Commentary on Jeff Haller's FI with Dorothy: Ballerina Recovering from Lisfranc Dislocation

This lesson shows just how direct and explicit Jeff can be with a student who is ready to work in her particular activity with a new perspective and specific criteria.  In the first half of the lesson (and at the end), we are clearly in the dance/ballet context.  Jeff, ever the patient fisherman, is happy to wade into those waters and bring his own lures.

We see how a mature and skilled Feldenkrais teacher can enter another person's world/activity, and without possessing those particular skills himself, use the principles of the method to illuminate what may have been historically missing from the client's self image (at 4:35 Jeff says of her ability to lift her leg above her head,  "She's obviously not a member of my family.").  

From the beginning of their lesson, it's clear that Dorothy and Jeff are going directly into the question of how to better understand her upright support. Dorothy explains the details of her injury (Lisfranc's dislocation to her right foot) as well as the context: the orientation, the action and the specific moment of trauma (the pushing off phase). Jeff absorbs the details and affirms how the lack of support contributed to the injury. He then sets the stage for her to uncover how how she's organized around the injury, and which elements of her organization continue to work against her. 

They spend half an hour working in the upright orientation, exploring a number of positions in which she must find the continuous skeletal support through her feet and hip joints.  They work in simple stepping, going up on toes, turning while standing, lunging, etc. 

There are some nice similarities to the issues in the FI with Dick: clarifying the support in the foot and knee and the femoral head into the acetabulum.  But as the lesson unfolds, Jeff zeroes in on the role of Dorothy's lower ribs and spine in helping her create a powerfully supported leg lift. Without the clarity of support through her lower back and ribs, her legs are pushing up into an upper half that's engaged in compensation for the legs, and it makes the torso unable to "catch the wave" of support from below.

Jeff is assessing how coachable she is. How does she take in suggestions, what does she do with the different support?  Can she recognize it? Is it painful or too stressful? How well can she enter and be in the process of the lesson? 

Equal and Opposite: Providing New Criteria for the Person in the Activity

14:30 Lunge
"You gave up something.  B/c you didn't keep an equal and opposite (tone)."  This means she let her weight fall (unsupported) and be caught by emergency muscular effort. 

And he helps her go back and see clearly what she historically, habitually has done.  This is so she can see clearly the difference and discriminate for herself which pattern allows her to be stronger. 

"Do you it how you might have done it before". 

What do they find that will provide the focus of the lesson? 

The standing work helps him assess and discover what the table portion of the lesson will be about. He likely already wants to work with her foot once she's on the table.  The crux of the lesson—the work with her lower ribs—emerges out of the standing work, especially at the 30:00 mark. The real learning will come in how she organizes her torso to lift her leg. 

How the Injury Gets Maintained away from Dance

Jeff: "Okay, so how many steps did you take on the way over here that you rolled in on your right arch?

Dorothy: "All of them?"

Here we have a moment of insight that has been the topic of many longer talks by Jeff: how the person maintains their injury in their daily life. He's talked about the way that people identify with the "benefits" of an activity, but that as soon as they're "out" of that activity and back in "real life" (sitting, standing, walking, waiting, working), their organization and support revert to a degraded version and they continue to maintain their particular injuries and discomforts.  This is true of many people who engage in athletics, performing arts and fitness disciplines: dancers, athletes, musicians, martial artists, yoga students, Feldenkrais—and it includes the teachers and trainers of those methods and activities. He's spoken of the quick slide of some dance teachers who, once they retire, or stop teaching class where for years they had a daily stretching routine at the bar, begin to experience a precipitous drop in their comfort and organization for daily living. 

Restoring the Glide: 

Once at the table, Jeff works with Dorothy's foot to restore the glide to her ankle.  His non-verbal work culminates in the moment where he brings her attention to her lower back.

"Now you watch, as soon as this shape starts to take place, what happens under the left side of your lower back? And then as soon as I provide this support for you, what happens to that side of your lower back…"
He's already pinging her attention for how the support through the right foot connects to the lower back. After explaining it, he uses resistance to help her take over the work of finding the organization in her ankle.

"Terrible.  The place you're never supposed to go.  But, until you can do that——you can't do that."

He then starts to help her connect the lifting of the leg to the support through her lower back and ribs. 

