Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #54 (7/03)

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

Bow string

This is about distributing side-bending movement along the whole body, and therefore improving balance in the right to left (vertical) and also front to back (sagittal) planes.

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

   1. Lie on your back, arms alongside on the floor, legs joined together as if tied at ankles and knees…do a small movement sliding both legs left and right…make the movements as small as necessary to be comfortable…keep breathing…what parts press harder against the floor to enable the movement?...and rest.

2. Same position…but now, place the hands on the stomach and lift the elbows from the floor, and then slide the legs side to side…don’t hurry…only do a fraction of what is possible…pay attention to the very beginning of the movement, to how you organize the beginning of it…and then lift your head away from the floor, as if to look at your feet, and continue…what changes when you do that?...and rest.

3. Same position…now slide the head a bit from side to side… the nose stays always pointing to the ceiling…the head doesn’t roll, it slides from side to side…is one side easier?...can you do it without interfering with your breath?...then leave the head in the center, spread the legs apart, and pressing the heels somewhat into the floor to help, do a small movement of sliding the pelvis right and left...and rest.

4. Same position…now, move the shoulders right and left. . . just the shoulder girdle, so your pelvis and head stay more or less where they are, but you find a way to slide the shoulders together a little bit left and a little bit right…and let it go and rest a moment...and then roll your face to the right and leave it...and from there, explore a very small movement of looking upward with head and eyes (up = top of head) and back to neutral...do it several times...you have to move from between your shoulder blades...and then turn the face left and explore looking up, and feeling what has to happen between your shoulders...and then once again with face in middle, slide shoulders side to side a bit...and let it go and rest...notice changes in your sensations of contact with the floor.

5. Now, bend both knees so feet stand on the floor…and using small movements, tilt both knees slowly to the left. . . imagine the knees and ankles are tied together…and return to the middle quickly…quickly is not “jerky”…quickly but smoothly…go down a bit slowly to the left and return to the middle more quickly…do it many times. . . slowly go down and come back quickly…and then change it so you don’t limit the knees to being together, but let the knees go first one and then the other, with space between them…but still go down slowly and return quickly…what changes?...what is the difference if the legs are bound or free?...and let it go and rest.

6. Repeat #5 on the other side…how do you do it?...with which muscles?. . . what lifts from the floor in addition to the legs?...where is the strength to do it quickly?...and rest.

7. Same position… combine #4 and #5 and go from side to side…slowly down on each side, and quickly back…notice how the pelvis is involved, and how it relates to the movements of the knees…then change it so you hold the pelvis still while you lower the knees to each side, so the pelvis remains flat…this means all the movement has to be in the hip joints…check it by placing the hands between the pelvis and the floor, with the fingers on the floor and the thumbs on the pelvis, on the hip joint…do it sometimes with knees and ankles bound, and sometimes letting them separate...notice that when separate, one knee moves further down and away from the head as the knees go to the side…and rest.

8. Now, move only the pelvis, leaving the knees in the middle…you roll the pelvis from side to side but the knees stand in the middle as if they are tied to the ceiling…easy movement in the hip joints allows the knees to stay toward the ceiling, even though they might be carried a bit right and left along with the pelvis…notice what the movement requires of your spine and chest…and then allow everything to move, and take the knees from side to side, letting the pelvis roll with the knees…continue to go down slowly and return quickly as before…you notice that the knees go easily further than before toward the floor…your body allows them to go further without particular effort…and rest.

9. Now, again with feet standing, knees and ankles joined, take the knees from side to side as before…pay attention to how much the pelvis rolls…you let the knees fall to the side easily, without trying, but keeping them going slowly and under control, and then come back to the center quickly… notice differences between right side and left… then change it by resting both hands on the stomach, with the elbows off the floor…and continue this movement…is it easier this way?... do it many times like this…and let it go, stretch out, and rest.

10. Same movement as #10…but now, place both hands palm down on the floor underneath the top of the pelvis, near the small of the back...so the backs of the hands form a ridge...and from this position slowly tilt the pelvis and knees from side to side as before. . . let the presence of the hands inform you about the movement…after many times like that, let the legs separate as the knees move, still going down slowly and returning quickly…one knee moves further away…as before, slowly down, and quickly back…you don’t stop in the middle, just change the speed and continue through the middle…and let it go and rest…notice sensations in contact with the floor…which parts of you touch more clearly, more comfortably?

11. Stand both feet…press the feet gently into the floor and tilt the pelvis a small amount upward, so the waist presses into the floor and the pubic bone lifts toward the face…maybe you don’t need to press the feet after a few repetitions…you just pull the pubic bone up toward the belly, slowly, and release it quickly…do it many times…lift slowly and return quickly… pay attention to what you do with the knees and to where you sense this in the chest, in the head, in the shoulders, in the shoulder blades, in the stomach and in the face…and rest.

12. Same position, but now change it so after you lift the tailbone, you lift the entire pelvis slightly away from the floor, and slide it to the left, slowly, and let it come back to neutral quickly…do that many times…notice how the movement resonates through your whole body…how does your contact with the floor change with each movement?...do you join the legs together or have them separate?...which is your preference?...can you find a way to enjoy each way equally?...what is the difference?...and then change it, sliding the pelvis to the right slowly, and letting it come back quickly…do it sometimes with legs connected and sometimes not…and finally, take the pelvis side to side, slowly to the side, quickly back, in continuous movement…you tilt the pelvis up so the waist presses the floor, and then you carry the pelvis to the right an easy amount, slowly, and come back quickly…and finally take the pelvis from side to side, as always, slowly to each side, quickly back, without stopping in the middle…and let it go and rest.

