An Open Letter from a Feldenkrais Teacher to Her Students and Teaching Community

It Felt Love
by Hafiz

How
Did the rose
Ever open its heart

And give to this world
All its
Beauty?

It felt the encouragement of light
Against its
Being,

Otherwise,
We all remain

Too

Frightened.


This evening I read a piece that made my heart hurt, and before I write anything else, I want to say this. Kristin (and anyone else who has been in a situation similar to Kristin's), I am so sorry that your teacher was not present enough to realize the harm they were doing, and then to not be able to guide you through your flashback and ground you again.

PTSD and other types of flashbacks can happen when you're working in movement. That's the reality I live with as someone who teaches people to explore movement. I was recently teaching a class where 2 out of the 5 people there were experiencing some deep, strong emotion, all at once and unrelated to one another. I've had PTSD-style flashbacks myself. I was once in the middle of receiving a Functional Integration lesson, and suddenly I was convinced I was 11 years old (I was actually about 24), and emotionally re-experiencing some traumatic physical therapy. It's happened during Awareness Through Movement classes too - for those I wouldn't be able to give you a specific flashback, but decidedly negative emotions arose, nearing panic attack.

I've been lucky with all of those experiences. During that 11 year old flashback, my practitioner immediately stopped what she was doing and provided me a safe space to experience the waves of my flashback, then brought me back to reality, and made sure I knew I could check in with her later if I wanted to. In classes, it's always been made clear to me by my teachers that I have the permission to do whatever I need to do to take care of myself, whether that's crying, not doing the lesson, leaving the room, or continuing at my own pace.

Not everyone is so lucky. There are teachers out there in all modalities who do not know how to take care of their students, or who get caught up in their own heads and forget to be present. My advice, whether or not you expect a PTSD episode to happen in the future, is to be picky about your teachers. Talk to them, read their websites, read their testimonials - find out what atmosphere they create, and make sure it's a good one for you.

I want to make a promise to my students, and to my community of fellow teachers of all modalities. I will always strive to offer "the encouragement of light" that Hafiz writes of. I will always strive to teach in a trauma-informed manner. I will always strive to hold space for you, and to validate your experience. 

It is my responsibility and honor to offer a space where my students feel safe enough to explore, and let that exploration go where it may.

 Photo taken in the rose garden in Granada, Spain.

Photo taken in the rose garden in Granada, Spain.