Up Case Studies

  Maureen McHugh, Feldenkrais Practitioner                        Success Stories                                                      703-751-2111

When you hear of Feldenkrais, the first question, naturally, is, "What is it?" It is such a basic question! And yet it is hard to answer in words. This is so for two reasons: 1) the Method is about sensed experience and 2) people have different experiences.
          Happily, many of my students and clients have  told me about a success in their life in which Feldenkrais has made a contribution. Here are their accounts.


Here are reviews that clients have been written through my online booking service Genbook:



Paris Marathon 2012

Here is Cherry Gaffney, MD running the Paris Marathon in April 2012. Kept at a steady pace by her music and profiting from her methodical conditioning and regular Feldenkrais sessions, Cherry kept a smile on her face and a song in her heart throughout a long, cool run.nmmmmmmmm nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnvnvvvvvvvn

Cherry shared the run with 40,000 of her closest running buddies.

Sometimes the view was really beautiful.xxxxxxxxxxxxx




"Mind -- Body Integration, or How Maureen Saved My Life"
by Ann Steers

May 2011

I am a naturally athletic person, and I love the outdoors. Here I am on a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, a place that touches me deeply.

Unfortunately, despite my love of nature and physical activity, I have struggled with lower back pain and tightness most of my adult life. I realize now that an initial injury to my lower back in my mid-twenties set me up for future inefficient body mechanics that would eventually lead to plantar fasciitis and knee pain. Over the years, I’ve remained physically active: hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and gardening. However, the specter of injuries past and the fear of future muscle spasms continued to restrict my movements and I could tell that my physical freedom was not going to improve with age.


   I’ve had several private sessions with Maureen and have been a faithful participant in her weekly classes in Arlington. My flexibility and awareness has improved steadily and at an encouraging pace. I’m now able to bend at my waist with confidence and ease instead of feeling like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz without his oil can! I am rediscovering that my body can bend, fold and twist in subtle and obvious ways without “breaking”. I’m also developing a better sense of balance and stability when I stand and walk because I’m not trying to “hold myself up”. This is due, largely, to my renewed trust and comfort in my body.  My biggest reward came this past weekend when my husband and I were walking barefoot in the wet sand at Rehoboth Beach. I wasn’t wearing my usual knee supports or orthotics and yet my knees were completely pain-free.                                      Read more ....


"Many thanks for the relief from shoulder pain"
7 April 2011

I want to thank you for the help you have provided me through the Feldenkrais Method over the past several weeks.  I had been suffering from constant pain in my shoulder for the past 9 months or more.   I visited several doctors in the area, including Johns Hopkins, and found no resolution other than recommendations to have surgery.  In some cases, those recommendations came with caveats that there was only a 75% chance of success.  In addition, the recommended surgery correlated with the particular doctor’s specialty and was not consistent across medical disciplines, leaving me with little confidence in the diagnosis.

 You were able to quickly evaluate the underlying source of the pain and give me relief within a few weeks of treatment.  The Feldenkrais Method treats the body and mind as a whole and attempts to optimize the body’s mechanical dynamics, offering fluidity and ease of motion taken away by an overly sedentary and stressful lifestyle.   In my case, there also remains fundamental physical damage caused by arthritis and injury.  I’m not claiming to have been “cured” of chronic structural damage.  I am suggesting that the Feldenkrais Method offers an effective and unusually pleasant, non-surgical way of managing these issues and mitigating the pain associated with them. 

Many thanks again for your help,         John G., Falls Church, VA





Speaking in front of a large group

12 June 2010


Bonnie, a new student in the Saturday class, spoke to me after class today.

“Maureen, something really good happened this week, and it is connected to class.

 Every year I have to give a speech to more than 1,000 people. This year it was to 1,600 people. I have to announce the results of Merit Reviews within our organization. Usually I am so nervous. But this week it was different. I just kept observing myself, like we do in class.”

Bonnie brought her right arm into the air and moved it away from her and then back toward her. “While speaking I did this with my arm and just noticed as it moved. I also noticed my eyes and posture. I stayed with my breath. It was so amazing. I was standing there in front of all those people, and I wasn’t nervous.”   

