Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #56 (3/04)

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

Initiating Extension

It is common that habitual unconscious contraction patterns of our posterior musculature twist and pull us away from center and balance. This lesson uses careful attention to how we initiate movement to reorganize the posterior musculature, improving the relationship between muscles of front and back in movements like looking up, reaching, bending, or turning.

Works with:
Posterior musculature

   1. Lie on the floor on your back…check in with yourself…notice areas that are soft, or hard, comfortable or uncomfortable…remember to compare later.

2. Roll over onto your stomach, and notice how you lie…head, arms, chest, hips, legs…which way are feet turned, in or out?...then rest face on back of hands, and lie with heels out, toes in. Explore a movement of gently contracting both buttocks…legs will roll a bit each time…you don’t lift anything, just squeeze buttocks together and release…you also notice that your pelvis presses into the floor each time, just above the pubic bone (“the Spot” for future reference)…repeat that many times…maybe you make yourself a little longer each time, and your head feels easier to lift if you wanted to lift it from the floor…and let it go and rest.

3. Turn face to left…rest right cheek on back of hands, left hand on top…now explore the smallest possible movement of pressing the Spot into floor and getting prepared to lift the left hand and head away from floor and right hand…study the sequence of events as you organize to do it…when you can lift the hand and head together a little away from the floor very, very smoothly, with no jerking, and so you could stay a long time in any position, or change directions at any point, go ahead and do it a few times…do it for smoothness of organization, not for distance…notice which parts of you press into the floor to support your weight…and rest.

4. Same movement, lift a little bit, the easy and smooth amount, and translate head, hand, neck, maybe shoulders right a little…and back to neutral…only as far as is quite easy, so notice where the sense of effort begins (might be right away)…if you are not breathing evenly, you are straining too much…and rest.

5. Same as #4, this time to the left and back…do that several times, and rest.

6. Combine #4 and #5, going from side to side many times, exploring the easy range…rest.

7. Same position, but change hands, so right cheek rests on back of right hand now…and from here lift head and hand a bit, easily, smoothly from floor and reverse them slowly back, learning to use your body against the floor, noticing how the Spot is involved, whether buttocks and legs have to contract to do this…repeat several times till smooth…rest.

8. Same position…now lift head and right hand a comfortable and easy distance, stay there…and then translate head, arm, neck, shoulders right and left easily a number of times, slowly, easily, as if you could do it all day…and let yourself back to rest on the floor…contract the buttocks as in #2, and notice what might have changed in your sense of yourself.

9. Same position…this time bring awareness to legs…imagine how to organize yourself to lift the legs from the floor…how do you press body (Spot?) into floor to let you push your legs into the air?...just apply enough pressure so you feel the legs get lighter on the floor, and practice that many times before trying to break the contact of the legs with the floor…and when it is clear, then go ahead and lift the legs together just a bit from the floor and let them down…do that several times…observe what happens in buttocks, Spot, legs, breath…easier if buttocks are squeezed together or not?...easier if legs are wide apart, or pressed together?…and rest.

10. Again change hands so right cheek rests on back of hands, left hand on top…and lift head and hand a little…and lift just the right leg with it a few times…and the just the left leg with it a few times…these are all small movements, don’t show off…study how you lift and how you come back…notice how you gradually press the Spot as you lift, and gradually release to come back down…there should be no sudden movements, no jerking, no strain…you find that your spine lengthens when you lift smoothly…which leg is easier to lift while lifting the head and left elbow?...and rest.

11. Same position, now try lifting head, left hand, and both legs together…very slowly and gradually…and set them down very slowly and gradually…notice the pressure on the Spot, and how it guides the movement…just what is very easy and smooth, as if you could repeat it like that all day without tiring…this is about making linkages among parts, not about how high you can lift…when the parts have learned to work together, the height will come of itself…and let it go, roll onto your back, and rest…notice changes from the beginning.

12. Come back onto your stomach as before, right cheek on backs of hands, and now right hand on top…and now very slowly and deliberately do all the things in your mind and body that you must do to get ready to lift the head and right elbow and hand and left leg from the floor…just the tiny things that come before any actual movement, but including the beginning of pressing the Spot into the floor…just repeat that mostly mental exercise for awhile, noticing how much goes on in getting ready to do the movement…notice the parts of you that are somehow expecting it to be difficult…as you are about to begin lifting, do you inhale, exhale, or hold your breath?...imagine it all the different ways…which way of breathing will be make the movement easiest?...and let it go and rest.

13. Same position…now go ahead and slowly lift head and right hand a comfortable distance from floor and explore a slow movement of taking head (still facing left) and upper body to the right…go very slowly…your left arm and hand will want to get involved…your ribs and waist and back look for a way to get involved…explore it with curiosity and deliberation, not effort…the left leg gets lighter and lighter, and the Spot, the balance point where your weight is concentrated, moves to the right and spreads…as you feel how that happens, the movement becomes easier and smoother…try several times, then rest, then again…this is something you have to find out for yourself, how to make it easy an comfortable, and in the process you have to reorganize how you do it…and rest.

14. Same thing, but now explore taking head and hand to left…explore till it gets easy and smooth, and that means that the transition of the Spot on the floor must get smooth, and your spine must get long…make sure you are breathing easily…if your breath is difficult you are trying too hard…and rest.

15. Same position, but now rest forehead against back of hands…bend knees so feet are away from the floor…and imagine lifting both elbows and both knees away from floor a tiny amount…actually do all the preparation, observing where is the Spot you press to make yourself ready, to give yourself the most power and the most ease…and when you find it, just lift enough so you feel the elbows and knees get light against the floor, so only to the point of almost coming away from the floor, but not quite…and explore that many times…avoid contracting the muscles that lift the head…rather, just feel head get lighter as muscles of the back are mobilized…and rest.

16. Now actually do it…lift the elbows and the knees together from the floor…let the back lift the head, not the neck muscles…do it several times…and rest.

17. Same movement, now actually lift and stay there…and from there explore rolling body toward the right so right elbow and knee get closer to the floor, and then left elbow and knee, and back and forth like that, easily, smoothly…and rest.

18. Same position, lift and stay, and now explore a way to smoothly bring elbows a little closer to floor and knees a little further…and then the opposite, so you rock a little forward and back on your Spot…do that several times…and rest.

19. Same position, now lift only legs…and let them down…and only upper body with head, hands, elbows, upper chest…and go back and forth, very slowly and deliberately…and then again a few times both arms and legs and head together…and then roll onto your back and rest. Notice changes in sensations of yourself and contact with floor...roll to side, stand up, and walk around, feeling what has changed.