Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #47 (4/02)

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

Stabilizing Your Center

Most of the movements we do require us constantly to be shifting our center of gravity in space, while somehow maintaining our balance over that moving center, as weight shifts from one leg to another, and as our focus wanders from place to place. This lesson beings awareness to how to carry our weight smoothly from one standing or walking leg to another.

Works with:
Legs, hips, spine, torso, balance

   1. Stand...shift weight from one leg to the other...which leg bears your weight more easily?...walk around the room a bit...notice relationships among foot striking floor, shifting of weight, swinging of hips and shoulders...then lie 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 with legs stretched out comfortably apart...straighten the right leg with toes toward the ceiling and explore a movement of softly extending your right foot further away from you several times...the knee doesn't bend, you have to do something with your right hip...your right side gets longer as the heel slides away...repeat it a number of times... gradually make the movement bigger, consciously drawing the foot (and hip) up toward you and then extending it away...the leg stays straight the whole time...your pelvis tilts, right hip down away from right shoulder, then right hip up toward right shoulder....and let it go and rest.

3. Repeat #2 on the other side.

4. Combine #2 and #3, alternately extending the right leg, then the left leg...gradually make it bigger, so as you push the right hip down to extend the right heel away, you draw the left hip up to slide the left heel toward you a bit...go from side to side like that, feeling if the center of the movement on the one side is different from the center of the movement on the other side...and let it go and rest.

5. Bend your knees so your feet are standing, somewhat wide apart...explore a slow and reversible movement of taking the right knee to the left, toward the floor inside the left leg (knees must be far enough apart to allow this)...explore it gradually and slowly a number of times...allow your right lower back to lengthen as the right hip lifts away from the floor...the right knee goes toward the floor (don't force it to touch)...the left knee stays more or less toward the ceiling...the right knee moves toward the floor and down away from your face somewhat...feel the pull along the right side of your back, but don't let the right shoulder lift...let it feel more open, or wider or longer instead...and let it go and rest.

6. Repeat #5 on the other side.

7. Combine #5 and #6 by taking right knee to left, lifting right hip, then left knee to right, lifting left hip...go from side to side like that a number of times....and rest.

8. Bend right knee so right foot is standing, left leg outstretched...explore movement of rolling pelvis to left so right hip lifts away from floor...do it in such a way that right knee lifts toward the ceiling each time (it doesn't go down to left, though it might be carried a little to left by movement of pelvis)...repeat it a number of times...notice lengthening of lower back on right side...leave right shoulder on the floor...place right hand on right crest of hip in front, and bring the lifting of the hip toward the ceiling into foreground of awareness each time...and broaden the awareness to include the hip, thigh, and knee all lifting forward and extending together each time...do that several times...and then place the right hand on the middle ribs on the right side (the "corner" between the front and the side), and feel how the back arches and the lower rib cage pushes forward toward the ceiling as the hip lifts...do that several times...and let it go and rest.

9. Repeat #8 on the other side.

10. Combine #7 and #8 by "walking" from side to side on your back...with right leg outstretched and left foot standing under the knee, roll pelvis right to lift left hip, thigh, and knee toward ceiling and out in front of you...then roll back to center, extend left leg, right foot to standing, and lift the right hip, thigh, and knee toward the ceiling, rolling the pelvis to the left...go from side to side like that--it takes a while to find a rhythm...and stretch out and rest.

11. Stand up and notice how you stand...then gradually shift your weight onto right leg by letting the left leg slowly collapse, so your weight all shifts onto the right leg and hip...the hip pushes out to the right side a bit...let the bones and ligaments of the hip support your body...notice where your head goes--over which leg?-- and maybe let your chest soften and collapse a little and let your neck and head droop just a little bit as you look down toward the standing foot...and from there gradually straighten the left leg so it picks up half the weight...as both legs come under you stand tall, eyes on horizon...then let the right leg collapse so the weight all goes onto the left hip, which pushes out to the left a bit, and look down toward right foot...so go from side to side like that, shifting the weight entirely from side to side...do it many times...standing erect in the middle, and slouching slightly at the sides...and rest.

12. Same position....continue same movement at #11 but now place your thumbs on your lower ribs...and each time you go through the middle feel ribs move a little forward and up...your back arches slightly...you stand alert like a deer when startled...and imagine letting your head fall backward...(just create the intention, not the actual movement; something will change in your lower back)...do it a few times looking down toward the standing foot...and then do it a number of times so you keep your eyes on the horizon through the entire cycle...as if your head were floating in space undisturbed by the shifting of weight from side to side...like a "bobble-head" doll except all the bobbling is in the body...and let it go and rest.

13. Repeat the weight shifting of #11, but now slowly march in place like a drum major(ette)...as you shift weight onto one leg as in #11, lift the knee of the other leg forward and somewhat inward so it grazes and goes in front of the other knee a little...this isn't marching in place like Marines, lifting the knees high...just lift each heel enough so toes either stay on floor or barely lift away...it's more like a majorette with a baton and tall white boots...the hip moves forward, and the knee goes forward and inward toward the center...the weight shifts completely from foot to foot...your head stays high and proud...the hip joints are loose as the pelvis sways side to side in a circular sort of motion...notice how your head may be carried first over one foot and then another...gradually make the whole movement a little faster and lighter...and explore for a way to "float" your head and neck over your torso so the whole body below your sternum is swinging freely but the head is floating as if dangling in one spot...and let it go and rest.

14. Stand near a sturdy chair, and place your left hand on the back for support...with your left hand explore the crease that goes from the crest of your right hip to your pubic bone...rest your fingertips over the hip joint, in the crease about halfway between the two points...then standing on your right leg, bend the right knee a little, and lift the left foot so the left ankle rests on the right thigh a little above the knee...from that position, supporting yourself with your left hand, explore a small sitting movement, bending the right leg in such a way that you feel the fingers of your right hand sink into the crease above your right hip joint...you feel the crease fold more deeply around the hip joint as it sinks inward and down toward the floor...probably the knee bends as well...and then straighten...the whole movement might be quite small and unfamiliar to start with...repeat it a number of times, exploring the easiest way to coordinate the movement in the hip joint with the straightening and bending of the leg and the trunk...look for a feeling of support, strength, and balance...don't strain...rest as necessary....and just stand normally and rest.

15. Take a step back with the left foot and stay like that...explore a movement of shifting the weight forward and back on and off the right leg in such a way that as you come forward to place more weight on the right leg, the right hip joint is pushed forward a bit...your back arches a little...it's the opposite of the sinking and folding movement of #14...if you place your hand in the crease above the hip joint, you feel the joint pushing forward each time...just explore it easily several times, then stand normally and rest.

16. Repeat #14 and #15 on the other side.

17. Repeat the shifting of weight completely from side to side of #11...explore comfortable ways to balance your torso and head as you shift the weight...and move into the "majorette marching in place" movement...let your head float high...feel what happens in your ribs and chest...and actually walk around like that, exaggerating the swinging movements of hips, waist, ribs...it's a little flamboyant, a little festive (a little silly!)...and gradually let it go and walk normally, and notice how the lesson has changed your "natural" way of walking.