An Interview with Kathy James
Kathy James is well-known in our community for her insightful teaching. She draws upon her varied background in biology, zoology, dance, Aikido, and other movement forms such as Pilates and Yoga to craft profound learning experiences. We were curious about her upcoming workshop, “Feats (Feet) Don’t Fail Me Now,” at the 2019 Feldenkrais® Conference in Boulder, CO.
IT: Pardon the pun, Kathy — but your workshop title took me on a walk down memory lane – to 1974 to be exact. Whew! Thanks — I’m back. SO, Kathy, why feet?
KJ: Many experiences motivated me to explore the relationship of our feet to our everyday movements, and how this part of ourselves reflects the rest of our self. My students provide me with continuing opportunities to learn more about this.
In my training with Moshe, I remember how he would lift a student’s whole leg from the foot and make it seem so light. As a beginning Practitioner, most legs felt heavy to me, so I found that image inspiring.
I have also been highly motivated to explore and improve the way I use my own feet. I have injured my knee in Aikido and dog park mishaps, and the use of my feet as it clearly relates to the instability I tend to feel.
IT: You mentioned learning from your students. What do they come to see you about?
KJ: A range really. Folks who have had knee or hip joint replacements, or pain in their knees or hips. Interestingly, people with flat feet AND people with high arches, overly mobile or overly rigid feet. Sometimes, people have received a recommendation for ankle replacements, or they have fused bones in their foot. And, as Feldenkrais® Teachers, we know that low back pain, balance issues, and restricted movement of one’s head and neck can also benefit from attention to feet.
IT: So, observing your students must have provided a lot of background for this workshop. What would you say is the common thread that you observed?
KJ: The use of the foot is central to their situations. It is critically important to integrate the student’s relationship with their feet to the rest of themselves, in order to learn to move more efficiently and with less pain.
IT: That’s a great sound-bite! Tweetable! What are you eager to share in this workshop?
KJ: The human foot’s extraordinary architecture, consists of 26 bones and roughly 33 joints. The foot needs to be
both rigid enough to provide mobility, yet flexible enough to provide support both in standing and the wide range of movements we can perform. Particularly fascinating is the way the arches and bones of the feet lock and unlock to provide a springy quality while lending us a firm connection to the ground that echoes upward through the whole body.
I love working with the ideas of how distal-proximal relationships can clarify an action, or how to initiate an action. In some AY lessons where the focus is on the movement of the toes and ankles, especially on one side, the effect is sensed in the carriage of the head, the same side shoulder, the leg and hip joint, it is a total re-organization. The foot is clearly sensed, the edges and the toes. Proprioception is tuned and turned up.
Each person has a particular and unique shape to their feet, like a fingerprint. Although fingerprints don’t change, the shape of the foot can change, which is evident with students of ATM® and FI® lessons.
IT: What will conference attendees learn from your workshop?
KJ: They will learn how to help their clients develop a more integrated sense of their feet in their everyday movements. Through ATM, they will learn more about the architecture and function of the foot, and how the movements of the foot relate to the knees, hip joints, back, and neck. In FI, they will learn hands-on techniques that support and re-organize the habitual shape and use of the foot. We don’t tend to think about the foot as we do other parts of the body. We put them in shoes, and off we go running, walking, hiking, jumping, cycling, and everything else we do. Simple changes in the way we sense and use our feet can bring about surprising and significant changes through our whole self. It’s exciting to help our students to experience that, and learn it for themselves.
Learn more about Kathy James and her work at www.kjamesfeldenkrais.com