Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #53 (5/03)

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

Waking the Feet (Seated)

The feet are complex and indispensable, yet often only dimly in our awareness. This simple lesson improves foot awareness and range of motion, and connects the feet functionally to legs and hips for improved standing, walking, and sense of groundedness.

Works with:
Feet, ankles, legs, hip joints,

   1. Begin by standing, and noticing how feet make contact with the floor...walk around and note the quality of the sensations in the feet, and the sense of grounding (or not) in feet, legs, and hips...then sit on the front of a straight-backed chair or bench (don't lean against back rest) so your feet are flat on the floor, with the arches or balls of the feet directly under your knees, and the knees at about the same height from the floor as your hips (adjust height with folded blankets under seat or feet)...rest hands on thighs...and just sit for a few moments, noticing hips, feet, and legs.

2. Explore a tiny movement of lifting the right heel and setting it down...at first make it so small and slow that someone watching from nearby would not notice that you are moving...do it a number of times...breathe normally...and observe what kind of tiny movements or tensions it induces in your knee, your pelvis and the rest of your body...does your body stay still?...or tip forward or back a little?...or rotate a little?...does it stay soft, or get rigid in places?...do you inhale or exhale as you lift the heel?...then deliberately explore the possibilities...first, do it so you lean back at the pelvis a little each time...notice how your weight shifts on your sitting bones...and several times so you lean forward a few times...and a few times so your upper body stays in the same place...and repeat that cycle, making the movement of the foot, knee, and hip joint gradually larger, but without efforting...then let the movement stop and just sit...which hip feels more comfortable?

3. Move the right foot a little forward, so the heel is more under the knee...and explore movement of lifting the front of the foot from the floor a little...do it a number of times..the contact of the foot with the floor rolls back across the pad of the heel...keep your breath even, and notice if you tense muscles which are associated with "trying" rather than "doing" this little movement...do it so you lean back a little each time on your sitting bones...and a few times leaning forward...which is easier?...gradually make it bigger...and what happens to your toes?...do it a number of times so the toes just come along for the ride...and several times to the toes curl under toward the floor...and several times so the toes lift up relative to the foot each time...which is most comfortable?...and rest.

4. Same position...now combine #2 and #3 by lifting the heel setting it down...and lifting the front of the foot and setting it down...the weight of the foot and leg rolls forward and back across the pads of the feet and toes...let all of the pads be soft and sensitive...the knee moves up and down...does it lift more with the heel or with the ball?...make it larger and less effortful...feel the increasing ease of motion in the hip joint...and let it go and rest...compare the sensations in the two feet, legs, and hips.

5. Same position...let the heel be more or less under the knee...imagine there is a pin through the middle of your heel into the floor...and explore sliding the front of the foot from side to side around that pivot...begin with very small. slow movements, and let the knee move from side to side with the front of the foot...gradually make it bigger...what stops the movement?...try to eliminate extra tension in your hips, back, arms, hands, neck, and face...as the movement gets larger, and takes up all the slack in the hip joint, you can take the knee a little further to the right by letting your weight shift smoothly onto the right sitting bone a bit and the lower belly pooch out toward the knee a little as the knee moves far to the right...and onto the left hip and pooching out the belly toward the left a little as the knee moves far to the left, near the left knee...perhaps finding yourself lifting the other sitting bone away from the chair a bit at the extremes...do it many times...and let it go and rest.

6. Same position...let the ball of the foot be more or less under the knee...and now imagine there is a pin through the ball of the foot into the floor, and explore a movement of sliding the heel from side to side...start very small, and go slowly, in synch with your breath...your right knee moves in space opposite the direction of the heel...the left knee stays more or less in the same position in space...the right knee points always over the right toes as the knee moves...keep it smooth and easy, and gradually make it bigger...don't effort...eventually, weight might shift a little on the sitting bones...go from side to side like that...do it many times until it is easy and enjoyable...and let it go and rest...notice the different sensations on the two sides.

7. Again sit comfortably, feet on floor as before...explore a movement of slowly rolling the weight of the right foot onto the outside edge, lifting the inside edge from the floor...and back to neutral...let the sole of the foot be soft...roll it so the pressure rolls evenly onto the edge of the foot each time...notice how the knee moves...and notice what you do with your toes...try it a few times lifting the big toe each time...and a number of times curling the big toe under each time...let the other toes do as they please...and then do it several times the most comfortable way for the toes...how are your pelvis and the rest of your body involved?...and let it go and rest.

