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Now at Castlemaine Movement Centre

July 6, 2014

Well it’s been a long time between posts… a lot’s been happening too.

The acturelab has moved, hopefully to a long term HQ this time, in Castlemaine:

CMCgaolYep, I’m in gaol…the old Castlemaine Gaol, that is, as part of the newly created Castlemaine Movement Centre. I still practice in and around Kyneton, though, and home visits are possible in parts of the Macedon Ranges and Mt Alexander Shire.


April 21, 2013

acturelab has joined the Kyneton Movement Studio!Image

We’re having a launch this Saturday – please come along.

Festive Season Gift Certificates!

November 14, 2012

in time for this year’s Festive Season….acturelab Gift Certificates!
If you want to give that special someone a local, sustainable, ethical, amazing experience as a gift – we have the solution for you.


Choose from:

$25 half hour individual session

$50 one hour individual session

$100 group classes x 4

or speak to us about workshop and other possibilities!


There’s movement at the station…

September 11, 2012

more on movement: problem = difficulties.

March 4, 2012

Just after I hit the “publish” button on the previous post, I recalled having already written on a similar topic. After a quick hunt, I found this post from two and a half years ago. I haven’t changed position on what I wrote then, but I do think it’s worth fleshing out, as the issue is currently ‘hot’ again and I think it’s high time we moved on to a better framing for the role of a Feldenkrais Practitioner.

So just to recap, Feldenkrais Practitioners work with movement problems; most often those problems present in the form of difficulties; those difficulties arise from either pathology or pain.

Hopefully the diagram below helps elucidate.

If you’re jumping up and down right now saying “There are more bases to movement problems than either pathology or pain! What about…?” you’re correct. I just probably classified the problem you’re thinking of as a puzzle, not a difficulty. We haven’t detailed the right side of the diagram yet, and probably won’t in this post, but soon, I promise, soon…

One of the reasons I want to examine the left side in more detail is, oddly enough, health insurance. Quite a few health insurers in Australia rebate visits to Feldenkrais Practitioners. Mind you, they also rebate – amongst a plethora of other things – for aromatherapy and medically prescribed yoga(!). But anyway, there it is, Feldenkrais Method, invariably listed under (shudder) alternative therapies. More grist to the misrepresentation mill, but that’s another rant. Earlier this year, a group, Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM), launched a campaign to remove the teaching of alt med and alt therapies in Australian universities. They also push for removing alternative therapies from health insurance. You can read about it in this article from the SMH, or this article in The Atlantic . Two things: first, the Feldenkrais Method is not mentioned as far as I know and second, I should declare my support here and now for FSM. Nevertheless, there are stirrings of anxiety roundabouts that Feldenkrais Practitioners might lose access to hard-fought rebates. It’s a tricky issue.

On the one hand, there are practitioners like me whose students rarely, if ever, consider health insurance rebates as a criterion for deciding whether or not to come to a class or lesson. That’s not because they’re rich, but because they simply don’t see it as ‘therapy’. (They’re problem = puzzle folk, bless’em!)

On the other hand, there are plenty of Feldenkrais Practitioners who work in rehabilitation, or in hospitals or adjunct to them, or with chronic pain sufferers, for whose students health rebates are enormously important. And furthermore, beyond the health rebates issue, could there be a place for these practitioners within the FSM model? I think there could be, particularly where there is increasing evidence that medications and/or surgery are no longer appropriate interventions in certain situations. This is especially the case for pain-based movement problems: pain science has pretty comprehensively shown that there is no 1:1:1 direct or linear relationship between tissue damage, nocioception, and the experience of pain. For the most elegantly simple and concrete demonstration of this, read Damage does not ’cause’ pain by BBoy Science.  Aphorism-ised, “pain is in the brain” – and there are a growing number of therapists who are researching, teaching, and innovating in their clinical practice around this understanding. In Australia, Body in Mind and NOIgroup are just two examples; from Canada, there’s the marvellous Humanantigravitysuit blog detailing goings-on North of the equator. In my opinion, Feldenkrais Practitioners have a lot to offer to this research and practice, particularly as it edges toward education as an effective intervention. Learning, particularly embodied learning, is our specialty. And there is precedence for educators (i.e. not therapists) within the medical structure: dietitians are but one example (and their services are rebated by health insurers too). But two things need to happen, I think, for Feldenkrais Practitioners to participate more effectively within science based medicine.