So I said, “Yeah, you kept your mind busy with observing yourself, so it didn’t have any room for nervousness.”

Bonnie continued, “I even made a little drama. Usually I just read the name of the category and the name of the winner. It's pretty flat. This time, I drew it out, to make some suspense. That made it more fun. Then I even made a joke! I never tried that before, but it was good -- everybody laughed!” 

Then she gave me a big hug.


Chorus singers enjoy a Feldenkrais Intro class

17 April 2010


Hi Maureen,

 Thank you for a wonderful Feldenkrais workshop this April with 10 members of our New Dominion Chorale, plus 2 friends. Everyone enjoyed learning how the Feldenkrais Method can help with improving our singing, and several of the participants commented to me at rehearsal two days later that they were still feeling the effects on their posture and their singing. Many also complimented you on your teaching skills. I am so glad that we were able to make the session happen, and hopefully, we can do more in the future. I had enjoyed taking your Feldenkrais classes last summer and appreciated the sense of physical fluidity and gracefulness that I took home after every class. I hope to take another session again soon and use the knowledge to improve my tennis game.

Azura Hassan
 May 2010


Music students at GMU expand their self-awareness
3 December 2009


Professional musicians have more repetitive-use injuries than the lay person may know. It's a big issue, and it often gets worse as the musician gets older. Increasingly, it is also cropping up among young musicians.

At George Mason University they are taking preventive measures. In 2002 Professor David Sternbach founded the Center for Arts and Wellness. Courses within the Center help young musicians cultivate healthy habits for practice and performance.

On December 3, 2009 Professor Sternbach invited me to present the Feldenkrais Method to two sections of undergraduates. One had 20 students, and the other 10. Both sessions were fun and productive.

Music students at George Mason University are getting their first taste of the Feldenkrais Method.

At the start of this 75-minute class, three volunteers from the 20 students played their instruments. One played violin and two piano. This was the Before. Then the whole class did a number of movements standing, then laid down and was quiet for a while (above); then there were movements while on the floor.

For the After, the same students played again. The result? Each of the three, all men, was amazed by how much more relaxed and confident he felt. Then I asked the listeners for feedback. All agreed that for each player the quality of the sound had improved.

In the second class the volunteers were a percussionist, a singer, and a trumpet player. The feedback was the same.

For me, the change in the singing was the most dramatic. One woman's voice filled the whole room. That quality of singing lifts you up!

That's me in the center background, sitting on a chair and wearing a yellow sweater. Maureen


"This time I ran the half marathon"

14 November 2009.

Hi Maureen,

This November I participated in the Richmond Half Marathon for the second time. When I did it last year, I walked. I was proud of myself for finishing. But, then, afterwards, sadly, I had pain for weeks.

Because of this pain, a friend recommended that I gave you a call. In January I did that. Since then we have been working together steadily -- and it has really paid off.

This year, to my intense happiness, I was able to run the whole way. Here I am between miles 8 and 9. I am feeling good.

This year I took 18 minutes off last year's time. I was comfortable throughout, and my recovery period was much shorter, just a few days.

Looking back to my younger years, I remember when I never thought of myself as athletic. Well -- look at me now!

Ali from Annandale

A favorite quote from Ali.
Activist and writer Anne Lamott writes:

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.
You wait and watch and work: you don't give up."


"I am back on the tennis court"
1 December 2009.

Jeannie Tower is a Feng Shui Master and Building Biology consultant. In September Jeannie hurt her right arm moving furniture. This was followed by two more incidents that made the pain level jump up from nagging to intense. The pain was with her all day and at night prevented her from sleeping.

A dozen years ago, for another issue, an acupuncturist had recommended that Jeannie check out Feldenkrais. Finally, the timing was right! At the beginning of November she contacted me and immediately began a series of lessons. Over 6 sessions I was able to show her a number of improvements to her movement patterns. These lead steadily to a reduction in the pain and to an increase in her energy level.