8. Same position...this time slowly roll the right foot toward the inner edge, lifting the outer edge...and back to neutral...keep the sole of the foot soft, feeling the weight roll evenly across the pads of the foot...notice how the knee moves in space...and try it lifting the big toe each time...and curling the big toe each time...let the other toes come along as they like...and rest.

9. Same position...combine #7 and #8, first rolling the right foot inward onto the inside edge, and then outward onto the outside edge...let the knee move easily...do it slowly many times...and then see if you can hold the knee more or less still over the foot and do it that way...make it slow and smooth...it's fine if it is just a small movement...just get a sense of the difference between doing it with the knee moving or with the knee still...and let it go and rest...notice the difference in the sensations in the two feet...and stand...notice the differences...and walk around, feeling the differences in the two feet, legs, and hip joints.

10. Put your right hand below the right knee, and lift the knee, lifting the foot off the floor until you can hold the ankle with the left hand, sole of the foot facing the floor...from that position, gently lift the knee and the foot toward the right shoulder, while lifting the shoulder forward and up a little toward right ear...holding the leg with both hands like that lift and lower the leg several times, paying attention to the sensations in your shoulder, hip joint, and sitting bones...how does your weight shift?...how does your spine bend?...what do you do with your head?...and then stand up and compare the sensations in the two legs and the two feet...and walk around briefly...notice the differences on the two sides.

11. Again sit as before. Repeat #2 through #10 on the other side...notice the differences from the beginning of the lesson.

12. Again sit as before, hands on the thighs or knees, knee over the ball of the foot...now bring your awareness again to your right foot...slowly and very softly press the ball of the right foot into the floor...you may want to move it around a bit to find the place where you could push the foot most evenly and powerfully...look for a sense of engaging the pelvis so that increasing pressure of the foot causes the pelvis to tilt and your belly button move to the left...engage the foot into the floor slowly and gently so you can feel the soft padding of the ball of the foot slowly squeezing flatter into clear contact with the floor as if to push the floor down and away at the beginning of each repetition...your pelvis tilts a bit to the left, your left ear and right shoulder move toward each other, and your weight rolls a bit toward your left sitting bone...your right side shortens and your left side lengthens...organize yourself so the foot presses evenly...and notice if your ribs or shoulders or hip or neck or face or jaw move or tense unnecessarily...do it many times, gently, just feeling it...and let it go and rest.

13. Same position...now continue the same movement and gradually make it larger...maybe your right sitting bone lifts a little off the chair each time...your weight shifts to the left sitting bone...your right shoulder and right hip come closer together...your head tilts toward the right shoulder...repeat it softly many times...keep awareness in the sole of the foot, keeping it soft and pressing evenly and strongly...do you inhale or exhale as you press?...and let it go and rest.

14. Same position...do the same movement as #13, but now do the pressing the foot and lifting the hip relatively slowly, and coming back relatively quickly...pressing the foot and lifting the hip slowly...and then letting go to come back quickly...you relax to come back smoothly...finding a comfortable rhythm...do it many times...you don't come back hard, just quickly, but softly...and rest.

15. Repeat #12, #13, and #14 on the other side.

16. Combine #14 and #15 by going from side to side...press the right foot and lift the right hip slowly...come back quickly to the center, and slowly continue on to press the left foot and lift the left hip, bending to the left...and coming back quickly, and continuing on to the right...let your body find a comfortable rhythm...let your upper body and head find easy and comfortable ways to participate...each time you rest momentarily in the middle before going on...and let the movement stop and just sit and rest...

17. Repeat #16, but this time let your arms hang by your sides, and just go evenly from side to side...it will feel a little like a "Charlie Chaplin" walk...do that several times...and then do it more quickly and lightly, so your head stays more or less in the same place in space, and your body moves from side to side under it...and make it smaller and faster and lighter until it is just imaginary...and come to a complete rest and let it fade away...notice how your weight is balanced on your sitting bones...notice the sensations in your feet...just sit for a few moments and be quiet, noticing the sensations...then lean forward over your feet and stand up, seeing how that is...and walk around, noticing changes in feet, legs, hips, and overall sense of yourself since the beginning of the lesson.