First and foremost, we need to stop allowing ourselves to be called therapists – alternative, complementary, or otherwise. It positions the profession on sides of fences which are simply not in our neighborhood. Learning may benefit a person, but that does not make it a therapy (unless you loosen the definition of therapy so much it’s almost meaningless, as in ‘retail therapy’). It also profoundly limits the public perception of Feldenkrais Practitioners. By way of analogy: while there are dance teachers who claim there are both mental and physical benefits from doing dance classes, people generally enroll in those classes because they think it will be fun, or pleasurable, and not because it might be theraputic.

Second, we need to interact with research and the building of an evidence base in new ways. Based on the Research links page on the International Feldenkrais Federation website, much of the research into the Feldenkrais Method took place between 1990 and 2005 (it seems to have petered off since then). More relevant to this post, much of it attempted to demonstrate the efficacy of the Feldenkrais Method for specific pathology or pain conditions. This is the sort of research you do if you carry the mindset that the Method is, or is equivalent to, a therapy. As a profession, we are always going to struggle with getting the large enough sample sizes, sufficiently well constructed experiments, robust research methodologies, and sufficient distance from cognitive bias, if we continue to persist with this approach. Advances in scientific technology mean that it is now much more possible to investigate the evidence (for and against) on the tenets of the Method: do humans learn the way we (Feldenkrais Practitioners) think they learn? Are the conditions of learning we hold important valid? Does the kind of learning we advocate actually “stick” and if so, how? What really happens in an Awareness Through Movement lesson? If we can’t answer these with any degree of certainty then science based medical folk have every right to dismiss the Method as “interesting but unproven”.

What acquaintances and family friends think I do.

March 1, 2012

As I morosely contemplate the (temporary, hopefully) wreckage of my nose it occurs to me that, following the day before yesterday’s post, I’m going to be starting this series on a negative note.

My nose is currently a wreck because in January this year, my GP referred me to a dermatologist, who took a biopsy, which resulted in the diagnosis of a couple of BCCs (basal cell carcinomas). Removal by MOHs surgery was the only treatment considered, so a little over a month later I am sitting here looking like a made-up extra for a zombie flick hoping that my two skin grafts will heal well. I don’t know about you, but when I hear a health practitioner use words like ‘cancer’, ‘lesion’, and ‘surgery’ in close proximity to my name, the last things on my mind are thoughts of exploration or learning. I want things like certainty and authority and cure. In other words, when I experience fear, my default is to defer to an expert who will deal with this threatening unknown for me. Fear is generally not something I experience these days in association with my body – see my Turkey posts – although this rhinic episode has reminded me what it’s like to mistrust one’s own flesh.

See all those words in blue italics in the previous paragraph? At the risk of ruffling feathers, those words are expressly what a Feldenkrais Practitioner does not do. Somehow, though, when I tell folk that I help people move better, a medical or healing model is their first “box” (familiar category) as they try to get their head around what this “feldenwhatsit” might be. Bear with me while I unpack why this first guess is (while understandable) w-r-o-n-g, using my simple, one sentence definition of what Feldenkrais Practitioners do:

work with movement problems

Let’s begin at the end of that (why not?), with the word ‘problem’, which will probably be about all I can fit into this post. There are at least two common meanings for ‘problem’.

Perhaps the first you thought of was something like a state or source of ‘difficulty’ as in “She can’t play tennis, she has a problem with her knees.”

Almost as common is the meaning ‘question’ or ‘puzzle’, as in “I can’t come out to play right now, I’m working on a maths problem.”

So people come to Feldenkrais Practitioners because they have difficulties or questions around movement – most frequently (in my experience) for the former kind of ‘problem’.

movement difficulties

It’s problem-as-difficulty where the boundaries of Feldenkrais/medical/healing are most slippery and fraught. Movement difficulty (that is, which interferes with everyday function), underlying the specifics of each individual’s situation, has its roots in either pathology (disease or injury), and/or pain. So let’s say you have a child with CP, or your husband is recovering from a stroke, or your sister suffers from chronic pain, or you have a recurrent shoulder pain, chances are you’ll have encountered the medical, and/or possibly the alt. med (healing) communities before coming to a Feldenkrais Practitioner.