13. Now stretch out the legs, and spread them comfortably… press a bit on the heels to lift the pelvis slightly away from the floor…lift slowly and come back quickly…go lightly and slowly and small so you don’t strain the knees… lift slowly and come back quickly…notice reverberations of the movement through your chest, shoulders, head, and neck…and then, resting whenever you like, change it so you lift the pelvis, keep it off the floor, and move it to the left slowly and return quickly…the pelvis doesn't roll or tip sideways...do it many times…and then to the other side…slowly to the right and quickly to the middle…do that a number of times…and finally, from side to side like this, with the legs stretched out this way, slowly going out to each side, quickly back to center, and slowly on to the other side…notice what you feel in the ribs and shoulder blades…then change it so you do this movement very easily. . . and small. . . and more or less quickly. Just pay attention to the legs, to the shoulders, and to the range of movement on each side. . . to whether the movement is symmetrical, or if the two directions are different…and let it go and rest.

14. Again, stand both feet and lift the pelvis a bit…and repeat the same movement as #12, lifting pelvis, sliding it right and left with knees bent…make it faster and lighter and smaller, but still out slowly and back quickly…notice the range of motion on the two sides, the distance from the body to the arms on the floor…which side goes further toward the arm?...pay attention that the pelvis is translating from side to side, not rolling…how do you manage the knees so they handle the movement easily?

15. Same position, legs stretched out…gently press behind the knees to the floor so the sacrum lifts from the floor…do very easy movements, pressing the knees to lift the pubic bone so you could see it…press both knees evenly, behind the knees, slowly and gently…be careful not to strain...and then just the right knee, pressing slowly and releasing quickly…and just the left knee...notice if you feel something different in the ribs on the right side and the ribs on the left side. . .or in the right shoulder blade and the left shoulder blade...and again both knees pressing a few times…is it smoother?...and rest.

16. Same position, legs stretched out…rest the elbows on the floor, relatively close to your body, hands toward the ceiling…and from this position again tilt the pelvis to lift the tailbone…and from there find a way to lift the shoulders a bit from the floor and move them together to the right and back to center…to the side slowly, and back quickly…not lifting, translating or sliding whole shoulder girdle a little right and then return…you can press the elbows into the floor and maybe even press the head a bit at first to help lift the shoulder blades from the floor…explore it…gradually it will become clearer…and rest.

17. Repeat #16 on the other side, translating shoulders to the left.

18. Same position…now lift the right shoulder forward and return….lift slowly, and return quickly…do it many times…there is no need to press with the elbows for this…and then the same thing with the left shoulder…and then both shoulders at once…the shoulders lift and come a little forward and toward each other, and return…lift slowly, return quickly…how does the movement of the shoulders invite the head to move?...let it happen…the chin lifts, and the back of the head is pulled down…it happens by itself, don’t force it or exaggerate it, just notice it and allow it…and rest.

19. Now, spread the legs wide and place the left arm on the floor alongside, with the back of the hand on the floor…from here move the head with the arm, with the shoulder, with the entire body, the upper part of the body, in the direction the hand is pointing…and return…as before, go down slowly and return quickly…your body bends and slides…it’s not rolling….the face stays oriented to the ceiling…then make it bigger so that each time you reach down as if to take the left hand under the left thigh…don’t force it, it’s okay not to touch…keep your breath soft and regular…attend to how the back arches and bends…and rest…notice new sensations in your back and chest.

20. Repeat #19 on the other side.

21. Same position…lift both shoulders and stay like that…press the back of the head gently into the floor, and from there explore the possibility of lifting the pelvis…just a little bit, and just a few times, and with little effort…just seeing how you could organize it… and let that go, and just press with the backs of both knees and let go several times, feeling the reverberations…press slowly and let go quickly…and then pressing just the heels, slowly, and letting go quickly…and rest.

22. Press the elbows into the floor once again helping the shoulders to lift and the head to tilt back…from here, press the backs of the knees into the floor and tilt the pelvis up and let it go quickly, as before...bring awareness to stomach muscles on right and left…are they symmetrical?...and after resting for a moment, try it with just the right knee several times…and just the left knee…and again both knees…and rest.

23. Stand both feet comfortably…and slide the pelvis right and left and see if it has gotten better…notice the range of the movement and also the ease…and combine #19 and #20 by extending both arms alongside, palm up, and bending right as if to slide right hand under right knee, and then bending left as if to slide left hand under left knee…bend slowly to either side and come back quickly…do it a number of times, keeping breath soft and comfortable and the movement smooth and pleasing…is it better if you keep the face toward the ceiling, or let the head roll?...and let it go and rest.

24. Feet standing…take knees from side to side, slowly down, quickly up, smoothly and continuously, and see how that is…notice the improved ease from the beginning…then extend the legs, and press the heels into the floor, taking care not to overexert the knees…just enough to lift the pelvis and slide it right and back, left and back…slowly to the side, and quickly back…from side to side…maybe even so the pelvis does not touch the floor, and the body moves in a bow right and left like a long string…play with it, at different speeds, making it lighter and easier and more enjoyable...and let it go, stretch out and rest…notice the new sensations in your contact with the floor…eventually bring yourself to stand, and observe, and walk around, and bring awareness to the different sense of yourself. .