Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #43 (9/01)

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

Connecting legs through upper spine

Where do your legs stop and your body begin? In walking, running, or kicking, the "functional leg" doesn't stop at the hip joint; it comes all the way up into the upper torso to support head and shoulders, in a way that allows for easy changing of support from one leg to the other.

Works with:
Legs, spine, ribs, hips, shoulders

   1. Begin by walking around, noticing how long your legs are...how far up into your body can you sense the line of support of each leg as you walk?...then lie down on back, scan your body; notice all the feelings and sensations within your body and against the floor; remember the feelings so you can observe how they change during the lesson.

2. Lie down on floor on your back...bend knees so feet stand, more or less under knees...and explore many times a movement of opening left hip joint, and slowly lowering left knee toward floor on left (don't let it "flop")...repeat many times, gradually finding out how to take knee closer to floor...right knee stays oriented toward ceiling...at first the movement is in the hip joint only...to make the movement larger you have to let the pelvis roll to the left...and of course the right hip joint is carried up and to the left somewhat...let it happen...and you will also find that in order to lay the upper left leg, from hip to knee, on the floor, you also have to tilt the pelvis down as well, so the right knee not only lifts toward the ceiling, it also moves down away from your face, arching the back a bit to allow the left thigh to make close contact with the floor...repeat it many times...and stretch out legs and rest.

3. Same position…repeat same movement...only now each time let your right shoulder lift away from the floor, and let your head and neck roll a little bit to the left...do it many times…and rest.

4. Same position...but now extend your right arm down toward the right heel...and each time you take the left knee to the floor, as the right hip lifts away from the floor, extend the right arm and hand down toward the right heel...let the shoulders and face slide to the right...keep face oriented toward ceiling...do it a number of times...and rest on your back.

5. Same position...take left knee to floor and stay there, right hip lifted, right knee carried a little to left with hip, but still oriented toward ceiling (not dropped to left)...arms out to sides...explore a movement of pushing pelvis gently forward (slow and sexy) a number of times...notice what happens in back and right shoulder…and rest.

6. Same position, but now let right arm lie on floor comfortably overhead...elbow can be bent with hand near head...take left knee to floor as before, right knee to ceiling, and each time slide right hand overhead on floor, and look up at hand with head and eyes...your upper back arches each time...repeat it easily a number of times to get a clear sense of it…continue until it feels natural to make the movement large enough to roll all the way onto your left side...and reverse it and return...repeat that several times...and then come to rest on your left side, with hips and knees bent at 45 degrees or so, and supporting yourself with right hand.

7. Bring awareness to right foot...in mind's eye, imagine tracing a circle around the ball of the heel...go slowly...across under arch to instep, back along inside of heel, around back edge, forward along outside edge, many times, filling in your awareness of the heel...and then continue along the outside edge of the foot to include the soft fleshy parts under each toe, beginning with little toe...one by one across to big toe...and back over pads at bases of toes...take time to imagine and feel into the spaces between each pair of toes, and extend that awareness deep into the bones in the metatarsal...and let it go and rest.

8. Keep awareness of entire right foot and spaces between toes...and slowly flex and extend the toes, but do it in such a way as if your intention were flexing and extending the spaces between the toes...put awareness between big toe and second toe as you flex and extend toes...and second and third…and so on...and let it go and rest.

9. Same position on side...extend right leg, and lift it slightly away from left...keep awareness on entire foot, fleshy parts of foot and toes and spaces between toes...slowly swing leg forward and back, exploring range of movement...do it sometimes so as leg goes forward, head and right shoulder go forward...and then sometimes as leg goes forward, head and shoulders go back...do it many times...and rest.

10. Same position…hold right ankle or shin in right hand...slowly take knee forward and back in space...head goes forward as knee goes forward, back as knee goes back...take some time with this...gradually make it bigger by extending left leg almost straight, and allowing pelvis to roll forward as knee goes back...belly rounds out in front and rolls toward floor...back arches comfortably and head is drawn back...take some time with it, and don't push or strain, just look for the pleasant stretch...do it many times...and roll onto your back and take a good rest.

11. Repeat #2 through #11 on the other side.

12. Come to standing on left side of a straight-backed chair, with right hand resting on the back...bring awareness to left foot, fleshy parts of heel and toes, spaces between toes...swing the leg forward and back...start slowly, and gradually make it bigger...rest when tired...sometimes let head and shoulders come forward as leg swings back, sometimes back...then let left arm be involved, so left arm swings opposite left leg, which is moving like a big pendulum...let knee bend as leg goes back, so foot moves somewhat up toward buttocks each time...keep awareness on sole of foot and toes...and let it go and rest.

13. Same position, but now back up a little more behind the chair so your left leg has room to swing right somewhat...and keeping awareness on foot as before, swing leg somewhat right and left like a pendulum...your hips move and your waist turns and bends...let left arm be involved as a counterbalance...keep it light...and let it go and just stand for a moment...walk around the room a bit.

14. Repeat #12 and #13 on the other side. Repeat #1. What is different?