Leora Gaster – An Introduction to Mind Body Studies – the Work of Dr. Feldenkrais
8/9 March 2014
A Master Class in Clarity
by Janet Heath
From the first “Please lie on your back...” to the final “Any questions?” I sensed we were all enthralled. The group was comprised of people with a wide range of experiences of the work of Dr. Feldenkrais; from reading a book about it to being teachers of several years standing. I was curious as to how “An Introduction….” could be constructed to enable us all to gain something valuable from a two-day workshop. Leora didn’t disappoint. Even the seasoned teachers were heard to say “Amazing!” and “Fantastic!” at the end, and when I spoke to someone who had no experience of Dr. Feldenkrais’ work she said she felt inspired to know and do more.
So what is it that makes Leora Gaster such an inspirational teacher? Together with her mother,
Mia Segal, she was my first introduction to Feldenkrais’ work and I remember then the clarity of her teaching and her very evident passion for the subject, which ensured a high level of
attention and interest from all participants. It’s as if she really wants you to “get it” and I know Leora
is dedicated to spreading what she calls “the work” around the globe so that everyone can benefit
from Moshe’s fantastic legacy.
The two days consisted of a mixture of four ATM lessons divided into several activities. First we did the ATM ourselves, then watched different participants’ interpretations of the instructions given for a movement. We observed, “how they do it” and compared the differences; how far does a movement travel or stop within a person? During partner work we felt the movement patterns in the other person and there were demonstrations by Leora on the skeleton to show how various parts can move in a harmonious way (with very clear explanations) and then we went back to re-experience the movements ourselves to see what’s changed and how it can be made easier.
And perhaps this is what makes the difference – the workshop was all about doing, watching and
comparing differences. We learned how to feel and sense in other people’s bodies and ourselves in order to know what moves, where the movement stops and the timing of it, with demonstrations and explanations, and then we re-experienced to build on what we had already discovered. Small pieces explored and connected in great sensory detail.
For me, it was a very sensory as well as cerebral couple of days with many varied ways of doing and feeling after seeing, in very small and brief sections, and in a way that felt ordered and structured for
maximum ability and interest for the participants at the end. The emphasis was very much on ‘what
can you feel?’ rather than ‘what do you understand?’ And the structure was loose enough to allow for deviations.
As a scientist, Leora has done research to discover how our work works, how it is that the sequences in an ATM can increase a person’s range of movement with no “stretching to reach further” involved. Her sharing of these discoveries added yet another dimension and served to underpin some of our learning. In addition, questions asked by participants would take us “off point” somewhat, but led to Leora demonstrating on the skeleton some other interesting facts about a movement – for instance how the scapula needs to “get out of the way & move downwards” in order for the arm to raise up alongside the ear, then asking us to get together and feel this in a
person. The asides were like gold-dust and as important as the main event in this respect!
A master class in clarity – I think we all came away inspired, educated and wanting more!