. I maintain a roster of private students. I've initiated and revitalized Feldenkrais classes and programming for the New York University Graduate School of Physical Therapy, the New York City Parks Department, the Jewish Community Center, and many local fitness clubs, including my current homes, Equinox Fitness clubs and the SAGE center for LGBT Elders. I've also hosted Feldenkrais Trainers and Educational Directors for special events and created the Feldenkrais Festivals, which are now being presented by others around the country.

Newly minted practitioners might look at me and think that I have some inordinate natural talent. I don't. In fact, when I first started, I was straight up lousy. My entrance into this profession, through no fault of my teachers, was hardly auspicious.

I taught my first ATM class at an upscale, celebrity studded, health club in Manhattan.  In the weeks prior to my debuting the "new modality on the schedule," I built up excitement among the members to levels I couldn’t sustain. I told anyone who would listen that I had studied for years to learn "the future of fitness!"  I promised to bring students a way to "live in their bodies with joy for the rest of their lives!" I convinced  
management, too! They offered me a 6:30 PM prime time slot where club members could experience, as I trumpeted, "The Future of Fitness" right after work.  On my big day, the room was packed. The energy in the room was palpable. There was a buzz of conversation. I felt like I was attending a championship boxing match. But instead of getting "kickboxing" or "high impact aerobics," students got "lie on the floor and roll your head side to side. Do less than you can."
The students weren't impressed. Within minutes, half of them left. Next week, the turnout was smaller. The following week, smaller still. Despite being contracted to teach weekly for three months, after four sessions management and I agreed to put the class on "hiatus." I’d bombed.

I was "down," but long ago I’d learned that defeat and a temporary setback are identical when they first occur. What distinguishes a defeat from a setback is not the circumstances in the moment, but one’s perspective in the moment. So, I was “down” but not "out."

During the succeeding months, I waited. I reflected. I plotted. I knew my moment would somehow come. I knew that although five, ten, and twenty-minute miracles were indeed miraculous, they were only miraculous if students were prepared to receive them. If they were looking for Zumba, I would never succeed.

I studied the "Dead Bird" series of lessons and distilled elements that I knew could effect change in virtually anyone; everyone interested in movement would be impressed by an effortlessly-created, but radically-increased, range of motion.

One day, months later, I was substitute teaching a stretch class in the exact same club where I’d bombed earlier. After teaching traditional stretches for half the class, I asked the students if they wanted to know of a way to increase their flexibility without having to stretch at all. Who could say no to that?

I then taught the mini ATM lesson I had prepared.

They were flabbergasted.

"Why can I turn so much more?"

"But we didn't really do anything!"

""How does that work?"

I let the students know I was teaching the Feldenkrais Method and that I was available to teach it on the schedule if they requested it. The health club called me the next day: the suggestion box was full of notes asking me to teach ATM classes and the fitness manager's voice mail was full of messages.

Management at the health club reinstated the class and it has been full ever since. In fact, several of the other facilities run by the same parent company now feature Feldenkrais classes with loyal followings.

I am blessed that in the fifteen years since then, I have gone on to create successful programming for the organizations I mentioned above. I also maintain a full roster of individual clients that keep me busy most of the time.

In my capacity as the New York Region Representative for FGNA, I address the new students in our regional trainings, mentor, and create programming for our regional members. I’m also creating more Feldenkrais job opportunities.

It hasn't always been easy, but I have had a blast in this career so far and I plan to go on teaching and creating for many years to come.  I don’t mean to suggest that my path should be your path. Instead, I simply hope that some ideas from my story spark your spirit in such a way that they help you further realize your Feldenkrais dream.

Frederick Schjang is a 35 year veteran of the fitness industry. He is largely responsible for introducing Feldenkrais Method to Group Fitness Schedules New York at Equinox Fitness Clubs, the New York Parks Department, Reebok Sports Club New York among many others. His awareness through movement class was chosen in the "Best Fitness Class" category by TimeOut NY. His classes continue to be among the most popular in North America.

Frederick Schjang is one of the Founding Faculty members of New York University Doctorate Program in Physical Therapy.

His self produced DVD "What is Feldenkrais?" is a marketing staple for Feldenkrais practitioners. It has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube.

His annual Feldenkrais Festivals draw up to 150 people and have drawn national attention to the Feldenkrais Method. Partners include Jazz at Lincoln Center, Equinox Fitness Clubs, Sirius XM and others. He regularly partners with museums and cultural institutions to present the Method to new markets.

Frederick Schjang maintains a private practice of individual Feldenkrais students, mentors other practitioners in the field.

Frederick is currently the Elected Representative for the New York Region of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America.

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