Jeannie was glad for those. But the next thing she wanted was the really important quality of life gain: she wanted to start playing tennis again. Naturally, she holds the racket with her right arm. I said I thought she was ready and offered some advice on how to get started.

Here's what she emailed to me on November 30 after her first afternoon back on the court:

well i just had to write and tell you how amazing all this is...i tried really hard not to "smash" the ball but there were 3-4 times where i hit it forehand using all you have taught me and man oh man...it went flying an inch above the net - perfectly placed and i didn't even feel my arm! - brilliant..!!

Jeannie Tower
Del Ray


Use ALL your air rights
9 October 2009.


Last week in the group classes we worked on the theme of getting taller, as a support for better posture. At the beginning of the lesson I shared a story from a friend who works in NYC. Her company has been in the same two-story building for decades. Several years ago, she told me, they sold their air rights. "What does that mean?", I asked. "It means", she said, "that we sold the right to build a high rise on top of our building."

What do you get for selling air rights? They got $10.8 million.

So, what about your air rights? Huh? Are you giving them away for nothing? If so, stop doing that! Take all the air space that you are entitled to.

Kristen had an interesting experience during and after this lesson. She sent me an email about it.



Hi Maureen,

I grind my teeth at night and carry a lot of tension in my jaw. During last week's lesson, we practiced filling the space above our heads and lifting the crown of the head. In the days afterward I kept returning to that action.

The results were amazing.  Lifting the crown of my head allowed my jaw to drop which eased the tension.  This also lengthened my spine allowing my shoulders to drop back and down which allowed them to relax as well.  This new awareness has me walking tall and feeling great.

Kristen from Arlington




Relief from neck pain
7 October 2009

 Here is happy news from Kerry. In August she hurt her neck lifting something in way that she later wished she hadn't done.

Dear Maureen,

I felt so good tonight that I stood on one foot (or the other) all while I flossed and brushed my teeth, just to celebrate! I can't believe how good I feel just 3 weeks after hurting so bad I couldn't sleep.  I feel better than I have in years! And all without anything but the gentlest of moves, all aimed at getting my bones to work together and support each other. And they do! Its great - thanks so much.

Kerry from Arlington


More fun in water aerobics
14 August 2009


Dear Maureen,

Recently I incorporated my Feldenkrais practice into my water aerobics by focusing on allowing my whole body to be involved with each routine, rather than isolating my movement to a specific body part.  The result was that instead of using my energy to prevent movement in my body except to the specific part, I let go and exercised the whole body.  Unexpectedly I ended up as the fastest in the pool, although speed was not a goal and I was not putting any effort into going fast, just using my whole body.  How efficient and how free I felt!

Pat from Alexandria


Happy trails!
1 April 2009

"Here I am, Maureen, doing what I love -- running on trails.

A professional photographer took this photo --after I had just waved at him -- during the ‘Backyard Burn’ at Fountainhead Park this past Sunday. The trail was mud from start to finish. Just the same, I loved it!

Thanks for your help in keeping me limber."

Amy from Arlington.

Photo by Will Ramos. Used with permission.


Better Posture
October 14, 2008

Hi Maureen,

This is a picture taken Sunday a little before a race that our boat won. I have to admire, and thank you, for that lovely upright spine! And shoulders not rounded or up by ears!

Thanks for your excellent teaching, which is always with me.


Vaughan from Arlington


Bruce Holmes Recordings

6 July 2009

Hi Maureen!

Thank you so much for the tip about the Bruce Holmes tapes. Since I can't come to you this summer, the tapes are a great way for me to help myself.

And what a deal! Only $40 for forty-eight lessons, all on one little CD.

One or two of the lessons I don't quite get, but most of them are really great. Who knew how the shoulder connects to the hip!

Forrest from Washington, DC

When I first started to study the Feldenkrais Method, in the mid 80's, my teacher didn't offer group classes, just individual sessions. For work at home, he recommended a set of audio tapes by Bruce Holmes, which I bought and did faithfully and joyfully. I loved them!

