Attila Romandy, graduate of the 2011-2014 MBS Foundation Training, discusses how his education in MBS and the Feldenkrais Method influences his work within a hospital setting, as a massage therapist. He describes how he sees the traditional roles of ‘patient’ and ‘therapist’ shift into an often far more useful relationship, of dialogue and engagement.
In short, I have tried for about a year now to let my experiences with MBS come into my work in the hospital, especially since the February segment, in which we did unusually much work on the back. It’s also very exciting for me because I learn so much from my patients, and I receive a positive ‘echo’, as well. My work, which had started to become tiresome, is now completely different. It’s more of a dialogue with the patients, because the spirit and mindset have changed. Before, I always tried to “correct”, in the sense of repairing. Now, in contrast, I go openly to my patients or clients and I work by asking questions with my hands. It is more of a process in which we are involved, together.
Kurz, ich versuche seit ungefähr einem Jahr meine MBS- Erfahrungen in meine Arbeit im Krankenhaus einfließen zu lassen, und jetzt besonders nach dem Februarsegment, wo wir besonders viel am Rücken gearbeitet haben, und es ist sehr spannend für mich, auch weil ich soviel dabei von meinen Patienten lerne, und ich auch positives Echo bekomme. Meine Arbeit, die mich schon etwas zu langweilen begann ist jetzt vollkommen anders, es ist mehr ein Dialog mit dem Patienten, weil die geistige Einstellung sich verändert hat, früher war ich immer bemüht etwas zu “richten”, im Sinne von reparieren, jetzt hingegen gehe ich offen auf meine Patienten oder Klienten zu, und arbeite indem ich mit meinen Händen frage, es ist mehr wie ein Prozeß in dem man gemeinsam involviert ist.
Living in a Paradise
Attila Romandy “asks questions with his hands” full-time at Hochzirl State Hospital, a public hospital near Innsbruck, where he works as a massage therapist. In addition, he leads qi gong classes, both privately and at the hospital. When Attila recently described his work to a friend and long-time Feldenkrais practitioner, he was initially surprised to hear the response: “You’re living in paradise!”
But then, Attila readily agrees. “I have so many people coming,” he explains, “and I can try out with the Feldenkrais whatever I want. I have the patients for two or three weeks, even a couple of months. I really regard myself as a beginner beginner beginner, and sometimes I don’t know why what we do is having such good results. But, I think it’s just a matter of the learning process. So, I am trying out.”
The list of conditions that Attila sees in his patients is indeed long: degenerations of the spine, of joints, disc problems, many cases of rheumatism, as well as strokes and various neurological disorders, like Guillain Barré Syndrome or partial paraplegia.
“One year ago,” he recalls, “my work was starting to annoy me enormously, because with massage, you can become stuck too much in patterns. You have a patient, and he has problems with the hip, so you’re doing this concept or this concept. But with Feldenkrais, it’s much more interesting, because it’s much more open. You can approach the patient from many more perspectives. No patient is the same as the other patient. I’m working much more than a couple of years ago, because it’s so much more interesting. And I know that I have just started, and there are so many things to learn.”
Patients receive a prescription for massage and, while Attila can speak with the doctors about his ideas and intentions, they are typically unconcerned with the specific course that sessions take. “I’m free to apply what I’ve learned in Bad Toelz to my work with my patients,” Attila notes. As the patients become increasingly involved and active in their own recoveries, the results have more than satisfied the doctors writing the prescriptions. In fact, Attila is currently one of five on the hospital’s staff to have trained or to be in training in MBS or Feldenkrais Method®.
Technique and Sensitivity
The final segment of the Foundation Training, which emphasized hands-on work (or FI®), helped Attila more directly see the applications of MBS to his work in the hospital. “Now, whenever I have people with back pain or problems with the back, I can use this position we learned in Segment X,” Attila explains. “And then I try what Mia showed us, to put the hands on the back and ask, ‘Which direction goes more easily? Which side is easier? Why is it easier? Is it going on this side more easily, because the other side can go in the opposite direction? Or is it something else?”
