Interview with Evan VanDyk
Feldenkrais® & Massage Therapy
Today’s interview is with Massage Therapist and Feldenkrais Practitioner®, Evan VanDyk. Evan is the owner and sole practitioner of Saratoga Awareness. Evan’s massage sessions are very influenced by the Feldenkrais Method, and weave in a combination of numerous massage modalities to create a direct and effective yet calming, caring, and nurturing session that can take a client away from their pain as well as give them tools to use in their daily life.
Q: What brought you to this work?
A: In high school, and I guess throughout my growing up years, I felt that I could really tune in to how others were thinking and feeling.
Not that I felt connected to them, but more that I could empathize with them, serve them, and be who they were looking for in the moment. Looking back on it, maybe this is why I went into massage. I have heard countless times that my work is intuitive and I suppose this ‘intuition’ is simply that empathy, feeling, seeing and hearing where people are strong and places they could use support. Originally, I had thought I would go into medicine with this empathy, but something pulled me toward Massage Therapy and I’m so glad it did. Out of High School, I studied at SUNY Morrisville State College where I obtained my associates degree in Massage Therapy. This I believe set a great framework for my continued studies as I learned not only about massage and bodywork but also heaps of knowledge about Anatomy and Physiology, Myology, Neurology and even some Psychology (a subject I am still eager to delve more into).
Q: What was your first experience with the Feldenkrais Method®?
A: I came to Feldenkrais® out of pure chance…
….or as I like to look at, it it came to me. In 2011, one year after I had become a NYS Licensed massage therapist, I received a postcard about the Feldenkrais Practitioner training at the Feldenkrais Institute in NYC.
I do not know why I received the postcard because my brother received one as well and he has no connection with bodywork or somatic movement practices. Anyway, I had never heard of the method before but it piqued my interest, I needed continuing education for my massage license, and I happened to have cousins living in Brooklyn at the time so I decided to go down for the full day, free introductory workshop with David Zemach-Bersin.
Little did I know that this was going to be the most life changing step in my journey so far. At the workshop, I knew. I stood up and felt a security in my body that I had not been aware of before. I watched David do a Functional Integration demo and saw how everything from the woman’s gait to the brightness in her eyes and the width and ease of her smile change. I wanted this to be my work. I wanted to do more than massage, but offer my clients a way to rely on their own amazing bodies. Signing up for the 4 year training was a big step but at the time I just knew that it was my step.
Q: How has studying Feldekrais has transformed your life, or the way you view life?
A: Most significantly, the Feldenkrais Method has opened my door to the wonderful world of brain science.
A: The Feldenkrais Method® in particular, and my massage work strongly influenced by it, provide an individual the opportunity to be and notice where they are.
Without judgement or expectation, the recipient may come to realize actions they habitually use which in fact interfere with their intentions. With this awareness, they are offered alternatives in action, many times more functional and efficient, which their system can adopt and learn. This increased choice in action provides increased availability to become more precise, spontaneous and varied in their action. Many athletes, dancers, musicians and artists will come to the method to further refine their craft. The elderly or just generally uncoordinated will find it improves their balance, coordination and how they rely on their body. Those in pain will discover that their pain is caused by circumstances created in situations that have since past and that healing, growth, efficiency and freedom from their relationship with that pain are possible.
In myself, I have even noticed my brain working differently: making connections faster, becoming more creative and spontaneous and being able to hold a conversation for longer. I notice how I communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, and am able to better appreciate others for all that they are. It is possible to improve yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and socially and the first step is always awareness.
Q: What are some of the reasons people come to your work?
A: Many people come to find my work because they are in pain.
After accidents, sports injuries, surgeries and trauma, many find that their bodies are not simply bouncing back in a way they had expected or need some assistance in the healing process. I often find that physical, emotional and social pain are also all reflected in the body, and often do not stay in their neat little categories. Many times an individual who is struggling with chronic pain, something we may categorize as physical, is much more clearly rooted in habits of their mind or actions. However, I aim to meet my clients wherever they are in that moment, allowing these connections to become evident to them in their own discovery.
I love allowing that space for my clients to learn and communicate. I love sharing with my clients what I know, and learning what they have to share. My intention is never to ‘fix’ but to serve my clients with clear, intentional, kind and available work – to watch them grow and thrive in a way that is only possible as they come to know and appreciate their whole selves more.