In 1997, I went to a Con Ed course on movement, exercise and motor control. During the entire two-day course, I didn’t get out of my chair once. There were Venn diagrams, bullet points and theories galore, but the only movement I did was scribbling notes and stifling yawns. I came away with tons of information, none of which I could use clinically. The theories presented about how movement is organized didn’t really tell me anything about how to teach someone how to better organize their own movement. The map is not the territory—the menu is not the meal.
I come from a movement background. Enjoying sports, games and martial arts as a kid, I went to physical therapy school because I wanted to learn more about movement. Sadly, just like the Con Ed course, I learned virtually nothing about clinically related movement.
What is optimal movement—can we codify it? What constitutes sub-optimal movement—and how can we assess it? How can we facilitate improved movement and postural behavior on the part of our patients—thereby reducing pain and improving function? In essence, what do I want to teach—and how do I want to teach it?
Seven years after receiving my shiny new PT license, and after seven years of realizing I wasn’t going to get any meaningful movement training from within my beloved profession, I joined an intensive four-year movement training program in 1990. My Feldenkrais training was great, and I personally learned a lot about my own particular movement deficits in that delicious four years. However, though the experiential part of the training was sublime, it was markedly lacking in logic, reasoning, analysis and application to both daily life and to clinically relevant movement and pain problems.
I got personal and subjective information from one source. I got general and objective information from another source. But there was no connection—each camp used different language, thought along different pathways, and operated with different paradigms. Nevertheless, I could see a glimmer of affinity—though they seemed to be on the opposite side of a chasm, information could still be exchanged. Mostly, I could tell that the movements I learned in my Feldenkrais training could be utilized, with modifications, in my orthopedic practice.
Following that thread, I embarked on a project of bridge-building—knowing full well that bridges tend to get walked on from both sides. Using what I learned in my training with my ortho patients, I experimented and observed, thought and analyzed. I compared movement training techniques and strategies to traditional exercise prescription models. Making tons of mistakes, I developed a thought process and created a language that I could use to document my work and to explain to colleagues what I was doing, and why.
By the time I got to that 1997 ‘movement and motor control’ course, I had a pretty good start on a comprehensive system of rehab-specific movement training. Leaving that course with some degree of deflation and with more than a little empathy for my profession, I was pretty sure I had something valuable to offer to my colleagues. Loaded up with tons of content, having added Yoga and T’ai Chi to my toolbox, and armed with a solid conceptual framework, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. It was then that Therapeutic Movement Seminars came into being.
Since starting in my living room and begging friends and co-workers to come for free, TMS has grown exponentially. From that first weekend course on the hips and low back, we have expanded to offering seven distinct movement-related courses, have written two books, and are now teaching our sixth immersive two-year certification program. We produce our own courses locally and nationally, teach at state conferences and private institutions around the country, and have been traveling to international invitations for the last five years. So, why should you consider trying out this approach?
One, I know our patients love this stuff—they are thirsty for personally actionable information and are excited when they become aware of the control they can have over their own well-being. Two, the most common comments we get on evaluation forms is how much participants learn and benefit from the information personally—they love the way the movements make them feel. And three, since we are aspiring to doctoral level work, I believe we need to provide our patients with something better than what they can get off the internet or from their personal trainer. Finally, on a personal note, I love this stuff—and though I’m no spring chicken, I can’t imagine doing anything