With each question, Attila listens for an answer, or for a prompt toward the next question. One cue he takes comes from the breath. “Very often,” he describes, “I’m seeing that the breathing is changing in the patients. That for me is a sign that I’m ‘in’ their system. So I just keep going on like this, asking questions with my hands, and seeing what comes back.”
When working with patients with MS or with disseminated encephalomyelitis, Attila often uses the ‘artificial floor’ technique, stimulating the feet and toes with a thin, wooden board. When he receives the new patients, “very often they cannot sense their feet, or they cannot sense their legs properly.” Often, Attila also works with differentiation of the toes, pulling and moving the toes in all directions. After the sessions, differences are clearly noticeable. “You can see how it changes,” Attila describes, “how they are more secure with walking and how they can build up a new pattern of walking.”
While Attila has clearly developed nuanced strategies for working with his patients, he credits the training above all for developing his sensitivity, far above the acquisition of set techniques.
“For me, what changed a lot over the years with Feldenkrais is the sensitivity of the hands. I didn’t know that my hands could become so sensitive. And now I’m just beginning, so I’m very curious how it will go on with the advanced trainings.”
When he began the training with MBS, Attila had already been a massage therapist for 12 years. Even then, he recalls, “When I started in Bad Toelz, I didn’t realize how tense I was – how much tension I had in my body, and naturally, in my arms and hands. And I know I am still way too tense. But, now with less tension in my body, also my sensitivity has changed. I think that technique is not so important. First of all, for me, comes the sensitivity. If you can feel very well with your hands, then many things become obvious, and then you can work.”
Smaller Impulses, Larger Changes
Although Attila is working eight-hour days as a massage therapist, he is clear that MBS-inspired work is not the entirety of his workday. Often the smallest suggestions and briefest interventions are the most helpful. Attila works with a group of patients with fibromyalgia, giving them qi gong classes as part of an ongoing study at his hospital.
For these patients, a full hands-on session often proves too demanding. What works especially well is just doing the first step: scanning the body. “The scan is a very good way for them to get a better sense of their body,” Attila notes. “Also, some of these patients have started coming to my private qi gong class. I started to divide that class, so more or less for the first half, we do Feldenkrais. A scan and a movement. Afterwards, we do qi gong, and the movements in the qi gong are much clearer, much better. I have also seen this for myself. I note how my qi gong has improved.”
“Once they have a short scan, it’s easier to work with them. They are faster in their body. They have a better feeling for their body. Then when we finish, I try to do another scan with them.”
Attila also notes how often a lighter and clearer touch can deliver more information and promote greater learning. After receiving a hands-on session from an Assistant Trainer in the Foundation training, he asked to get a better sense of how she used touch in that particular case. “She explained,” Attila recalls, “that we are not manipulating, but just moving the fingers with the fascia, giving a small impulse. This is also what I’m doing now, and with quite astonishing results. You are doing almost nothing, but there is something changing within the patients.”
When his patients stand up after their sessions in the hospital, Attila usually gives them one final instruction. “Now, don’t go to your room and to your bed, but walk around the hospital for five or ten minutes. Sense what has changed, how your feet are walking. Is your horizon the same as before? Try to find out what has changed.” He looks to engage everyone, including many geriatric patients he might have treated differently, before. “I have 80-year-old ladies, kneeling. I’m always astonished how well older people can change. How they can sense a new lightness or ease in their body and that, at any age, they can change how well they move.”
Altogether, the situation shifts from patient and therapist to two-way communication and inquiry. As Attila describes, “it doesn’t have to be a patient or a client – I have a human being coming toward me, and so we work together. It’s a cooperation. I can give them something, but they also give something to me.” He recalls a remark Mia made in one of the first segments of the seminar: “’You know, when you’re giving a good FI, you yourself will feel better.’ I always have this in my head. For me, it’s just two people in communication. Both of them are learning.”