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The First Appointment - A Study in Scarlet

Allow me to begin with Professor Sir Joseph Bell 1837-1911, a Pioneer in Forensic Science at a time when science was not widely used in criminal investigations. He emphasised the importance of close observation in making a diagnosis and to illustrate this he would pick on a stranger and by observing him, deduce his occupation and other details of the stranger’s life.

Joseph Bell was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, the Sage and creator of the Feldenkrais Method® loved Sherlock Holmes and adopted and emphasised to his students to use the power of observation when first meeting a new client.

As it happens Sherlock Holmes is my go-to comfort read along with the hours that I binge watch Detective series, thrillers, Crime Scene Investigators and the rest, so it was with great joy that during my Feldenkrais training it was suggested that we view the client as a crime scene.

Our bodies — and our faces — store our history, the childhood accidents, emotional trauma, the tragedies, the grief, the hobbies, the occupational posture, the personality, the happiness and more.

One of my Feldenkrais Mentors told me she always looked through the spy hole in her door to observe how the client walked when he came for his appointment. Another teacher mentioned she looked out of the window as the client got out of the car and walked to the front door. The clients are already giving us an introductory map of how they move and at this point they are not aware that anyone is watching so they are not self conscious.

I am a window stalker, I watch my clients walk towards the building. I look at their feet, the shoes they are wearing and whether the shoes allow their feet to be flexible. I look at how they shift their weight as they walk. I look at their shoulders, whether they are dropped, rounded or uneven. I observe if one side of their bodies is stronger than the other. Often I have already made up my mind what lesson I will give to them based upon this initial observation, but they come in, sit down and I encourage them to tell me their story. I listen and observe.

My beloved dog and car, Momo and Oreo are part of the information gathering scenario. I watch the client playing with the pets as they talk. I look at the right and left sides of their faces. What is the distance from the right ear to the right shoulder compared with the left? What is the size of their eyes is one smaller or lower than the other? These observations can give me hints to their habits, how do they use their trunk, or shift their weight? Even before the client tells you he has a bad back, stiff neck, or painful knees, it is possible to see why.

The Feldenkrais Method® is a beautiful amalgamation between science and art, a union of body and mind/brain or … perhaps it is just magical. A lesson for the knees and ankles can transform the use of the back and shoulders, a lesson for the jaw can inspire laughter and spontaneous smiling. A lesson for the eyes can reduce the need to be angry. Learning to walk without pain, can inspire confidence and grace.

When I see a client’s transformation from pain to pleasure with the comment “how did this happen?”, I secretly utter, “Elementary my dear Watson”.

“Mind and Body ….are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning.” Moshe Feldenkrais