Growing My Feldenkrais® Practice
Friday, August 25, 2017
by: Cathy Paine, M.A., GCFT

Section: Professional Develpment




When I was first asked to write about how I grew my Feldenkrais® practice it didn’t seem to me that my story would be very helpful to anyone else. A combination of desperation, luck, accident, improvisation, and demographics has made it finally possible for me to earn a living as a Feldenkrais practitioner. However, after thinking about it for a while I realized that there was another ingredient, perhaps most important of all - persistence! 
 
I moved to southeastern Connecticut with my husband just over six years ago. Our financial situation was pretty dire, and even though Julyen was starting a new job I needed to get my practice up and running - yet again - as quickly as possible. I’ve been a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm since 1997, and this was our second long-distance move since then.

I was unbelievably lucky in that Allison Rapp was just beginning her first approximation of what has become a major business/mentoring program to help practitioners build their practices. Allison was one of the directors of my Feldenkrais training and she called to ask if I would like to participate as she developed her Heart To Heart program. I jumped at the opportunity, and still use many of the conversational approaches I learned from her.
 
Challenges
Having been a professional dancer/teacher/choreographer for many years, I was pretty sure I knew who my target market was. Wrong. There are dozens of dance studios here, but none of them are for adult professionals, and I wasn’t drawn to work with children. I did meet with several studio owners/teachers. They weren’t exactly drawn to work with me, either!
 
This area is swamped with yoga/tai chi/qi gong teachers, acupuncturists, chiropractors, regression therapists, massage therapists, Pilates instructors, personal trainers, physical therapists, life coaches, and many more. There are very few Feldenkrais practitioners in Connecticut, and as of this writing, none in my area teaching public classes. Thus, I have almost no competition as a Feldenkrais teacher, and yet find myself competing with dozens of other fields of practice claiming the same benefits. Frustrating? Oh yes!
 
The cost of renting space here is often prohibitive - most places rent by the square foot. I rented a church basement for a few months, and after that a meeting room in a professional building where I taught class for two students for over a year. The good news is that those two students still come every week to my Saturday office class. And they bring their friends!
 
Making Connections
This area abounds with business networking groups, so I joined a number of them to practice talking about what I do. I wasn’t very good at it, but at one meeting I met a psychologist who was going into practice for herself and wanted to share an office space. We rented together for two years and are still friends four years later.
 
I arranged meetings with massage therapists, chiropractors, hospital directors, and naturopathic physicians. Nothing came of any of these meetings, except for one chiropractor who now refers people to me, and who also directed me to the BNI (Business Networking International) marketing group.
 
I joined BNI, a rather expensive networking group, which I left having received only one referral in two years. However, that one referral to the director of a senior center has proved to be a fantastic source of support. She loves the Feldenkrais Method and sends people to my class, submits annual articles about my class to the local newspaper, and recently sent the local television news channel to feature my class over all the other offerings at the senior center. She also praises my class to other senior center directors.
 
I discovered that Kiwanis clubs are always looking for speakers - after giving one presentation I was recommended to other Kiwanis groups. I think I gave a total of six or seven presentations for various clubs and senior centers, and one for Lifetime Learners, a membership organization for seniors. These presentations did not immediately bring a lot of new business my way, but I’m still meeting people who remember them (and me) three and four years later.
 
Most recently, one of my clients was so impressed by his first two Feldenkrais sessions that he raved about them to his doctor (a neurologist.) The doctor has since referred two more patients to me.
 
Unexpected Good Luck
When I decided I really had to have my own office space, I finally settled on a new, raw space in the same building as my shared office. But because the building managers kept changing the date the room would be ready for me, I looked elsewhere and found a much better space with lower rent!
 
The first senior center I approached for work hired me to teach an exercise class for $30/hr. I had the credentials to do that, but kept pushing for a Feldenkrais class, and eventually they scheduled me in. The class attracted a very limited number of students, so I found myself teaching for as little as $15/class. Eventually I left that senior center, but two of those students still take class from me at my office location. When the assistant program director of that senior center got a job as director of a different senior center, she immediately reached out to me to teach a weekly Feldenkrais class at a respectable hourly pay.
 
NOTE: Almost all senior centers in Connecticut are subsidized, so instructors are paid a set fee per class while participants pay $5 or less per class. Thus do demographics and geography play a part in my practice!
 
Creative improvisation
I send out a monthly e-newsletter featuring a newly videoed Feldenkrais quick tip. Discovering and creating a new and effective 2-6 minute movement exploration every month is extremely challenging!
 
Translating floor lessons to sitting lessons is also a huge challenge, but a terrific way to deepen my understanding of ATM®. A creative relationship with gravity is one of the fundamentals of the Feldenkrais Method®.
 
This year, five students have driven over an hour from New Haven to attend my office class. Two of them urged me to start a class in New Haven, as they couldn’t do the drive on a weekly basis. I found a yoga studio to rent in Hamden (near New Haven) and offered a nine week summer class series. Rents are reasonable there and I have nine students, which makes it worth the 56 mile round trip drive. I am planning to offer a fall series…
 
It’s Not Perfect
I work at least some part of six days a week. I drive over 200 miles a week, sometimes in rush hour traffic. Sometimes I really can’t remember what day it is…
 
It’s a real effort to stay creative while teaching so many standing and chair classes. (Four of my eight weekly classes are attended predominantly by students unable to get down on the floor.)
 
I often feel a bit isolated from my Feldenkrais colleagues. I can’t afford to attend some of the advanced trainings I would love to experience, but I am developing my own expertise.
 
But It’s Working!
  • I am earning a living doing something I am passionate about.
  • I am meeting some amazing and wonderful people.
  • I have a certain amount of control over how I schedule my time.
  • I see how I am making a difference in peoples’ lives.  
Advice:
  1. Keep going, even when you think nobody is listening. You never know who’s out there…
  2. Keep envisioning the kind of practice you want, and you will make decisions accordingly.
  3. Know that you have something important to offer that’s different from other practices.
  4. Accept that not everyone wants what you are offering.
  5. Accept that there are people you won’t want to work with.
  6. Try new things, even if they make you uncomfortable.
  7. Love your students.

For 19 years, a large part of Cathy Paine’s Feldenkrais® work has been with seniors. She currently teaches weekly Awareness Through Movement® classes at three senior centers and is developing a “Journey To The Floor” ATM® program. She has seen firsthand how re-acquiring and improving access to the floor promotes joy, confidence, and health.
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Comments (6)
Carol Bussey
9/2/2017 10:01:52 PM
Cathy, you are an inspiration to me. I appreciate your 2-6 minute tips.


mary klueber
8/30/2017 10:38:14 PM
Oh, Cathy....What a great article! Thanks for sharing your journey! It is inspirational !! Also, thanks for teaching such a great workshop at the conference!! I will be purchasing the recording to listen to again and again! I look forward to keeping in touch with you over time and hearing more about how it is all progressing....I would have loved to have talked with you more!!

wishing you all the best!
love,
Mary


Leigh Dillard
8/30/2017 12:54:01 PM
Great reading your story, Cathy! Best wishes for continued success.


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