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In Memorium: Ilana Rubenfeld, 1934-2022

21 May 2023 7:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Body/mind therapist and teacher Ilana Rubenfeld passed on December 23, 2022, while residing at the Rogue Valley Manor, Medford, Oregon.

A pioneer in the body/mind movement, she created the Rubenfeld Synergy Method ® (RSM) because she came to realize that for people to understand their emotional state, they would have to learn how to listen to their bodies.

Ilana’s first love was music. After studying orchestral conducting at Julliard, she began to learn alternative methods of healing because of the physical challenges she experienced caused by conducting. She first discovered the Alexander Technique (originated by F. M. Alexander) while seeking relief for her back and shoulder pain, and as a result, Ilana was inspired to become an Alexander teacher.

At the same time, she sought out talk therapy because of triggered emotions that the Alexander teacher was not qualified to help process.

Ilana then found that the talk therapist would not use touch when she verbally expressed the memories and feelings that had emerged from her body. She longed to have a single professional to do both, and soon embarked on a journey of discovering how to become that “someone”.

In the mid-1960s Ilana met Fritz Perls at Esalen Institute. He invited her to place her Alexander-trained listening hands on his clients while they talked with him. Thus, it was while studying Gestalt Therapy with Fritz and Laura Perls that the concept of integrating physical touch with talk was born.

After Fritz Perls’ death, Ilana continued to attend Esalen, meeting many of the pioneering spirits of the day who presented their work there, including Virginia Satir, Charlotte Selver, and many others. It was here in 1972, that Ilana met and began to study with Moshe Feldenkrais. She completed his first North American Feldenkrais training in San Francisco in 1978.

Ilana started a series of classes incorporating her previous trainings in Feldenkrais, Alexander, and Gestalt and in 1977, developed the RSM Training Program. She taught her method to hundreds of students and guided thousands of participants in countless workshops in her long career.

Ilana had an instinctive knowing that “emotions and feelings are embedded in the body and in the brain, and that to reach them touch is needed – non-verbal communication – and talk.” RSM became a dynamic integration of body, mind, emotions, and spirit that combines both talk and listening touch at the same time. Ilana’s remarkable presence, her mastery in listening on many levels simultaneously, her insightful intelligence and quick humor supported life-changing results in thousands of lives over the years. She came to be referred to as the ‘Grande Dame of the body-oriented therapy movement’.

Being one of the first in her field, she influenced many other teachers who incorporated her methodology into their own practices. She traveled extensively in North & South America and Europe giving workshops, bringing emotional and physical healing to a great number of participants.

As well as teaching for many years at the Esalen Institute, Ilana taught in many other venues including the Omega Institute in NY, Rowe Conference Center in MA, and other places of study.

Her impressive life history and innovative methods were encapsulated in her book, “The Listening Hand: Self-Healing Through the Rubenfeld Synergy Method of Talk and Touch”, © 2000.

In 1994, Ilana was given the “Pathfinder Award” by the Association of Humanistic Psychology (AHP) for her outstanding contributions to Humanistic Psychology.

In 2002, Ilana received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy.

When Ilana moved to Ashland, OR, from New York City in 2000, she re-embraced her love of music by becoming a patron of and champion for many musical organizations in the Rogue Valley.

Ilana Rubenfeld is survived by her younger sister, Lydia Yohay of New York, NY, and Lydia’s children Leora Grace Yohay and Joseph Yohay.

A list of organizations to which donations can be made in Ilana’s name is available through contacting INARS:

1321 Antoine Dr.
Houston, TX 77055


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