Feldy Notebook Seven Years Later: An interview with Founder Laura Yedwab

This interview appeared in the FGNA Northwest Region Monthly Newsletter,  December 2017 Edition 

The Member Spotlight this month is on Laura Yedwab, GCFP, FGNA member and founder of Feldy Notebook. FGNA Northwest Region Co-representative Susan Marshall, GCFP sat down with Laura Yedwab earlier this month to talk about Feldy Notebook as a great example of a grass roots project in the NE Region.

Susan: How old is Feldy notebook?

Laura: It all began in August of 2010. I was still a student in my training.

Susan: You came up with this idea when nobody else was doing anything quite like this. What was your impetus?

Laura: As I started learning Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lessons, I wanted to organize them. For example, I wanted to know which ATMs used the pelvic clock.   I started with a cumbersome Excel spreadsheet.

It surprised me how little information was out there about these lessons. If I Googled Pelvic Clock Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson, I didn’t find much. This seemed odd to me–in the 40 some years since Moshe died–we as a community were not developing knowledge sources. You can go back to the original transcripts, but if there is a confusing part of the text and someone else figured it out, you didn’t get to learn from that. Each practitioner was on their own.

I could create my own knowledge base in a spreadsheet, but that would be limited to the information I knew. And no one else in the community would be able to add to it or learn from it. We live in a world of the Internet and I expect information to be shared and linked.

A “wiki” format seemed an obvious way to build a community knowledge base of ATMs. Wikipedia is the best-known wiki. With Wikipedia, people forget that the authors are just everyday people – people who care about the topics. I wanted something similar. I found Wiki Spaces, which is inexpensive and easy to use platform.

Early on I discovered Lynette Reid’s website. She had lots of ATM recordings on her website for free. She also published an excel spreadsheet with brief notes on each AY lessons. Looking at her website, I knew she was my type of person. She became my first user. After she taught a lesson, she would put her notes about the lesson up on Feldy Notebook.

I also wrote up many ATMs. Over the years, many other people have contributed. At this point, there are over 300 lessons. Some lessons include lots of detail. Some have just a synopsis or a link to an audio recording of the lesson. There are even twenty-two lessons with short videos.

Susan: Do you have guidelines or helpful hints for people?

Laura: Yes. We have a How To Contribute page, a Core Principles page, and a page on how to add a new lesson. Adding a lesson is not hard.

Anybody can see the pages. But to contribute or edit, you must be a member. I think is fascinating is that we have 882 members. Considering how many practitioners there are in the world, 882 members is pretty significant!

Susan: When people want to edit something about a lesson, do you moderate it?

Laura: Yes and no. I get an email anytime someone edits a page.

Twice people have tried to “hack” the website. Once I got an email that the home page was edited. I investigated and found out that they had added a link to a porn site!

Another time the front-page photo was hacked. This was funny: the photo shows my dining room table stacked with my Feldenkrais books and resources. Alfons Grabher, GCFP, has been a great contributor to Feldy Notebook, He also wrote a book called: My Feldenkrais Book. I didn’t own the book, so it did not appear in my photo. One day, Alfons photoshopped his book onto my dining room table in the photo! It was cool!

My view is that different opinions and viewpoints are welcome. People share their personal experiences with the lesson. Synopsis and everything above the “Share Your Insights” on the page is relatively factual. Under “Insights,” we can share whatever we want, and even disagree.

Susan: Do you ever get non-Feldys on the page writing? Or is there a way to check whether they are Certified Feldenkrais Practitioners?

Laura: No. But, except for hacking the site, it’s really hard for me to believe that someone will write about an AY lesson, e.g. “AY 112 A plane dividing the body,” who is not a practitioner!

I look at every change that is made. As an example, just today, I got notice of a change to a page. Someone updated an out of date International Feldenkrais Federation (IFF) link to make it work! Yay!

Susan: Do you see who makes the changes?

Laura: I see the username of the person that makes the changes. In fact, I was just thinking about sending an email to this person to say “thank you.”

My goal is to make sure the site doesn’t get trashed. But, fundamentally, it is not for me to say what is shared.

In the beginning people were worried about questions like: Who are the experts? Are experts going to moderate? However, it just has not been a problem. In fact, I would like Feldy Notebook to be so well used and so full of information that this became a problem!

Susan: How can Feldy Notebook positively influence a practitioner’s profession Feldenkrais practice?

Laura: Feldy Notebook is great for finding resources about the lesson, e.g. audios and videos. Currently, it has 74 lessons with audios and 22 with videos. So, you can hear how others taught the lesson and watch how others did the lesson.

It is very good understanding how lessons relate to each other. Many of the lessons point to related lessons. For example, under AY 18 Chanukia, there is a related ATM section that lists AY 68 (rolling fists), SF Errol Flynn, and AY 257 (Arms in Chanukiah – distinctions).

In addition, Feldy Notebook currently has over twenty theme pages that list lessons related to that theme (e.g. pelvic close, breathing, dead bird, and voice). For example, if you are interested in eye lessons, the theme page will show Ellen Soloway’s and Lynette Reid’s lists of their favorite eye lessons. There is also a list of the eye lessons currently in Feldy Notebook. If I wanted to find a new eye lessons, I could look at the ATMs on the list and decide which I wanted to explore.

Susan: So, Feldy Notebook is good for organizing class themes and organizing workshops. And if you are preparing to give an FI, and you know what the person’s needs, you can do a textual or tag search.

Laura: Yes.

Susan: How much time do you spend on it now a week?

Laura: I spent more time this week than I typically do because a bunch of lessons from AY-a-Day got added. I even added a lesson. Maybe I spend a few hours a month.

Susan: I do love that photo of your dining room table. It reminds me of how much depth there is to this work.

Laura: I remember putting this photo up at one of the conferences. And people said “Wow, I would like to have all that material!”

Susan: So, in a way, this is a way for people to have access to all that material.

Laura: The use of Feldy Notebook is not to replace the reference material. If you really want to learn the material, you still have to go to the Amherst material or to the AY material. Feldy Notebook is here to add information about the source material. So, the videos, the picture, the comments, and all their interrelations are supports. Our knowledge about these things grows over time. Before Feldy Notebook, there was only the original material.

Susan: And so here you are seven years and 882 members later. Thanks for sharing!