Then they went out of print, and I was disappointed that I could not recommend them to my students. Within the past year, though, happily, Bruce has reissued them. Instead of 48 cassettes, now there is just one CD. And the price dropped from $176 to $40, plus shipping.

I like them because they are simple.  Maureen


Resonant with meaning
 19 May 2009


Hi Maureen, 

Thanks for class last night. It was really good.

I was reflecting afterward what I like about it, and I came up with this:

More than any other movement class that I have done, Feldenkrais resonates with meaning.

I find meaning in most of the gestures, and it reminds me of the acting classes I took when I was at the university in France. I remember being in a moment of action -- I offer something, I refuse something, I bow, I am a fish. The more meaningful the gesture is to me, the more engaged I become.

Besides that, I feel very free and not trapped into a right/wrong way of moving.

And further, I MOVE!!!!!  I am looking forward to next week!

from Arlington


An easier feeling while walking
February 2009


     Elizabeth, a vigorous Arlingtonian in her mid-thirties, started taking ATM (the group class) at the end of January 2009. She didn't know what Feldenkrais was when she signed up for the Winter series, but she was curious.

     After the third class, or maybe the fourth, Elizabeth had an epiphany. She told me about it the next week. I was happy for her. I then asked if she would share it on the web, in case someone else might benefit. She said, Yes! So here is what she wrote.


   Hi Maureen, 

After years of bad posture and bad walking habits, I decided to get my act together and fix myself. It seemed every week held yet another realization for me in my months-long journey, but one of the most profound was after a Feldenkrais class with you.

The theme of that class was movement of the hips and spine. It's hard to believe that movements you do lying down can seamlessly transfer to movements you do standing up, but as I was walking to my car after this particular class, I suddenly felt like John Travolta and could almost hear the Bee Gees in the background. My hips were much looser than before class, and my spine felt like the subtle wave that it's meant to be. I realized the key to walking naturally is to position the spine and head the way they're supposed to be -- I had been keeping my head and body too far forward -- and then relax! I realized I had been tensing my hips, back, and shoulders to keep my spine stable instead of allowing the natural figure 8 movements in my hips and shoulders and letting my head subtly shift side to side, completing the wave.

I didn't know what to expect from Feldenkrais when I enrolled. I was hoping for some relief and/or education, but it's been a surprise. I was used to going through life either moving mindlessly or in a vigorous, controlled way. Instead, Feldenkrais has been a series of slight yet controlled movements helping me, finally, toward a most welcome ease.


Elizabeth from Arlington



A Night at the Opera
12 November 2008

Hi Maureen,

Over the weekend I went with my family to the Kennedy Center. We saw ‘Carmen.’ It was wonderful.

Our seats were way up in the second tier. You know how steep the incline is in that section and, once you get there, how you have to lean forward to see.

I have a problem with evenings like this, which is that my legs are uncomfortable with sitting so long. First they hurt, and then they go to sleep. When the performance is over and it’s time to go, I can hardly stand. Then walking is a real challenge. You know how you have to make your way to the end of the row. I am so unstable. Then you have to walk up those steep little steps to the exit. I go so slowly that people behind me have to wait, and I feel embarrassed. Then to get down to the main floor, I usually have to take the elevator, a help I didn’t need when I arrived for the evening.

This has been a problem for a long time, and I have consulted with my doctor about it. He has advised me to take Arthritis Tylenol in advance, which I always do.

Well, this weekend I forgot to take the Tylenol. So I when I got to the show, I realized I was not medicated! And I became a little fearful.

But, remember, you had given me a couple weeks ago some exercises to help with my legs. (Demonstrating) You said to just rock back and forth from heel to toe and lift the knees a little as you go up on the toes. Well, I did that during the show. Fairly often. I like the movement. It’s easy, and it was nice to do. I did it sometimes in rhythm with the music!

Then when the end came, Maureen, you won’t believe it! My legs were fine. I stood up; fine. I walked to the end of the row; fine. I walked up the steps to the exit, and I walked down to the main floor.

