Cliff Smyth: Biography

I have been a Feldenkrais Practitioner since 1991 – beginning in Melbourne, Australia, and now in San Francisco, helping clients and students with a variety of movement challenges and helping them find ways to act in the world that are less painful and more comfortable, efficient, easy and effective.  You can read about what I offer through the Center on the ‘What I offer page’ and more about my Feldenkrais practice below.

I have a PhD in Mind-Body Medicine from Saybrook University.  In that program I studied mindfulness and meditation, psychophysiology, guided imagery and hypnosis, spirituality and health, nutrition, the aging process, healthcare systems, and health and wellness coaching. Over a number of years I have also studied and practiced mindfulness mediation, Yoga Nidra and the Sounder Sleep System® – all of which promote self-help for insomnia and stress.

Since 2014 I have taught Mind-Body Skills groups at the Osher Center at UCSF and at the Feldenkrais Center, having completed training through at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC. Currently, I also work part-time as a faculty member at Saybrook University College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, and an adjunct lecturer at San Francisco State University teaching Somatics.

I am also a life and health and wellness coach, having completed coaching certificates at Saybrook University and with San Francisco State University College of Extended Learning. I am a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBCHWC).

For much of my working life I have been a teacher, facilitator and leader - in a variety of positions and working as a volunteer - in the arts, education and training, and the Feldenkrais professional community.  I am currently Editor of the Feldenkrais Research Journal.

I draw on all my experience and training in working with people on their development and learning needs in my teaching of Feldenkrais, mind-body skills and coaching work. I enjoy having many ways of working with people to help them enhance well-being. 

Education and Training

  • PhD (Mind-Body Medicine), College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, Saybrook University, 2018

  • Certificate in Health and Wellness Coaching, Saybrook University, 2013

  • MS (Mind-Body Medicine), Saybrook University, 2012

  • Certificate in Core Strengths Coaching, SFSU, 2009

  • Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher since 1991

  • Certified Feldenkrais Assistant Trainer, North American Feldenkrais Training Accreditation Board, since 2002

  • Feldenkrais Professional Training Program, Lincoln School of Health Sciences, LaTrobe University, Melbourne, and the Movement Studies Institute, Berkeley, 1991

  • BA (Social Sciences) and Diploma in Education, LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia, 1983.

Recent Presentations

  • ‘The Lived Experience of the Feldenkrais Method’, Symposium in Integrative Medicine, Saybrook University, Monterey, CA, 2018

  • ‘Movement and Awareness: Somatics, salutogenic practices, and feelings of (well)being ’ Symposium in Integrative Medicine, Saybrook University, Monterey, CA, 2018

  • 'Embodied Purposed: To Integrate Bodily Perspectives in Data Collection and Analysis', Society for Phenomenology in Human Sciences, Atlanta, GA, October 2015.

  • ‘Feldenkrais, Phenomenology and Health’, ICNAP (Interdisciplinary Confederation of North American Phenomenologists), Mawah, NJ, 2013

  • Five presentations at Feldenkrais Guild of North America Conferences, teaching on topics such as: ‘Updating the self image’, ‘Case study research’, ‘Working with the hands and arms in stitting’, ‘Easy hands and arms’, ‘Write out of Feldenkrais’ and ‘BodyWrites’.

  • Various presentations on the Feldenkrais Method to in the School of Education, UC Berkeley and to Physical Education students at the University of San Francisco, 2000 to present.

  • Workshop presentations at the Body, Mind, Spirit Conference, Santa Clara, California, 2007 and 2008

About my Feldenkrais practice

I discovered the Feldenkrais Method in 1986 when a friend in Sydney, Australia, sent me to a practitioner. I was suffering from a repetitive strain injury from my work as a writer. To my surprise I experienced the first relief of my pain in two years - and I was fascinated how such a gentle approach could make such a big difference. Finding a practitioner in my hometown of Melbourne, I continued the process first with Functional Integration sessions and then Awareness Through Movement classes, tapes and workshops. I joined my Feldenkrais training program mostly with the intention of continuing my rehabilitation, but soon became excited at the prospect of being able to help people with this fascinating Method.

Since becoming a practitioner in 1991, I have worked in Melbourne and San Francisco with people from 9 to 90 to help them recover from pain and injury (especially people with back pain and over use injuries such as RSI, carpal tunnel, etc). Also helping people to deal with conditions such as stroke and MS to regain lost abilities (sometimes ones they had lost hope of recovering). I have also worked with performers including dancers from the SF Opera ballet and violinists from the SF Symphony. I enjoy working with Doctors, PTs and other health providers - along with Yoga, Pilates and other movement teachers - sharing ideas from the Feldenkrais Method with them.
I have been a teacher most of my life: teaching high school in Australia and teaching writing to all kinds of people in libraries, community centers, jails, schools and colleges. I worked for a while in community development and taught management to the boards of non-profits. That lead me to serving on the Board of the International Feldenkrais Federation - the UN of Feldenkrais professional organizations - for twelve years - six of which I served as President. In that time, I was pleased to contribute to the archiving and publication of many important documents from Moshe Feldenkrais’ life and teaching. I also helped develop a ‘competency profile’ that outlines the professional roles and skills of a Feldenkrais Practitioner. As an Assistant Trainer in the Feldenkrais Method, I work in programs training new practitioners in Australia, Europe and the USA.

As a writer, I am interested in the possibilities Feldenkrais creates for artists - drawing on somatic experience to enrich their practice. I practice mindfulness meditation. I am interested in the relationship between awareness, self-image, health and society. I have a particular interest in stress and how it affects our health and well being, and I have taught a number of classes and workshops using Awareness Through Movement for dealing with stress.

I have recorded the Easy Hands and Arms series of Awareness Through Movement lessons on CD for prevention of and recovery from hand and arm injuries. These have proved to be a useful resource for many members of the public and Feldenkrais practitioners.

It is a great privilege to continue to teach this Method which allows me to help people with such diverse needs and interests to improve their lives.