Lesson of the Month #11 (7/97)

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Freeing the Upper Back

Walking, carriage of the head, posture and balance of the upper body.

Works with:
Relieves the familiar and common tensions of shoulders and upper back by differentiating movements of the upper spine and shoulders; extension and rotation of the spine; functional connections among arms, legs, and torso.

1. Lie down on the floor on your back, with your arms more or less alongside your body. Take a moment to scan your body. Observe your contact with the floor, notice the quality of your breathing, and notice what is comfortable and what is less comfortable today.

2. Explore many times a movement of rotating your right leg to the right, and bending and sliding your right knee out to the right along the floor, dragging the foot toward your hip... when the knee is out to the side, bring the knee up over the right foot, which comes to standing...repeat it a number of times...let your pelvis roll to the right to make the movement easier...stop the movements and rest.

3. Repeat #2 on the left side.

4. Place the soles of your feet together on the floor, with the knees spread wide apart...explore a movement of tilting your pelvis to the right so your right knee comes to the floor, keeping your knees wide apart....your left knee lifts toward the ceiling as your left hip lifts away from the floor, and the left foot approaches a standing position...repeat it several times like that...then, each time your right knee goes toward the floor on the right, roll your left arm from the shoulder so the left hand turns palm down...at the same time extend your right arm overhead on the floor with the palm up, so that each time your right knee comes toward the floor, you lengthen the distance from your right hand to your left hand...rest.

5. Same as #4, with left arm alongside, and right arm overhead; take your right knee to the floor on the right and stay there...your pelvis is rolled to the right, and perhaps your left knee is somewhere over your left foot... from this position, alternately reach up with your right hand, and then down with your left hand...observe what happens to your pelvis and the curve of your back...what happens to your head?...let it go and rest.

6. Repeat #4 and #5 on the other side.

7. Bend your knees so your feet are standing, with the knees more or less over the feet, with your arms palm down close to your sides. Tilt your pelvis up and down several times...then when you tilt your waist toward the floor, continue the same movement, as if someone is pullling your imaginary tail, and lift your pelvis off the floor, and continue rolling your weight up your spine, feeling each vertebra be pulled in turn off the floor...your arms and hands press into the floor to help the movement...repeat the sequence several times, going a little further each time, until you can roll the weight of your upper body comfortably somewhere near your shoulder blades...you feel your upper spine lengthen between your shoulder blades, and your chin is pulled down toward your chest...you feel the pressure of your feet against the floor supporting your lower body...repeat it several times attentively, and then stretch out and rest.

8. Place the soles of your feet together as before, with knees wide apart. Interlace your fingers behind your head, and lift your head slightly off the floor. Take your right knee down toward the floor on the right, and each time you do that, bend your body to the left so your left elbow goes in the direction of your left hip...keep your face oriented toward the ceiling...your back has to arch...what happens to your left hip?...if your head were to turn, which way would it go?...gently try it both ways to see...and then rest.

9. Repeat #7 on the other side.

10. Soles together, knees wide, right arm overhead on the floor, left hand behind your head. Take your right knee down to the floor on the right, rolling your pelvis right...your left knee lifts up over the left foot...roll your body toward the right side and look up toward your right hand, using your left hand to support your head...repeat it a number of times...and rest.

11. Repeat #10 on the other side.

12. Repeat #10 again to the right...this time keep rolling all the way to the right onto your stomach...and then reverse it and return to your back...go back and forth, feeling what your back must do to make the movement comfortable...then change your hands and do the movement to the left. Feel the differences on this side...which direction is easier for you?... let the difficult side learn from the easy side...rest.

13. Both arms overhead on the floor, hands loosely clasped, soles of feet together...take the right knee to the floor,left hip lifts, and you roll to the right as far as is comfortable and look up at your hands...then come back, take the left knee down to the left, and roll left and look up at hands on this side...go from side to side, feeling long and lithe...let it go and rest on your back. Notice the many changes in your experience of yourself. Slowly get up, stand for a few moments, and walk about, noticing new and pleasant sensations.