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Deep Dive:

The Illusion of Isolation

Our Deep Dives gather standalone Feldenkrais Project lessons into themed courses of study. Newcomers, we recommend exploring our primary collections first for a more generalized intro to Feldenkrais.


For humans, learning to do two or more different things skillfully at the same time is common and enormously practical. When you think about it, it's also miraculous. We must patiently practice, differentiating and integrating until there's a sense that the movements are a single coordinated action. When either movement is handled in an isolated, abrupt, or forceful way they disrupt each other. But when both are done beautifully, each benefits.

- from Nick's notes on lesson 3C

Imagine you're driving. To check your blind spot you turn your head but not the steering wheel. Or picture a ballet dancer's poised, quiet arm above swiftly moving legs, or a basketball player simultaneously jumping, seeing the basket, and shooting.

In our nervous systems nothing happens in isolation, even if it appears that way on the outside. We can't actually "turn off" one body part or function to focus on another, nor move parts truly independently.

Skillful movers create illusions of isolated movements that look simple, but in reality they're sophisticated actions that require practiced and real-time differentiation and integration.

  • Differentiation is making kinesthetic distinctions between two or more parts or functions, often in simultaneous different movements
  • Integration is functioning as a coordinated and effective whole self -- body and mind -- or skillfully relating a part or parts to the whole

Two sides of the same coin, these processes are the primary ingredients of learning. This Deep Dive is designed to improve your differentiation and integration skills while applying them to actions that are particularly useful to “super-movers” like somatic teachers, athletes, dancers, and other performers. You’ll break up complex patterns of turning, twisting, and lengthening your body so you can rebuild them with more efficiency and control.

This Deep Dive is intended for experienced Felden-fans, but you don’t have to be a super-mover to benefit. We expect everyone will need to adapt or imagine parts of some lessons to stay within comfort limits.

When you encounter difficulty remember to link your comfort and breathing to the attention and movement challenges. LESSS is more: Light, Easy, Soft, Slow, Smooth movements lead to more and faster learning. If you can't find a way to enjoy a lesson then skip it for now, or try one in its Context or Related Lessons tab instead.

If you can, progress through the whole course with ideally no more than a few days between lessons. You can also study shorter sequences then take a break: the colored boxes and numbering highlight thematic links and entry points. The first lesson in each box is the most accessible.

Some lessons are free, but to access lessons marked "Patrons" you’ll need to join the Feldenkrais Project (or sign in when you click them) as a Patron-level donor. Click to learn more about donation or our donor benefits.

Integrate Your Hips, Torso, and Eyes

Essential skills for super-movers...and the rest of us, too!

1A) The Hip Joints: Moving Proximal Around Distal
Explore and enjoy a gentle non-habitual relationship

Created a nice integration of all the rest of my body...well oiled, moving so easily

Allowed me to identify and let go of a lot of involuntary muscle work

1B) Secrets of the Seated Twist
Use those freer hips in our introduction to side-sitting study

Like having a massage: it gently eased my chest, arms, and hips till they were once again supple and stress-free.

This opening pair of lessons also appears in one of our primary collections. If you find you need a gentler path into this Deep Dive try the first half of Learning the Limbs, from the Center, then return here.

 

1C) The Movement of the Eyes Organizes the Movements of the Body (Patrons)
Harness your side-sitting skills in this potent classic Feldenkrais lesson

By the end of it my balance and movement was so much better.

Differentiate Moving Parts from "Not Moving" Parts

Keeping something still in the outside world requires skillful movement and awareness inside

2A) Self-Hug, Embracing Our Differences (Patrons)
What can be learned from skillfully not moving your pelvis?

Excellent and interesting lesson... new observations, sensing new combinations

2B) The Power of Prone: Twisting on Your Belly
What about skillfully not moving your head?

More mobility and ease... thank you!

2C) Improving Rotation, Embracing Our Differences (Patrons)
Advanced differentiation practice for your head, pelvis, and more

I found these isolated movements very difficult when I first tried belly dancing... I wish I had had access to this lesson then.

Want to dive deeper? Continue exploring these themes with our Free While Constrained Deep Dive, especially Quiet Head, Twisting Spine.

Advanced Differentiation and Integration

Practice quiet, efficient coordination and control of your whole self. Starts very small, gets very challenging.

3A) Calming the Nervous System, Integrating Hands and Eyes (37 min, Patrons)
Low-level coordination practice has big benefits in this introduction to "bell hand" lessons

3B) Rib Basket, Shoulder Cloak (Patrons)
Let's let go of "cage" and "girdle"! Differentiate new details, then integrate them into a more functional self-image.

3C) Getting Free with a Bell Hand (Patrons)
Can you be delicate, precise, and powerful all at once?

Some of these lessons, especially 3C and 4C, are challenges even for seasoned Felden-fans. Go kindly and gently, and remember: LESSS is more.

This feeling of the spine lengthening accompanies most actions of the body when they are properly carried out.

-- Moshe Feldenkrais, Awareness Through Movement

4A) Finding Sensations of Not Shortening (Patrons)
Can you integrate length with all these movement riddles?

4B) Dynamic Diagonal Lengthening (Patrons)
How about lengthening continuously while shifting your weight?

4C) A Dynamic "Core" Lengthens the Spine (Patrons)
And lengthening continuously while stabilizing your weight?

It is very difficult for me to remember not to use excess effort, but it was worth it.

We all thrive when more people are doing more Feldenkrais. Please share this resource!

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