The FP Weekly Class
Lengthen and Strengthen Your Spine
Tuesdays, February 7 – March 28
Nick Strauss-Klein teaches 2/7-3/21. Guest teacher Deborah Bowes leads March 28 in a special lesson done in standing!
Newcomers and drop-ins are always welcome!
9:30-10:30 AM US Central time
International students NOTE: we switch to US Central Daylight Time on March 12
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This feeling of the spine lengthening accompanies most actions of the body when they are properly carried out.
– Moshe Feldenkrais, Awareness Through Movement
In February and March our weekly class returns to a favorite Feldenkrais topic of mine: how to find and harness the full length and strength of our spines. Unlike our animal friends we function best while standing upright, where we can move with amazing freedom and power, thanks to our long vertical spine.
Of course our day-to-day upright experience doesn’t always feel graceful or strong. There are lots of reasons for this:
- Often we’ve learned sedentary or static habits that make it hard to claim all the benefits of our upright spine.
- This causes us to act with unnecessary tightness or stiffness, and to move from a shortened, weakened starting posture.
- We may be also compressed by anxiety or injuries – both physical and emotional.
- We may be stuck in the idea that action comes from our hands or feet.
We can get free of these limits! Our lessons in Feb-March will teach us detailed sensations and images of lengthening the spine as we learn to act from it with composure, clarity, and power. For all the crunchy pedagogical details, see below.
These lessons typically lead to reduced pain, and improvements in posture, balance, coordination, power, breathing, and even mental clarity and creativity.
Everything is easier when we move through life with a longer, stronger spine!
As usual most of our study will take place lying on the floor, where our habits are more malleable since we’re not worried about falling.
Each week’s Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson is designed as a standalone experience, but threads of learning will flow through all our lessons. Explore them in sequence to enrich your self-discovery process.
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See you on that mat!
A lot of my thinking (and several of my lessons) about lengthening and strengthening your spine in these two months are directly connected to Moshe’s Feldenkrais’s lesson called “Some Fundamental Properties of Movement” in his Awareness Through Movement book.
For those who enjoy the knowing the crunchy details of how Feldenkrais works, I’ve drawn the list of fundamentals below out of Moshe’s lesson and book, and put them in an order that works better as a list.
All Moshe’s fundamental properties have to do with how we can learn more skillful, effective, and voluntary control of ourselves:
1) Most human actions, when done skillfully (in an efficient, effective, and pleasant way) have a sense of lengthening the body, especially the spine.
2) “An action becomes easy to perform and the movement becomes light when the huge muscles of the center of the body do the bulk of the work and the limbs only direct the bones to the destination of the effort.” Movements organized like this have a sense of effortlessness. Even movements that are very powerful or athletic don’t feel difficult.
3) When some part of ourselves rises from the ground or moves relative to the ground, another part changes its relationship with the ground. These are the foundation forces for all action. We can practice sensing foundation forces, then choose to use them more consciously, and place them more precisely.
4) Slow, light, small movements, repeated many times with awareness and a complete rest between movements, will reduce “the fundamental tonus of the muscles, that is, the state of their contraction before their activation by the will.” This lower latent muscle tone assists in learning more efficient action because we learn the actions in a manner less disturbed by unintended efforts that shorten us.
A side effect of shedding unnecessary latent tonus, by the way, is that feeling of lying flatter on the ground after most lessons.
5) Perceived difficulty leads to unnecessary shortening efforts. We often go into protective contractions when we lack confidence or skill. If we then push through our contracted state using willpower, our movement “will never be graceful or stimulating, and will arouse no wish in the individual to repeat it.” Moshe concludes, “the price paid…is higher than appears at first sight.”
When we approach challenges in this costly way we learn a compromised version of the needed action. And, more profoundly, we’ve embodied exactly what we feared: a sense of deficiency. Moshe counsels that the way forward – the way to expand our skills when we perceive difficulty – is “by means of study and understanding rather than by stubborn effort and attempts to protect the body.”
6) Both kinds of unnecessary efforts (shortening related to latent tonus or perceived difficulty) “prevent the body from organizing itself correctly for action.” In Feldenkrais study we learn to inhibit both kinds of shortening while we explore non-habitual movements to learn new skills and awareness. Any movement – whether in lessons or life – benefits from reducing the sense of effort and focusing on sensations and imagery of lengthening available throughout us.
This list also appears in the lesson notes in our permanent audio lesson version of Some Fundamental Properties of Movement (Patrons) and in the replay email for the pay-what-you-can version we explored in class on February 21.