How can it work like that? Such a simple movement! I was really amazed. And I am grateful.


Jutta from Arlington



Thinking outside the box

On November 6, 2008 Eric, from Arlington, finally sent me photos of his new keyboard tray, for which he hopes to become famous.

In the first picture you can see -- if you look closely -- his right hand is under the desk. And when you look at the second photo, you see the reason why -- he has transformed his trash can, with the help of a phone book and thick binder, into a support for his mouse.

We've been working on improving the happiness of his right shoulder. As it has started to feel better, his right arm -- his mouse arm -- didn't want to sit on his desk any more.

So, with Yankee ingenuity, Eric improvised! It's true -- it is not YET a lovely solution. But it has possibilities.


I am in my seventies. I fell, and I didn't get hurt.
October 2008


Leslie, from Alexandria, comes to the group class on Thursdays at 1pm. In mid October, she and I were both early. She said to me, “Maureen, I have something to tell you that may surprise you.”

I said, “I’m ready.”

Leslie said, “I fell. And it was not a big deal.”

I said, “Oh my gosh, Leslie. I am sorry to hear that you fell. How did it happen?  But, wait! First tell me -- how old are you now?”

“Let’s just say I’m in my seventies.”

“And how long have you been coming to class?”

“Maureen, you keep better track of that than I do, but I think it is about 8 years.”

“That sounds about right. Ok! So, tell me, what happened? 


“Well, I was walking my dog, and he made a sudden move, to chase a squirrel I think, and I got all tangled up in the leash and went down. You know, it’s a funny feeling to see the sidewalk coming. I saw it coming, and then there I was, on the pavement. And yet I wasn’t hurt. I remembered, as I was falling, what we do in class, how we try to let go of unneeded tensions, and so I just kind of crumpled. Then I stood up. I didn’t feel happy that I fell, but I wasn’t hurt. I continued our walk. Later, I didn’t feel bruised, or frightened. It was just nothing at all.”



Recovery from surgery
October 2008

Mary Jo put off back surgery as long as she could and then, finally, she had to take that route. She had a positive experience at the Reston Hospital Center. In mid-October, a few days after she returned home, she sent me the email below.

Hi Maureen:

      Thank you so much for your nice card and message.  I sincerely do believe that I have done well during this surgery and rehab due to the strong support and love I have received from my family and friends. 

      I continue to improve each day -- yesterday I ventured out with my daughter for lunch, flu shot, to vote, etc.   I was exhausted by the time I returned home but happy to get some of those tasks off my to-do list.  I also realize that I am not quite ready to go out on my own just yet.

      Every single time I get in or out of bed I think of you, as you taught me how to do that with grace and ease.  Also, getting in and out of my car is so much easier using your instructions.  As soon as I am able to get down on the floor and back up I will be re-joining your class.  I love the relaxed and calm feelings I have after class.

     I hope all is well with you.  Happy fall, my favorite time of year and I am a Libra -- celebrating my 70th this weekend -- very hard to grasp as I don't feel that old in my mind and heart.

Mary Jo from Alexandria


Keeping up with my children
November 2008


In August 2008 John turned 75, and in October he traveled to Russia to spend ten days with his daughter who is studying there.

John started working with me about 5 years ago because flat feet were leading to pain while walking. Over the years he has made a lot of improvement, gaining flexibility in the feet and elsewhere. This trip was a big test of his progress!

I asked John when he returned, “Did you walk much?”

He answered, “All day! We went somewhere every day, and never by automobile. Everything was by public transportation. So we had to walk to the bus, and walk through the train station and walk in the museum once we got there. It was a lot of walking!”

John said he really paid attention to how he felt, and that saved him. He attended to relaxation while walking and took breaks as needed. “When it came to the middle of the afternoon and I was really tired, I considered it not a dishonor to go to my room and take a nap.”

In wrapping up John said, “It is amazing to me to feel more flexible today than I felt five years ago. Who knew such a thing was possible!”

You will find earlier Success Stories, from 1992 - 2006, on the following page. At that time I was calling them Case Studies.