An Interview with Jonathan Janis, dancer and somatic coach, and Margi Douglas

MARGI: What have been your strongest influences as a mover and a teacher and what excites you about them?


  1. partner dance with a teacher who opened the doors to the psychosomatic connection
  2. ideokinesis/ biomechanics - the ability to change the body with imagery
  3. qi gong - I’ll tell a brief story of my qi gong teacher.  He has combined Jungian archetypal imagery with traditional qi gong movements, in order to form new movements that were expressions of his inner psyche.  In this way, I saw the possibility of everything my earlier study had pointed towards -- the ability to work in the inner worlds using movement, and the ability to allow movement to be infused with the processes of the inner self (which I consider to be the fount of all true art).

These things still excite and drive me today, because they represent the utter dissolution of the mind/ body distinction.  They point to the fact that movement is emotional/ psychological, and psychology is physical/ developmental, and spirituality -- who knows?.  It leaves us with immense freedom to create ourselves in areas that previous generations have considered entirely static.  It points towards the existence of a self that could become anything we dream of.  It is radical in the most fundamental conceptions of ourselves and communities, and I find it to be in alignment with teachings of spirituality and the dissolution of Newtonian physics in the past century.  To possess our physical bodies in this way seems to represent the next great leap forward in human thinking.

MARGI: So combining all three it is really an inside to outside approach, would you agree? What do you find helps your students most to open up to movement on this level?

JONATHAN: No I wouldn’t agree... although I sometimes use that paradigm to explain.  To call something inner and outer is to remain in a body/mind paradigm, and is to say that I start with the mind, whereas others start with the body.  Everyone is always working with all the levels -- that is precisely what Pilates and Alexander technique do as well.  I am just calling more attention to the theory behind it all.  

It so happens that the class I’ve prepared for Pilates Garage is for Pilates-based movements, so I will be offering outer movements, and inner imagery.  However, I also have a private practice called Embody the Question, as well as a corporate consulting business helping management communicate more effectively.  I can assure you that not all my clients want to start on a mat!  With some people, you might say that I have an outside --> in approach, with others all outside, with others all inside.  Once again, it ultimately doesn’t matter what we do.  It’s about about how you engender change in a vastly mysterious human system.  What I strive to be is a “people whisperer,” always asking the questions that are relevant to elicit deeper experience.

I find the key to helping people open up lies in cultivating curiosity, ease, and always referring to actual experience.  If experience isn’t improving, I’m not satisfied.  I refer to children and their pre-socialized learning process all the time. Children are the most open, moldable, and curious people on the planet.  They are also largely the most rational: everything they do is based on what works, without theoretical or social pre-conception.  Until just recently, neurology claimed this was because the brain was somehow more plastic at that age, however the past decade of research has shown that we retain the ability to change at all times.  I don’t think the neurological studies have gone far enough yet, because I see that children have plastic minds, precisely BECAUSE they do things easily, effortlessly, and with joy and exploration.  This is why I’m currently collaborating on an embodiment workshop for children AND their parents in a Montessori school.  We will offer the children tools they can use to grow, but we will learn from the children HOW to best apply those tools.  A child isn’t scared to try something different, but they also won’t go along with something that doesn’t work.  That’s what I encourage in my clients - to take responsibility for their own experience!

I always start with what a client wants to change.  For some it is lack of harmony in a marriage, for others low back pain, and for others higher levels of embodiment in pelvic function.  Whatever the case, by de-emphasizing the “problem,” as a stuck entity and regaining curiosity, we can transform the “problem” into a guide, pointing us to a better future experience. 

An Interview with Caroline Feig and Margi Douglas on Feldenkrais

MARGI: What do you love about teaching and/or practicing Feldenkrais?

CAROLINE: I don't think anything has had as profound of an influence on my work (or self-development) as the Feldenkrais Method.  When you practice the Feldenkrais method, you learn to be able to feel so many things that most of us want to feel. In Moshe's words, "it makes the impossible possible, the possible easy and the easy elegant.”  

M: Ok I'm in! Sounds delicious. How do you usually begin with someone who has never done it? Is there a movement experience or a principle that feels like a starting place?

