In January of 2016, I decided to do all the Alexander Yannai lessons 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
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.
Hi Al, I am amazed that you were able to do all the lessons in such a disciplined and thorough way. I regularly attend the An AY a Day online group, and know how hard it is to turn up regularly. Now that you have created a rich resource of thoughts and connections between the lessons, will you somehow put it into the public domain so that others can learn from your experience, and so your experience does not ultimately get lost?
That is my intention, Ben. I have some fun ideas and hope to get to them in the next year.
Hi Al, I am impressed that you have done all AY. I wonder how you did it. I normally would record myself and then do a lesson. It would be interesting to see your classification too.
Congratulations on this remarkable achievement. I hope one day to do something similar.
Like Laura, i would also like to know HOW you did it?
For me to decipher an AY lesson itself can take quite a while.
To do a lesson in just an hour must mean some sort of pre prep,no?
Do you record the night before?
If you record, which version of the instructions do you do?
Hello Laura and Ed,
I personally prefer reading on a back-lit device like a phone, iPad, or computer. I’m dyslexic, and I have a convergence insufficiency, which means my eyes don’t focus well without the aid of specialized lenses. That vision issue went unrecognized for about 55 years. Today, I have glasses that help me. But because of that, I prefer reading on a back-lit device rather than the printed Alexander Yanai books.
When I started my training, the Alexander Yanai books were just being released. I remember getting some of them with great anticipation and excitement. And then I remember the feeling of my heart sinking trying to read that fine print and having difficulty with the syntax. They were just so hard to read. Sadly, I put them on the shelf for many years.
And then 15 years later I came back to them. And curiously, they were much easier to read and understand. By this time, the IFF had started offering the lessons in PDF form. Yay! Which are much easier to read on a mobile device!
I still had all those books though. So I scanned the lessons and converted them to text so I could put them on my phone. Yes, it took a lot of work. But so worth it. I also made audio recordings of some lessons and listened to those.
I have to say that the lessons have gotten a lot easier to read and understand over time. I still do one nearly every day and make notes about it.
That’s how I did it. A vigorous determination is also helpful.
“This method is interested in expanding and improving the limits of human capacity.”
– Moshe Feldenkrais, Alexander Yanai Lesson 21, Contracting the Abdomen While Exhaling
Hi Al, your persistence is admirable. I have PDFs but when I tried to convert them to text, I had problems. I used Adobe… I haven’t tried to scan printed version.
My question was about how you did the lessons? From your reply I think you didn’t pre-record them, just were reading parts and doing them. I found if I record my own reading first then I can do a lesson easier. It takes so much time 🙂
Great Al, also my admiration for being so consistent! I have also been doing the AY a day for some time and I find that doing once is just touching the surfice. To go deeper I need to do them several times. Some of the lessons I have been also teaching to my groups and then I have to prepare by doing them over and over again. Some I find difficult to figure out what he meant. With the Ay a day group we do discuss them after the lessons and sometimes ask one of the participants to demonstrate when we do not understand sth. I just joint the group towards the end but we, too, have started to do some topics again, like breathing, walking etc. I regret but I do not have a dog now to accompany me in this journey and my cats also have passed away 🙁
Hello István, One of my questions going into this project was, “what would it be like to be in Moshe’s class each day?” And like being in a class not knowing what was going to be taught or what kind of experience I might have. I would often imagine being in his studio with other students on sisal mats.
And I totally agree – especially when prepping for a class – going through a lesson several times to get it in my nervous system is essential.
Hello Al, you may be interested to learn what we have just heard from Norma Leistiko, wo was visiting Moshe at Alexander Yanai street, that the 60-70 participants were lying on a concrete floor, many without even a mat – so those must have been tough people. And she had the impression that people did not have to pay, at least when she was there, she did not have to. And Moshe was charging just a fraction of what he charged to foreigners for FIs. We just started the AY lessons from the beginning with the AY-a-day group and just did 26 – was a great experience. Must admit, was the first when I was not waiting for the end, was so enjoyable – planning to teach it also. Best, Istvan
Wonderful, Al. I admire your fascinating process and the way you chose to categorize the lessons. I especially can appreciate how the difficult lessons sometimes became much less difficult or confusing after going through the whole series.
Hi Kim, I remember a project we did together a few years ago where we would select an AY lesson at random and we would each prepare the lesson on our own and then teach it to each other as an FI. That was a great project. I remember having one my most profound FI experiences with you then – the complete relaxation of my optic nerve.
My question is where did you find the recordings ?
I also would like to try starting at lesson one and working my way through them .
For years I have wanted to explore the Feldenkrais method in more detail but can only find the odd AY lesson or else other peoples interpretations of Moshe’s teachings . i also live in a remote locality and the only Feldenkrais teachers live on the far side of the country .Is there a complete set translated from Hebrew into English ? Thankyou
Are you a practitioner? Because then you could get 550 written lessons and they work.
