Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #51 (12/02)

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

Waking the Spine (Chair version)

This lesson explores spinal movements of flexion, extension, and rotation from the position of sitting in a chair, making the lesson accessible to those with limited mobility (like those of us recovering from knee surgery!)

Works with:
Extending range of motion of the spine and torso

   1. Begin by sitting in a straight-backed chair or bench with no back...slide forward so your back does not lean on the back of the chair...just sit for a few moments and notice how this is...your feet should rest flat on the floor, with the knees near the same level as the hips, neither very much higher or lower...adjust with supports on seat or under feet...notice your level of comfort, the quality of your breathing, the amount of work you are doing to sit this way.

2. Rest your wrists passively on your thighs, the hands near each other on your lap...and from this position let your body soften and slump forward, as if to drop your face toward your knees...start with a small movement...then sit back up beginning at the bottom, bringing your head and face up at the last to look forward again...each time you bend forward, exhale, soften your ribs and shoulders, and let your elbows drop heavily toward the floor...gradually your face comes closer to your knees...there is no effort in rolling down like this, only letting things go and relaxing...do it many times, then let it go, return to sitting normally, and rest.

3. Place both hands on your right knee, so your upper body and face turn a little to the right, and repeat the same movement as #2...relax forward as if to take the face close to the right knee, the chest close to the hands resting on the right knee...you exhale and soften ribs, back, shoulders, and elbows as you bend forward...then come back to sitting, rolling up from the lower spine, letting your head be heavy, and only lifting to look forward again after the body is already erect...repeat it many times...as you repeat it, you might find it comfortable to extend the movement a bit at the end by bringing the weight onto the right sitting bone, arching the back slightly, letting the head drop back slightly and looking upward...repeat it many times...and let it go and rest.

4. Repeat #3 on the other side.

5. Repeat #2, this time extending the movement so that you look up at the end of each cycle...don't work hard at this, just let your head drop back a little to look up, before exhaling, lowering the head, and repeating the bending forward movement...remember to let the ribs be soft and the shoulders and elbows be heavy...and rest.

6. Repeat #5, but this time move your eyes opposite the movement of your head and body...so as you slump forward, you look up past your eyebrows, and as you straighten the back with face up, you look down...repeat that very slowly several times...and rest.

7. Lean forward and rest your elbows on your thighs...from this position, rock your weight forward and back on your sitting bones several times...as you rock forward, your spine straightens (though you are still leaning far forward, elbows or forearms still on thighs, not sitting "up"), and you lift your head and eyes to look up, toward the wall in front of you...as you rock back, your lower back rounds, your trunk softens, and your face drops toward your lap...repeat it softly a number of times.

8. Place your hands on your right knee...repeat #7 from this position...rock your pelvis forward and to the right onto the front of the right sitting bone...your back straightens or arches slightly and you find yourself looking forward and to the right...your left sitting bone lifts away from the chair...and you return by letting go of the effort, and slumping again, face near the right knee...repeat it many times, relaxing fully each time you slump forward...and rest.

9. Repeat #8 on the other side.

10. Repeat #5.

11. Rest wrists or hands on the thighs...slump forward as before and stay there...then shift your hands to the right knee, shift your weight onto the right sitting bone, and sit up to the right, looking up toward the ceiling on the right...this time you are actually sitting up...your left sitting bone lifts away from the chair at the beginning of the movement, but at the "top" of the movement, you are again on both sitting bones, turned somewhat to the right, looking up to the right...then again relax and slump down toward the right knee, shift the hands to the left knee, turn the body slightly to the left, shift weight to left sitting bone, and straighten the back and look up toward the ceiling on the left, coming to rest on both sitting bones for a moment, looking up to the left...go from side to side like that many times, letting your body be soft and fluid, following gravity and relaxation and exhalation...and let it go and rest.

12. Just sit for a few moments, noticing what has changed.