What Feldenkrais Practitioners won’t do: diagnose, treat, cure with authority and certainty, or heal the roots of your movement difficulty. That is the job of the health practitioner of your choice. What can muddy the waters here is that (in Australia at least) many Feldenkrais Practitioners are also health practitioners (eg physiotherapists, massage therapists) who do, in their health practitioner role, diagnose, treat etc. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with holding two or more careers at once (hell, I’m also a Cert IV Fitness Trainer and teach English as a Second Language as well, not to mention the occasional lapse back into ‘architecting’) – I’m just suggesting that it’s no wonder that Joe Public out there can get a little confused. And that confusion is not helping anyone.

I can see that this post is already getting very long – and there are some key concepts in the preceding paragraph I want to tease out. So stay tuned for the next post, which will explore a little more of why Feldenkrais Practioners don’t (or shouldn’t) do what they don’t do.

Your friendly neighborhood practitioner.

February 28, 2012

Over the last couple of months I’ve been doing, thinking, writing and not-posting a great deal. Events (both professional and private) have given me a wealth of topics to ponder and act on – so coming up, a series of posts, for which this is a kind of introduction.

I was an architect for some 15 years. I tell folk I’m ‘pro-tired’ now, which means I chose to leave one career for an other, more engaging one, and that I don’t take on architectural clients unless I really, really want to.

But back when I was an architect, I gradually came to develop an ethos and modus operandi for the house-design (domestic) work I did as follows:

  • I expected my work with my clients to be a once-in-their-lifetime experience.
  • The interaction would be intense, intimate, and mutually rewarding.
  • Clients would come to me because they sought change but recognised they lacked the experience, or confidence, or specialist knowledge to sucessfully produce change for the better.
  • My role was as much educative as anything else. It was my responsibility to guide clients into a clearer understanding of: how they lived already; what of that worked and what didn’t work; what their vision for the future was; and how that future could be realised within real world constraints (eg site, budget).
  • Earned trust and mutual respect was fundamental.
  • The experience should be positive, thought-provoking, even fun – and not scarey. Set-backs were inevitable, no matter how carefully all the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed. A fundamental part of my job was to prepare clients to meet set-backs with resilience.
  • There was always a mutally agreed Plan B. And possibly a C and D. Choice always trumped obstacles.
  • From the first meeting to the housewarming party, the process moved forward through loops of question, suggestion, consideration, response, interpretation.
  • The house belonged to the client.* The outcome of the work was the client‘s future life.
  • Some clients had clear ideas for their future life: about what they wanted, or didn’t want. Some had strong visions they were initially unable to articulate; some had a shopping list of loose aspirations they wanted help in sorting and clarifying. Some clients had ideas but lacked confidence in them; some clients came to me precisely because they wanted the stimulation of new and different ideas. In other words, even though people ‘know’ what an architect does, people come to an architect for a broad range of reasons, purposes and outcomes.

These days my modus operandi is pretty similar – if you substitute the word ‘client’ for ‘student’, and the word ‘house’ for ‘self’ (or body, if you must). Though it does involve less drawing, and MUCH less money.

What’s really different though, is in the last dot point. Even if folks’ ideas of what an architect does are as varied (in accuracy as well as scope) as their reasons for seeking one out, you can’t substitute the word ‘architect’ for the words ‘Feldenkrais Practitioner’, because very few people “know” what a Feldenkrais Practitioner does. There is no “What My Friends Think I Do” poster for Feldenkrais Practitioners.**

One of the things I want to do over the next few posts is to flesh out my thoughts around what a Feldenkrais Practitioner does (and does not do), why you might want to seek one out (or not), and how we might frame (or reframe) the profession (at least in Australia). I invite you all to join in the process.

* It’s amazing how many architects lose sight of this one.

** though as I typed that sentence I thought “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if over this series of posts I and you, Dear Reader, put one together?”