In January of 2016, I decided to do all the Alexander Yannai lesson in sequence start to finish.
There are 550 of these lessons that Moshe Feldenkrais taught in the 1950s through the 1970s. Moshe taught the classes at a studio on Alexander Yannai street in Israel. For some reason, nearly all of Moshe’s lessons are known by where they were taught. So these are known as the Alexander Yannai lessons or as identified by Feldenkrais Practitioners, the AY lessons.
The lessons range from easy to challenging. Some are simple, others complex, some are utterly confusing while others are mind-blowing. We can only imagine Moshe was teaching a range of students from the inexperienced person off the street to professional dancers and athletes.
I decided to embark on this series because it was just too easy to read through the titles and think, “I don’t want to do that one” or “That sounds interesting, I’ll do that one.” I knew I was missing something.
I also wanted to have the experience of being with Moshe. As I do the lessons, I imagine I am with him in his studio on Alexander Yannai street with other students around me doing the lessons.
So I decided to do them all, in sequence start to finish. The project took me two years. I did my best to do one lesson every day … but as you do the math was only able to do about 275 lessons each year.
I did them without question and without hesitation. I would get up about 5, get my dog, Fred, get my coffee and do a lesson. Fred, our Cardigan Corgi, has been my faithful companion through this journey.
The experience has been remarkable and transformational. I did lessons I would never have done by just browsing the titles. I could see connections between them. I could see how some of them were the groundwork for those which would become “classics lessons.” And I got a window into Moshe’s thinking.
The lessons informed my private practice. I would often try to bring in ideas from the experience I had that morning into the Functional Integration (FI) lessons I was giving that day. I also found that I had more flexibility in doing FI. By that I mean if I encountered some limiting pattern my client had I could easily intuit a variation or a way to guide their awareness that would cultivate change in that pattern.
Over time I found myself going to bed at night and thinking, “I can’t wait to get up in the morning, get my dog, get my coffee and do another lesson.”
As I went through the lessons, I categorized them. I had categories for things like extensors, eyes, twisting, those done in standing, or using a chair and so on. I probably have 40 additional classes, and of course, some of the lessons overlap in several groups. I also have a list of ones that I love and a list of those that were really hard for me to do or understand.
It took me two years to go through all 550 lessons. I finished the AY series in late December of 2017. Then I decided to go through each category that I had created start to finish.
First I started with the ones I loved. Curiously, some of them I still loved and others I was like “meh … that was a good lesson but …” The next class of lessons was those that were hard for me to do. And guess what? Most of them weren’t that hard. In fact, most of them were pretty straightforward.
So that’s interesting. That shows a pretty radical reorganization of in myself between then and now.
I also made notes about every lesson. It’s funny to me now. I look back at my early records and see that I wrote maybe 2 or 3 lines describing the position and perhaps a couple of variations. Like these from AY 28, Legs crossed and expanding chest and abdomen: “Position – on the back, legs crossed. Tilting legs, expanding chest/abdomen, triangle arms, lifting head.” Now I write paragraphs about each lesson. You can see that in a couple of recent posts relating to AY 303 and AY 305. [Insert links].
I am continuing my journey through the Alexander Yannai series. I am working through all the categories I created during my first pass through the lessons. My understanding of Moshe’s teachings, myself, and his thinking continues to deepen. I expect I will be on this journey for at least another two years. Getting up about 5, with Fred, getting my coffee and getting on the floor to do another AY lesson.
If you are a practitioner, I strongly encourage you to take this journey yourself. I know there is a Facebook group called AY-a-Day, which is excellent. Do them with that group or do them on your own. Just do them.