Hello Istvan I tried replying to your comment but could not find how . I canot find my earlier comment either ?!…hopefully you will see this . No I am not a practitioner . I just have a strong interest in body work , partially because i have a persistent back injury.
I only came discovered the AY lessons recently . I have wondered for a longtime what the source of the information that Feldenkrais teachers had came from . it has been fairly frustrating not being able to find this teaching to learn from myself .
i am not a Feldenkrais Practitioner but i am practicing it for more than 30 years with an excellent practitioner. As it happens i am fluent in Hebrew. My Feldenkrais teacher would like to read with my help the Yanai Lessons in Hebrew. I would translate it. She is interesting in comparing different concepts through different languages. For example what expression for in English attention or awareness, in German Aufmerksamkeit did Moshe use in Hebrew: תשומת לב or קשב or anything else?
Can you tell me where i could get the AY Lessons in Hebrew?
There are only audio recordings in Hebrew, as I know. You can get it through Israel Feldenkrais Guild here – http://www.feldenkrais-israel.org/catalog.php?op=cat&id=4
I also a few times started AY lessons on a daily basis, but through different obstacles didn’t continue this project, as it takes a totally about 3h per day (2h for preparation of audio recording and 1h for the lesson).
Can you explain your technology in preparation for the lessons? I mean where you get audio recordings for all 550? Or you record on your own or through the TTS engine (like Alfons Grabher)?
Hello Nick and István,
I have employed many methods of doing lessons over the years. Listening to lessons from my training and other sources. Reading a lesson and doing it section by section. Making a recording of a lesson and then listening to it.
Recently, I have learned about this handy tool: Speechify (https://www.getspeechify.com). Use your mobile phone to take a pic of the text. Speechify scans the text and is remarkably accurate. Then it will read the scanned text for you. You can save it in your Speechify library. I’ve been doing this with a number of books lately. I highly recommend it!
Isn’t the script sufficient for you Nick? It is for me. I just read a section and then do it, easy! 🙂 And it doesn’t take hours. Some I also teach and my clients adore them.
In this way, I lose special trans-state and didn’t get real pleasure from the lesson.
Thanks for sharing this. I have a few questions:
How do you keep track of the main themes (and other important information like position) of each lesson so that you can at a glance find something on a particular topic?
Also, I find that I have to do a lesson a few times to really get the point. What about you?
I have categorized the lessons by theme and position. There’s no right or wrong about what the categories are, just that they make sense to you. And of course, some lessons are in more than one group.
Once I had done all the lessons, I started to go through each one of the categories.
At this point in my work as a Feldenkrais Practitioner – after 20 years – I have probably done thousands of lessons. It makes it a lot easier to get the idea. It is also interesting that my understanding of what the lesson is about changes as I have gained more experience and insight.
There are some lessons that I encounter with which I want to spend more time. Like the Hopping lessons, I just published. I became enamored with those lessons and studied them and taught them for a couple of weeks.
Thanks for your thoughts. This blog is great!
As for my experience:
I have tried using a spreadsheet, categorizing by name, format, position, major body parts, and cardinal movements. My goal (and challenge) has been to describe key movements/ideas that will help me remember the lesson and keep it clear in my head from other lessons without being too wordy. I also like to include the dates that I did the lesson, dates that I taught it, and any insights. But this is cumbersome to include in a chart.
Lately, I’ve started a new record keeping system– organizing more by theme (side-bending, clocks, etc.) I may need to keep a “diary” along side the brief catalogue with my notes to help me have more clarity about the lessons… Another challenge is to consistently use my system…
I worked through many of the AY lessons about ten (or more) years ago. In recent years, I have worked with other recorded material. I love the AY lessons but find many of them too “challenging” for the general public. I don’t understand why it seems this way, since Moshe taught the AY lessons to the general public. Nonetheless, in my classes, I find that people benefit more from (and prefer) simpler, easier movements.
As for repeating lessons, even though I’ve been at this for over 20 years, and even though I can often anticipate what comes next in a lesson, I find myself needing (or wanting) to do a lesson many times in a row to deeply understand it.
Wow! wonderful idea. Did you discover a pattern?
Yes, definitely. Here’s one. Three groups of variations followed by a fourth group for integration and generalization.
How do you get a copy of those 550 lessons. I would love to do what you have done… truly inspiring!!
If you are a Feldenkrais Practitioner, you can get them from the IFFMaterials.com website. If you are not a Feldenkrais Practitioner, you do 40+ of the Alexander Yanni (AY) lessons that I have posted on my site. They are all single lessons. You can find them here: https://achievingexcellence.com/product-category/author/author-al-wadleigh/ There are a few lessons mixed that are not (AY) lessons.