"Find out which leg is easier to lift", but then he goes on:
"How is it easier?"  

Again, he keeps getting more and more explicit with her. Specifying and qualifying their exploration. He keeps leading her with questions, not giving it all away.  Jeff has often said that good teaching only goes 80%, and then the student has to close the gap. 

"My Turn"

Jeff asks her stand up so he can demonstrate for her what he's been pointing to. Dorothy is already a quick and responsive student, but watch the whole process by which the demonstration allows her to really get it. 

Video will start at the 50:00 mark. 

"Where you gonna pull from? No….no…nice idea.  But I still have you."

As soon as she gets a first inkling of the powerful functional experience of organizing with the support in the lower ribs, they switch.  Watch how immediately Jeff is organized on his back to show her with his knee up, head lifted, and ribs into the table.  

"Now if you were going to make me stand up what would you do? No. Close. But you didn't catch me.  Where's my butt? Where are my legs? You have to move me. …So it's as if you're  going to not only make the movement, but you're going to lift all the weight of me as well."

She's lifting in the hip initially, using her hip flexor. Jeff gets her to expand her image of the action and spread the tone for the activity to connect more clearly to the environment (the table and Jeff's weight). Once she gets her lower ribs sequentially into the wheel pattern of support for the lift, she performs the work in an objectively better way.  

Dealing with Lunch

Worth mentioning a moment of true equanimity/maturity . Right in the midst of all this, in the crucible of the lesson, Jeff gets a question from the kitchen staff, and tells them to go ahead and lay out the lunch—all without breaking the flow in the lesson.  Definitely one my favorite moments. There's no effort used to respond. No collapsing away from what's present into any 'reaction'.

The Big Aha

The smile, laughter and the suspended moment of recognition say it all. Using a different orientation, she's found the support, the clarity of the image for the activity she mentioned in the start of the lesson. 

Video will start at the 56:10 mark. 

"Make the whole movement sequentially, so that you can sense that every time you make the movement, that you're continually finding the supportive point…as if you're not going to put any more weight in this foot. So this is truly coming by how you organize your torso."

Here he's giving Dorothy a constraint that will make her find the organization in her torso, without over-relying on the pressure from her foot into the table. This speaks to a particular tenet of how Jeff teaches ATM lesson, whereby the students are asked to make sure the movement they make does not get ahead of the support they are generating (internally and externally) for it.   

watch the way the head of her left femur moves equal and opposite to her left knee as she lifts the leg.  At that moment (1:00:10) She starts lengthening the back in flexion, and she's gotten a hell of a lot better at maintaining an equal space in her acetabulum around the head of the femur as she moves (something Jeff showed Dick with the skeleton in his FI). This allows her to create the axis of rotation/wheel of support for the lift through her lower back/ribs, and not in her hip joint. Or does the organization of the ribs allow her to create the space in the hip joint?  Chickens and eggs...  

Clarification vs. Correction

You'll notice in the lesson that there seems to be an awful lot of clarifying and/or correcting going on.  What do you think about this? 

Are the "corrections" skillfully offered? How does she take to the suggestions? 

Feldenkrais on distribution of tone, the client learning to take over the work,  highjumpers and the Nijinsky story: 

If you've gone through a Feldenkrais training, you probably have watched Feldenkrais' lesson with Jonathan Hughes. But you may not have heard Feldenkrais' narration and commentary on the whole lesson to the students at Amherst. 

This youtube clip gives you the opening talk on distribution of tone, the internal image of the movement. The story about highjumpers and Nijinsky are worth an hour of your time. 

This video will start at 1:20:55 to match the point in the talk below.

Feldenkrais: "I thank you on his behalf, because obviously he did the greatest part of the work. The achievement is his, not mine. I was instrumental to make him an environment for the first time that allowed him to catch up a little bit of the kind of thing he missed by the ignorance and stubbornness and inability to think of the people who are around him."

Worth a listen to Feldenkrais' story about Nijinsky's practice with himself before a performance and the criteria he looked for while sitting in the chair to prepare to go on stage. 

"He sat there until he felt that he doesn't stand on the floor but the floor lifts his legs."

Video will start at the beginning of the talk before the lesson is shown. 

I look forward to your comments, questions.