C: Typically, we start at 1A... The very beginning.   In Feldenkrais, there is a concept of meeting a person where they are, wherever that may be...  It can be so comforting when someone just lets you be you. I can still remember the very first time someone did that for me.  It was very powerful.  It made me feel safe and ready to learn. Then, from there on out, the work becomes more of a dialogue then an instruction.  And actually, "work" is a terrible word for it.  It's more like "play."

M: Ha! Ok so it is play. Do you find that people want to turn it into something else like "strength training" or "yoga" or even "pilates"? It seems very strange, to many people, I think to move in a playful way.  We all are so focused on wanting to do something well or to feel the "right" thing.

C: I couldn't agree more.  Often these ideas of "right" or "ideal," serve little more than a moment in time- like a pose in Yoga or posture with weight lifting. Then when it's time to transition, roll, lunge, swing a racket etc., our ideas of  "right" can actually inhibit our ability to move freely.  Feldenkrais thought that instead of "posture," which comes from the root "to post," the word should be "acture," from the root "to act" to reflect how we hold and use ourselves in three dimensional space.

I believe that there usually is, in fact, a right and wrong for most of us.  But often we forget that the "right" has to do with comfort, ease, fun, joy... a feeling of safety and security... something that just feels right.   Sometimes we don't even know what "feels right."  That's ok!  Feldenkrais is an amazing tool for that.

M: It sounds so freeing. So if I walked into a group lesson half way through what would I most likely see? Are people moving in unison or following specific choreography? What kinds of movement would I see?

C: Well, that is a sight to see!  You would most likely see a group of people hearing the same instruction, but doing what appears to be completely different movements!   And that is part of the method- each is aloud to have his own learning process... move in his own way.  A teacher rarely corrects a student’s movement.  More likely, a teacher will help a student to see what he or she is doing.  And then often, through the process of awareness, something really special happens by the end.  The group does tend to move in unison.  Almost in the way the “om” of the group can resonate more at the end of a Yoga class, the movement in the class starts to resonate too. If you’ve never rolled around in unison with a group of 50 people, I highly recommend!  

M: Thank you Caroline. I take your recommendation. And I am definitely looking forward to your workshop at the Pilates Garage! Come one and come all and get ready to resonate together!

Tuesday October 27th 7:30-9:30pm

Meet with the talented Caroline Feig, physical therapist and Feldenkrais practitioner, for this month's workshop entitled:

Unlocking the Jaw with the Feldenkrais Method

This workshop will focus on relaxing and and improving the movements of the face, neck, tongue and jaw.

Cost: $50
Reservation required
Please call 718-768-123
Location: 441 3rd Ave @8th Street


PC360 Margi Video

Clients at the Pilates Garage are experiencing a new wave of fitness and therapeutic training using the PC360 eccentric band system in combination with the Cadillac table. Caroline Feig, a physical therapist in residence at the studio, has developed a unique series of exercises that address common hip and knee injuries. She has shared her work with studio teachers and now some of those exercises can be integrated into your Pilates fitness session. Says studio owner Margi Douglas: “It is particularly useful when a client is bridging the gap between therapeutic work and fitness to use the PC360 straps prior to going into the Pilates springs or to help an advanced client gain a new awareness of an old Pilates exercise with a slightly different feeling of resistance, or turning something upside down. The results have been phenomenal, and students have reported feeling a dramatic change in support for a troubled knee or hip by the session’s end."

Standing On Solid Ground


Be Kind to Your Feet! 

How do you feel about your feet?

The seasons are changing here in New York, and many of us are putting away our summer footwear to prepare for fall.  Some people love wearing sandals and shoes without socks in the summertime, even if it sometimes results in stinky sneakers.

Others, however, don't have much love for their feet.  They are happy when fall weather returns so they don't constantly feel like their feet are on display. But whether you like traipsing around in sandals or prefer a heavy boot, we should all take a moment to appreciate our feet.


First of all, our feet are extremely complex arrangements of bone, muscle, tendons and nerves.


When we have difficulty with our feet it is hard to avoid the pain.  If you have pain in a non-dominant hand, it's possible to reduce the use of that limb in order to allow the healing process to continue.  But our feet are the foundation of our entire body, as well as our means of transportation. So we need to be kind to our feet! 


