Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #45 (12/01)

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


Rhythmic movement can be a powerful tool for integrating the entire body into a unified whole; this lesson uses inner awareness and rhythmic movement to open the rib cage and lengthen the sides, improving vertical organization and balance.

Works with:
Feet, legs, hips, trunk, chest, and spine.

   1. Lie down on the floor on your back, arms near sides, feet shoulder width or so apart...take time to feel your entire right side, from toes to top of head...and left side...notice how it all feels today...and rest.

2. Same position...compare the legs, and the feet...which way do toes point?...are legs and feet symmetrical?...slowly flex and extend both feet and ankles...point the toes and ball of the feet down, and then draw them up toward your face...go slowly, many times...notice how the rest of your body is or is not involved in the movement...pelvis move?...chest move?...head move?...and rest.

3. Same position...again flex and extend ankles, but do it rapidly and lightly, about the speed of dribbling a baskeball fairly close to the floor...it may help to place palms of hands on floor next to you and use hands to help a bit...it's as if your heels form a hinge against the floor, and the arches and ankles therefore rock up and down, involving the legs, pelvis, spine, and entire body...in other words, your heels don't slide on the floor, they are more or less on the same spot...your body isn't at all rigid, but sloshes a little, like a big lump of jello...do it for ten seconds or so, and notice how it feels, how much of you is involved easily...this will change as the lesson proceeds...and rest.

4. Repeat the rhythmic rocking of #3...but only on right side, using right foot and right hand...this is more challenging...take some time to sort out a comfortable rhythm, if possible...then, let go of that, and, allowing right knee to bend a little as necessary, move your right foot and ankle in such a way as to trace out a small circle on the floor with your heel...go quite slowly...make the circle round and smooth...slow down even more where it is less clear...make many circles...and change direction...and rest.

5. Repeat #5 but this time let right heel remain on same spot on floor, and swing ball of foot and toes to trace circles in the air...ankle flexes and extends while leg rolls in and out a bit...and change directions...and again repeat the rhythmic oscillation on the right side, using right heel as a hinge, helping with right hand on floor...is it easier or bigger in some way?...and rest.

6. Bring awareness to right hand on floor near side...explore movement of extending first finger and pressing tip into floor and releasing...try various locations, orientations, and directions, looking for a feeling of strength and solidity (but not "effort") in the pushing, noticing what this means for the organization of your arm, elbow, shoulder, collarbone, chest...and do the same with middle finger...and ring finger...and little finger...and all fingertips and thumb at same time, rhythmically pushing and releasing...notice what this asks of arm, shoulder, collarbone, ribs...and let it go and rest.

7. Now repeat rapid rocking movement on right side, using right foot and right fingertips only...pushing and pulling...do it for ten seconds or so...and then place the palm flat against the floor and continue rocking using right foot and right hand only...notice how pads on palm at base of fingers press into floor...something changes in your shoulder as you continue, as the movement becomes more clear...and rest, noticing the differences between right and left sides.

8. Extend right arm over head on the floor as is comfortable, knuckles on floor...slowly flex and extend right ankle and notice what happens to right hand...do it so knuckles slide further up with each push...your body gets longer, and your ribs are asked to open more each time...do it a number of times, then slowly slide arm to side on floor and rest.

9. Repeat rocking on right side, using right hand and right foot, and notice difference...and then change it so hand and foot are in a sense opposite each other, and see what that is like...can you find a rhythm?...and back to the original movement...and rest.

10. Again right arm overhead on floor...easier now?...slowly flex and extend right ankle as before, lengthening distance from hand to foot each time...and look up in direction of hand each time...feel back and ribs against floor...and stand up and walk around a bit, comparing the two sides...and again come to lie on your back and rest.

11. Lie face down on floor...turn toes "up" toward face on floor (as in starting blocks for a race)...place palms on floor near shoulders as for a pushup, elbows in the air...lift face a little away from floor (so as not to scrape your nose!), and lift and lower knees as you slowly do the rocking movement from ankles and feet in this position...your neck pushes your head further from your shoulders each time, and your pelvis tilts up and down...hands guide the movement as whole body moves up and down (relative to spine, not gravity)...and rest.

12. Same position, except left arm alongside, right arm overhead, face to right, left ear on floor...push with right foot, up and down...explore how to use foot for most direct and solid push...which part of ball of foot is best?...then let go, make right hand as in a pushup again, and push with right hand only...try with head on floor and with head lifted a little...and again with head on floor...which allows more comfortable or more global rhythm?...and rest.

13. Same position, right arm overhead on floor, push through right foot...hand slides in same direction as heel, about same distance...do it a number of times...and then change it so you look up at hand each time...and let it go, roll onto back and rest.

14. Rock body with right heel only, and see how that is now...then bend right knee so right foot stands on floor...slide arm overhead on floor and lift elbow into air, placing palm of hand on floor near right ear, with fingers pointed down toward feet...it's a strange position...and from there alternately lift and lower right hip...when hip lifts, hand rests more easily on floor...do it many times...and add to it lifting the right shoulder...so hip lifts, then shoulder...do it several times...then just the shoulder...and then both together...and then both together, lifting and letting them drop together to floor...several times...and stretch out and rest.

15. Same position as #14...lift hip and lift shoulder, arching back so back of head can slide under arch of arm...repeat it a number of times, with increasing intention (not effort) to look up and left toward hand on floor (seeing it is NOT the point!)...your whole right side makes a big arch each time...repeat it many times, making it increasingly smooth and graceful...and let it go, stretch out with arms near sides, and rest on your back...notice how your back and ribs and shoulders feel different...and then repeat the rocking movement on the right side only...and compare it with the left side...and stand up and walk around, noticing changes from the beginning and differences between the two sides...reach up to ceiling with right hand as you walk...and with left...your torso knows something it didn't before...

You could stop here for today, or continue later today or tomorrow.

16. Repeat #4 through #15 on the other side.

17. Repeat #3, rocking using both feet and hands...notice the differences from the beginning of the lesson...repeat it for ten seconds or so, at different rhythms...and then come to standing, observe changes, and walk around...what is different?