Andrea Bonissone, a long-time practitioner and participant in the 2011-2014 MBS Professional Foundation Training, shares some of his experiences from the current training and from decades of using the Mind Body Studies method toward improving his own quality of life. At 24, Andrea was diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory disease which primarily affects the spine and sacroiliac joint, causing inflammation and fusion between vertebrae. Since training with Mia Segal in Holland in the 1980s, Andrea has used Feldenkrais along with a few targeted therapies, steadily improving his condition over the past quarter-century.
When did you first train with Mia?
Bonissone: At the end of the 80’s, in Nijmedjan, Holland, I attended the complete Basic Training, which now corresponds to the MBS Foundation Program.
How did you first hear about Feldenkrais and Mia Segal?
Bonissone: A friend of mine knew, I don’t know how, that there was this opportunity to learn something through this method. I was interested in it because I was taking cortisone at the time, which damaged me a lot. I decided to go to a training, and Mia was a friend of my father. That was how I found out about her. As I did the training, I continued to get some cortisone, but not so much as before.
What was the cortisone for?
Bonissone: The cortisone was for inflammation, because I have a condition that is called Ankylosing spondylitis. It’s an immune disease that I started having when I was 24, many years ago, and at that time, there was only cortisone for it.
At the end of the 1990s, they discovered biological immunosuppressive therapy, which was something that worked against the inflammation, and you must do an infusion every six weeks. You go to the hospital [to have this done]. Also, last year, I started doing this electro-ion therapy. It’s a new therapy which is not very widely recognized, but I’ve gotten a lot of results during this last year.
The combination of the Feldenkrais and this biological immunosuppressive therapy and the electro-ion therapy is very helpful.
When you first started, what was your first impression? Do you remember?
Bonissone: Firstly, I remember when I felt my back. Mia came to my room in Nijmedjian and they worked with me, as I lay on my back. I had tried physiotherapy before, but it didn’t work. [With physiotherapy,] they would help me, but after that, I had to go back. And the physiotherapy was also very boring. There is a way Mia and Leora teach, what I call their system, that is also a way of learning. That is different from only healing.
I must say that an important thing about this work is to look for your own feelings, finding your own way, because there are so many new therapies and all kinds of things out there.
And did you become a Feldenkrais practitioner after your training in the Netherlands?
Bonissone: I had a different career, so I do this for myself. I am a business and management consultant and a psychological counselor.
Do you find any connections between what you do here and in your work?
Bonissone: In counselling, there are a lot of similarities. For instance, the most important thing is that the person has the resources to recover. My job as a counselor is to help them let these resources come up and be conscious. Not to do something for them, but to assist.
A lot of the principles are the same. In counseling, a person is a system. So is a group, or a family. So, if you do something to one person or talk to one person, you influence the family system. In MBS, when you touch somewhere, you know that you have all the pieces to influence each other. You learn to have a systemic vision, which is very useful.
Why did you decide to take the MBS Foundation course, when you’d already done a Basic Training, decades ago?
Bonissone: For some years, I took Feldenkrais lessons with an Italian practitioner from the Guild (FGNA). But then I discovered again where Mia was teaching, and so I came here (Foundation training currently taking place in Bad Toelz, Germany). My daughter said to me, “If you go, then I will go with you, too.”
It’s very helpful for me to come here and stay here for one whole week, only concentrating on this work. So now I will complete the full course, making up two segments in the coming year, and then I will continue coming for the advanced trainings.
Do you find your training with MBS different than when you originally attended the Basic Training? What attracted you back?
Bonissone: Well, I first decided [to come again] for Mia. Then I could begin to see, between the seminars in Holland many years ago and the seminars here, I think that there are real differences, with improvements in what she does. One difference is the collaboration, and the chance to work with the assistant trainers. Another change is the “in-betweens” and the structure, that Leora added. (“In- Betweens” are part of the way Mia and Leora teach ATM Classes)
How do you use Feldenkrais and MBS between the trainings, on your own?
Bonissone: At home, I do ten minutes a day by myself. When I go back to Italy, I show my teacher (another student of Mia’s) what I’ve done here in Bad Toelz. I also go once or twice a month to receive an FI from her, which is useful.
You said earlier that Feldenkrais works well together with the therapies you receive. How is it that they complement one another?
Bonissone: What we learn in MBS isn’t just about taking care, healing. It’s more about learning, with the whole body. I think that’s why I am pleased with the immunosuppressive therapy. I was more comfortable, so I had an opportunity to improve even further with Feldenkrais.
How has Feldenkrais and MBS changed what you’re able to do?
Bonissone: I can do a lot of things now that I couldn’t do for many, many years. Simple things like just picking something up from the floor, or turning to look over my shoulder, which is very useful for driving! And also, of course, the fact that you feel – you don’t feel – too much like you’re handicapped. That is important. For your mood, for your way of seeing life. If you can do something, you already feel better. It changes how you see everything.