Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #41 (5/01)

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

Swinging the legs

Functionally, our "legs" include most of the rest of our bodies, in ways that vary depending on what we are doing. By focusing awareness on the feet and on exploring how movements of the legs can be integrated with movements of the entire body, we can improve the fluidity, balance, and strength of many kinds of movements.

Works in particular with:
Feet, legs, hip joints, spine, neck, and chest.

   1. Begin by just standing...notice how your feet make contact with the floor...and how your weight is distributed over your feet...how is your balance?...and walk around, noticing the quality of movement, shifting of weight from foot to foot, and overall balance and ease...remember what it feels like, and then lie down on the floor on your right side.

2. Bend your knees about 90 degrees out in front, as in sitting, with knees together and ankles together...help support body with left hand on floor in front of chest...rest your head on your right arm (or on a thin pad, if necessary to relieve discomfort)...bring your awareness to your left foot...in your mind feel the sole of your left foot...can you feel the cushion of the heel?...imagine drawing a slow circle around the pad of the heel on the sole of the foot, with your finger, or (my favorite image) a small ball as in a roll-on deodorant dispenser (do they still make those?) or marker...you imagine drawing a circle from the outside edge of the foot, under the front of the heel, under the arch, around the inside edge of the heel pad, and around the back edge of the pad back to the outside edge...go around slowly many times...the image and sensations will gradually fill in...and let it go and rest.

3. Same position...continue the same mental and visual exploration, but now exploring around the pads of the toes...begin with the little toe...the pad of the toe itself, and also the pad below the little toe on the metatarsal...do the same for all the toes...some are easier to sense than others...don't struggle or hold your breath, just relax and gently feel the pads of the toes...take your time...and let it go and rest.

4. Combine #2 and #3 by imagining drawing a circle around the heel, then along the outside edge of the foot, across the toes, and reverse...it's a little like what you would feel in walking, setting the foot down heel first, feeling the weight distribute along the whole length of the foot as you step onto the foot...do that many times...and rest.

5. Again bring awareness to pad of left heel, keeping sense of rest of foot in background...keeping the feet "attached" at the bases of the big toes, where the left foot lies on top of the right, explore a soft movement of lifting the heel toward your left buttock, and returning to neutral...you feel the pad of the heel come toward your left sitting bone, and go back...the hinge of your ankle moves a little forward and back each time, and you also will feel movement in your knee and hip...keep awareness on the pads of the foot, especially the heel, and repeat is slowly many times...then expand it so you also take the heel down away from the hip when you go back...explore the whole range...how do your toes want to participate?...the toes can just be carried along, neutral, or they can go with or opposite the movement...try the variations...and rest...

6. Same position...bring awareness to pads of heel and toes...explore a movement of separating the heels by lifting the left heel toward the ceiling, away from the right heel...feet stay connected at base of big toes...feel the pad of the heel move in space...notice how your whole leg participates...and let it go and rest.

7. Same position...again bring awareness to pads of heel and toes...again keep bases of big toes connected, and move heel in a circle...up toward sitting bone, around toward ceiling, down away from hip, down toward right heel...go around many times...allow ankle, knee, hip and pelvis to participate easily...and reverse directions, and see how that is different...and rest.

8. Same position...extend left leg below you in the air as if in standing...right leg bent on floor about 45 degrees at hip and knee...keep awareness on sole of foot, on pads of heel and toes, and in this position take heel in a circle as in #7...and change directions...and then, resting as desired, gently swing leg forward and back...explore the easy range...gradually let body participate so as leg swings back head and shoulder go forward, and vice versa...do that many times...and also explore the opposite, so when leg swings forward head and shoulder move forward, and when leg swings back you think about taking the head and shoulders back as if wanting to look up at the wall above your head...just go easy, keeping everything soft, keeping awareness on the sole of the foot, and not holding the breath...and rest.

9. Repeat #8, but this time hold the foot so the heel is extended down, toes up the whole time...see how that is, sometimes with head and back going with the leg and sometimes opposite...and rest.

10. Same thing with heel pulled up toward hip, foot extended, toes curled under...and then keeping the foot that way let the knee bend each time the leg swings back, as if heel would swing back in an arc toward back of head...and then just swing the leg loosely however it wants to go, and let body roll or bend however feels comfortable to support the movement.

11. Same position, same awareness of foot...now reach down and behind and hold left lower leg with left hand...lift the knee so lower leg is parallel to the floor, and slowly bring left knee closer to face, bending upper body forward, and then take knee down away, as if to go behind you, bending upper body back...(right leg might want to be relatively straight on the floor for this, extended down, but perhaps slightly forward of line of body)...how do you take the knee back?...don't push...what is the easy trajectory?...what stops it?...take breaks after ten or so tries, and continue...eventually you will find that if the belly pushes out and rolls a little toward the floor, the back arches and the knee goes back a little...just explore till you get a little sense of it, it's not a big deal...keep breathing easily...and let it go and rest.

12. Same position, holding left lower leg in air, parallel to floor, right knee bent in front on the floor...now keeping it parallel to the floor, lift left lower leg a little toward ceiling, and lower it as if toward floor behind and maybe below right knee...don't worry, it won't go there, just notice what stops it...then, using your right hand on the floor if necessary, allow your head and upper body to lift away from the floor so you can take the left lower leg toward the floor...and go up and down like that, like a seesaw pivoting around the right thigh and right hip joint...your entire upper body moves as a unit...each time the leg comes to the floor, see if you can place it further behind you...and each time the knee lifts the body rolls a little more forward and the face and left shoulder come closer to the floor in front as you maintain a little bigger arch in the back...don't push, it will come of itself...in a sense you come up to sitting each time the leg goes back and the head lifts...find ways to use the balance to make it effortless...and let it go and rest.

14. Roll onto your back...extend the legs, and notice the different sensations in the two sides...then again bring awareness into the left heel and move the heel to trace a circle on the floor from where it lies...bend the left knee just enough so you can do the movement easily...let the toes, ankle, knee, hip be involved...and change directions... then come to standing, and take a moment to compare the two feet, with the beginning, and with each other...walk around a little, feeling the different qualities in the two sides of the body...you see that the left leg is more functional, more integrated with the body.

15. Lie down on the floor on your left side, and repeat #2 through #11 on the other side...than come to standing, and observe changes...walk around very slowly, keeping the same awareness of the soles of the feet, feeling minutely how the weight rolls and spreads across the soles...do the same thing walking backwards...and let it go and just walk normally observing the differences from the beginning of the lesson.