The Politics of Movement Education

There's a strange power dynamic inherent in most movement education and coaching (obviously extending out to therapies as well).  

I've been curious about the politics of the relationship between professional and client ever since my first exposure to somatic education. 

It was the first time I ever felt like I knew something about my body (and myself) that had a sense of deep truth. 

There was something in my subjective experience that was just as valid as the objective knowledge of the "experts" I had worked with (if not more so). 

I felt more empowered in my movement than ever before.

I could trust myself.

This power dynamic has become more apparent as I dig deeper into psychological literature as well, particularly in the Gestalt and humanistic schools. 

(Do yourself a favor and get a copy of "On Becoming A Person" by Carl Rogers.  It's life-changing.)

What seems to go unsaid is that the coach, trainer, or therapist is "in charge" of the client's progress.  He knows what is best for the client, even better than the client herself (feel free to swap the pronouns' gender).

The client implicitly trusts everything presented -- even if it feels weird -- because, well, experts know best.

But what if they don't?

Or what if the other way of knowing, the subjective experience of sensation and movement, was just as valuable as the objective knowledge of physiology and biomechanics?

We could call this something like "person-centered movement education."

It's a coaching relationship where the clients' understanding of their bodies was just as valuable as the technical experience of the coach or teacher. 

Where the teacher serves more as a facilitator than an expert, allowing the client to make more decisions about how to practice and helping to guide them through the process of embodiment.

In my experience it is infinitely more rewarding for both parties involved.  

  • I've been able to cry with clients who are churning through the emotional struggle of chronic pain. 
  • The people who work with me develop more autonomy and responsibility for their own progress. 
  • And most important: they develop a greater understanding of the Self, their psychophysical wholeness of being.

Needless to say this breaks the conventional model and the power dynamics involved. 

Some coaches and teachers can't let go of the reigns and cede power to their clients.  They want to be in charge of the relationship, whether they recognize it or not.

On the flip side some clients desperately want somebody to tell them what to do, how to do it, and how often.  They want to shift the burden of responsibility to some "other" lest they take it on for themselves.

These sessions look different. 

Rather than conforming to the rigidity of a pre-planned program, there's space for improvisation based on the felt needs of the person on that particular day.

If you're a coach or teacher, it's worth exploring the implicit dynamics in your relationships.  And if you're looking to work with a coach or teacher, it's worth knowing this too.

What's your experience of this?  Which side of the equation are you on? 

Leave a comment below, and share this article on social.  The more we bring awareness to this, the sooner we can make a change.