Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #39 (2/01)

By Rich Frye
For safety and best results, read instructions before doing lessons!


This lesson originated with a movement from martial arts, but it only came together when I felt the connection to swimming. The martial arts part is why it is mostly standing up; there are elements of balance, shifting weight, twisting and bending, and reaching, as well as walking and swimming.

Works with:
Integrating sides and back with balance for easier bending and twisting

   1. Start a standing position, with arms hanging loosely at your sides, and just stand normally…notice the qualities of your standing…"how do you stack up?"…how are the segments of your body aligned with each other?…how easily do the parts below support the parts above?…and then rest for a moment (standing or sitting on a bench or firm chair).

2. Same position…slowly explore a movement of rotating your right arm so the palm is forward…the arm stays straight, elbow close to the body…and back to neutral…does your hand get closer to your leg or further away?…then stay there with the palm forward, and explore lifting your right hand to touch your right shoulder with the tips of the fingers…you bend your elbow and lift the forearm forward, the palm toward the shoulder…your elbow moves forward and up a little so the fingertips can touch the point of the shoulder easily…and return to neutral…repeat it many times…and rest.

3. Same as #2, but now expand the movement so the fingers stay in contact with the shoulder, and you swing the elbow forward and up as far as is easy and comfortable…you feel the ball of the shoulder rotate...how does your weight shift?…what does your right hip do?…each time you lift the elbow, shift your weight to the right foot, and swing your right hip joint forward (your hip joint is in the V-shaped crease near your pubic bone)…do it several times that way…where do you look?…where do you point your nose?…does your elbow lift more toward the ceiling with less effort when the hip moves forward?…and let it go and rest.

4. Repeat #2 and #3 on the left side.

5. Lie on your back on the floor…observe contact of "lying points" against the floor…bend your right knee so the foot is standing, more or less under the knee…arms on floor next to body, right palm up…roll pelvis to left, lifting right hip so knee goes toward ceiling (not tilting left)…at the same time slide the right arm toward the right foot…and return…repeat many times…your head might want to roll to the right a little…and rest.

6. Same position…repeat same movement, but this time keep your face toward the ceiling…your body bends to the right as the hip lifts, and the back of head and upper spine slide to the right a little as the hand reaches toward the foot…do it many times…stretch out and rest…notice changes in quality of contact of the lying points.

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

8. Come back to standing, and repeat #3…lift the elbow toward the ceiling, shift your weight onto your right foot, push the hip joint forward…is it easier than before?…continue, but now after the elbow is high, let your right hand slide over to touch the large vertebra at the base of your neck, and look down toward your left foot along the outside of your left leg…you bend your body to the left…your left shoulder drops, and your left hand moves down the back of your left thigh toward your left foot…and return to stand upright, but leave the fingers on the shoulder…and repeat the cycle many times…and rest.

9. Repeat #8, but now after the right hand comes to the back of the neck, slowly extend your right arm overhead, and turn the palm toward the ceiling, fingers pointed to the left… your weight is on your right foot…and look down toward the left heel, which might lift away from the floor…the left knee bends, and also the right… in a sense the right hand is over your left foot in space…it's as if there is some rod connecting the two hands, which are far apart…and return to neutral…repeat it many times…and rest.

10. Same as #9…this time see if it is possible and comfortable to look up at right hand each time…go slowly, maybe it isn't possible without changing something…what?…explore it several times…and rest.

11. Repeat #9 and #10 on the other side.

12. Stand as in #8, right arm overhead, palm to ceiling, left hand toward floor behind left knee, looking at left hand…weight is on right foot…left heel lifted…both knees are bent ...imagine a rod connecting your hands so they stay the same distance apart and relationship to each other, and slowly turn your whole body right while you swing the left hand forward and up and the right hand down and back (something like a flamenco movement, so look proud), so you arrive at a position where you have shifted most of the weight onto the left foot, right heel lifted, arms outstretched to sides at shoulder level, upper body turned to the right, the right arm reaching out to right, the left hand out to left, and you are looking at the left hand…and go back…repeat it many times…notice how and where your weight shifts…do your feet press into the floor to help the movement in various places?…do they have to?…it's easier if the knees are bent...and let it go and rest.

13. Same position as end of #12, turned to right, arms outstretched, and stay...from here, turn head and eyes to look from hand to hand, right and left…notice how far to the right you turn easily...do it several times…what happens in rest of body?...and let it go and rest.

14. Same position, body turned to right, arms extended to sides, weight on left foot, knees bent...slowly swing the arms from side to side by turning the whole body...the arms move as if connected by a rod...where do your head and eyes want to go?...try it following either hand...and then looking to the leading hand in each swing...and then the following hand in each swing...try the several variations...when does the weight shift to the other foot?...where does the movement originate?...in the foot?...in the hip joint?...in the spine?...in the eyes?...and rest.

15. Repeat original movement from #12…the right arm swings from overhead to back at shoulder level, while the left arm swings from down and back to forward at shoulder level…at some point it is equally easy to look at either hand as you come into the upright position…the whole movement requires coordination of the shifting of weight and the twisting and bending…you are looking for a way to do it that requires very little effort, and that is balanced and supported throughout…both knees will be bent to varying degrees throught the whole movement...your weight will shift smoothly from one foot to another, but you do not push either foot into the floor...you maintain a connection between each foot that is bearing the weight and the corresponding ischium (sitting bone)...and rest. Walk around a little.

16. Repeat #12 through #15 on the other side.

17. Same position as#13, arms outstretched, weight on left foot and ball of right foot, knees bent, looking back at right hand…you turn easily further to the right now...from here, find a way to drop the right hand behind right knee while shifting weight more fully to left foot and lifting left hand overhead, bending body to right with left hand palm up far above the right foot…and continue the circle of the arms, twisting your body and shifting your weight so the right arm lifts to the front, the body turns to the left, and the left arm reaches behind…your weight shifts...one heel lifts and one drops to floor...and drop the left arm and lift the right arm…and go from side to side like that in a continuous loop, like a windmill of some kind…go slowly…stay balanced, and keep the movements easy…and let it go and rest. Walk around, notice how you carry yourself now.

18. Same movement, but this time let the elbow bend on the arm that is coming up from the back…it is like a swimming movement…one arm comes up from the back as in freestyle...the elbow bends, and the hand comes up behind the head in the middle, and then overhead and extended toward the ceiling over the head…at the same time the other arm is dropping in front, extending down and back behind the knee…play around with it…there is a lot of twisting here, so be careful to stay in the range which is very easy and comfortable…it is easier if you bend your knees...and let it go and rest a moment...see how that is...and then try the opposite direction, more like the backstroke...the elbow is bent in the front arm as it lifts, and straight as it drops behind...explore it many times...make the weight shifting soft and smooth...and rest...lie on your back for a few moments if you like, and see how you feel against the floor…then again walk around the room, noticing changes in your carriage...notice how much walking is like swimming!