Common Foot Ailments  

If you tend to roll inward on your foot, and your shoes tend to wear out on the side by the big toe and arch, this is called pronation. If, as I do, you tend to roll outward, with shoes that often wear out on the side with your pinky toe, that is called supination. Some of you may have experienced plantar fasciitis, pain caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia at the bottom of the foot.

While some of these issues may be serious enough to seek medical attention, we can help prevent some problems from developing by the way we take care of our feet.  The flip-flops we wear in summer don't provide any support, and probably aren't ideal for walking further than from the dressing room out to the pool. But what about the shoes we choose in the fall?


Whether we like heavy boots or high heels, both can be problematic at times.  When choosing boots make sure they have room for your toes-- repeated chafing can cause corns, blisters or bunions. High heels, especially above 1 or 2 inches, further challenge our feet and legs. In addition to squeezing the toes, they can place a great deal of pressure on the balls of our feet. 

As you can see from the diagram above, the height of the heels we choose will radically change the way the weight of our body is distributed throughout the foot. When wearing a 6 cm heel (approximately 2.36 inches) 75% of the weight of the body will be resting on the ball of the foot. It's obvious that this can cause foot pain.  What may be more serious is the way it changes the rest of our body.

This illustration shows the way in which our body balances when our weight is evenly distributed.  When the weight is displaced on to the ball of the foot, the pelvis shifts and the spine curves in order to compensate. This can obviously result in additional pressure on the knees, pelvis, lower back, and even the neck and shoulders.

I'm not saying you have to throw away all of your high heels. But perhaps you can save the highest ones for a special occasion where you are going to spend most of your time sitting down. For walking, for working, for daily life? Try to stick to a one or two inch heel whenever possible. If you're doing any back-to-school shopping, consider those high-heeled boots carefully before you purchase. Sure, they look fabulous in the store, but can you walk more than a city block without discomfort?

What can we do to help? 

After a long day, perhaps you want to give your feet some extra love!  Here's a few simple exercises I found at   


Sit on the floor facing a wall with your legs straight and your feet flat against the wall. A small pillow or folded blanket can make this more comfortable. Bend forward as far as you can to stretch and lengthen your calf muscles and hamstrings. This can be soothing to the feet, legs, and pelvis, especially if you have been wearing heels.   


Sitting in a chair or cross-legged on the floor, rest your left ankle on your right thigh and take hold of your left foot. Weave the fingers of your right hand through the toes of your left foot to separate them. Using your fingers, stretch your toes wide; try not to pull them up or down. Hold, then switch sides.

Stand up, placing your weight on your right foot and extending your left leg behind you. Tuck your left foot under so the tops of your toes touch the floor. You should feel a stretch along the top of your foot.  Don't put too much weight on the left foot, just a gentle stretch will feel good. Hold, then switch feet.   


Lastly, lie on your back with your bottom a few inches from a wall and your arms out. Place your heels on the wall with your legs forming a wide V. You'll feel a gentle pull in your inner thighs. What does this have to do with the feet? Overly tight inner-thigh muscles can overload the arches of your feet, so this stretch can relax them when they're cramped. Plus, elevating the legs reduces swelling, and spending a few minutes prone can help the whole body feel more integrated after a long day.


What more can we do? Love your feet!  I've heard so many people say they think their feet are ugly, too big, too fat, too stubby, their toes are weird, their toes are too short or too long, they don't want anyone to see them unless they have been filed and polished and scrubbed and smoothed out. Whatever shape your feet are in, it's never too late to show them some respect.  While a pedicure or a foot massage can be a lovely way to pamper yourself, don't be ashamed of your feet, even if they haven't been professionally groomed.

Be kind to your feet and they will be kind to you! If we take good care of our feet now, we can ensure that they won't fail us in the years to come.  Thank you, feet! You give me support every day. You help me dance and run and walk around the city and the country and the planet that I love.  - Erika Iverson  

Source for the exercises

Do you have problems with your feet?  Why not set up a special Feldenkrais session with Caroline Feig or an Alexander Technique session with Margi Sharp Douglas? Or ask your Pilates instructor how to be extra-kind to your feet!