What I learned from a master practitioner

Yoda master Feldenkrais practitioner
Yoda, a quintessential Master

Over a year ago I injured my Achilles badly. No specific event, I simply was walking a lot that summer and it became injured and wouldn’t heal.

Months later, frustrated and limping around London, a friend referred me to a practitioner of Feldenkrais, “an educational method focusing on learning and movement“. He made a powerful referral by firmly telling me to go to the practitioner and that if I did not find it way beyond expectations, he would pay for the session for me.

Armed with that recommendation, I went to my first session ten months ago and was blown away! I have then gone periodically since then at a frequency recommended by the practitioner.

Last week was my sixth session in these ten months and they have been absolutely transformational in ways far beyond healing my acute injury.

Today, I will share my learning from my most recent session in the context of what it means to be supported by a practitioner at this level of mastery.

“You are dropping your shoulder”

An apocryphal tale about the top golfer in the world. Top performers in sports and leadership know that to go from great to world class is all about tiny incremental changes, the shift from the top 1% to the top 0.1% and beyond is all about small refinements.

Now, that top golfer had no fewer than four coaches. One for the short game, one for the long game, one for hitting irons, and one overall coach who focussed more holistically on the individual, mostly on the “inches between the ears”. That last coach was the “lead” coach for the golfer.

One day the lead coach was watching the golfer warm-up before a competition round, observing them hit their short irons, then mid irons, then driver, a routine they had repeated countless times.

Within literally the first two swings, the coach recognised that the golfer was in almost perfect form in terms of their swing, with only one tiny adjustment they could think of to offer as advice.

It was such a tiny adjustment though, that in normal circumstances the coach would not have said a word. However, on this occasion, they could see that the golfer was a bit distracted. Whatever was behind that, the key was to settle the golfer so they could focus.

So, a few more practice swings in, with absolutely perfect strikes every time, the golfer turned to their coach and said: “what am I not seeing?”.

The coach simply said: “you are dropping your shoulder”, in short, a tiny adjustment, but, more than that, something the golfer could then use to bring that little bit more focus to their game that day.

Tiny adjustments from a place of deep observation can make all the difference.

Wait until ready

So, back to my Feldenkrais learning.

My first Feldenkrais session was on November 8th, 2018. My most recent one was September 6th, 2019, some ten months later.

At the first session, I could barely put weight on my bad ankle, so I received some treatment but also practiced and embedded in muscle memory a series of movements, which were then emailed to me to practice.

That first session made a huge difference, so I wanted to book to come back soon, perhaps the next week. However, the practitioner calming told me to wait at least 6-8 weeks before the next session and to simply focus on the exercises.

This pattern repeated itself as I had a session every 6-8 weeks. At each session I learned some new practices and then focussed on them as I moved, as I walked in my daily life.

So, to my latest session last week. At this stage my ankle is almost totally healed, our focus for the last two sessions had been on what was happening “at source” that had caused the ankle to become injured in the first place. In that work we had identified two much older injuries that I had been compensating for, so the movement lessons and learnings in each of those sessions had been focussed on creating shifts in very deeply embedded behaviour patterns.

Now, at my most recent session, the learnings were no less than teaching me how to walk from the head on down, from head through shoulders to core to hips, then down to legs and finally ankles.

For the last thirty years, I had been holding my shoulders static while walking due to an old basketball injury to my right shoulder. This had created a domino effect of further issues right down my body as I move, so the practitioner had to “restack the dominos” by addressing each issue in turn and at the right moment.

I’m 53 and can truly walk and move now with more flexibility, fluidity and strength than I’ve had in decades, yet the practitioner has had to take ten months to get me to where I am today, and I am fully aware that the journey is an ongoing one!

Now, at that last session, I asked: “when was the first time you noticed my static shoulders”. The answer?: “when you walked into the room for your first session”. Wow. The practitioner had recognised this right away, yet at the same time recognised that they would exercise patience and only give me what I needed and when I was ready to learn it.

They were prepared to wait until I was ready.

Less is More

Both of these stories are about the approach a Master takes in supporting others in their growth and development.

Both of these master practitioners saw everything yet did very little.

In the business world we are so often conditioned that the more we do in the least time the more valuable we are.

Now, let us lift ourselves up for a moment from all that “doing” and recognise that in the coming age of AI, so many “repetitive, recurring” jobs will disappear. What AI will find far more difficult to replace, though, is the ability of humans to understand, to empathise, then to discern, to distil, to edit.

Consider, then, where, like Yoda the master, like the golf coach, like the Feldenkrais master, you too can work in areas where you can add value by working in ways where:

  1. Patience is key
  2. Less is More

Oh, PS, if you are in London and would like an introduction to the Feldenkrais master and are open, humble and hungry to learn from such a master, contact me and I will connect you.

Also published on Medium.