Deep Dive:

Shoulder Cloak, Rib Basket, Sliding Sternum

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.

This lesson makes me feel more calm, secure, awake and definitely more aware of the fact that the ribs go all around and are shaped way differently than I had imagined

- Alex, on lesson 8

Following the movements of the sternum, I imagined it as a piece of jewelry, like a lovely clasp of a bracelet holding the ribs together like they were several rows of beads.

- Niva, on lesson 10

Alex's comment and Niva's poetic imagery (sidebar) reveal that amazing changes are possible when we make time to experience ourselves more deeply.

Moshe Feldenkrais wrote, “We act in accordance with our self-image,” explaining how our behavior isn’t based on habits of the body, but rather on the learned mental image of how we move that built and sustains those habits. Elsewhere he continues, “Nothing is permanent about our behavior patterns except our belief that they are so.”

Sometimes our beliefs aren't even our own. We inherit them from our culture and language. In English, we're given the word-images of a shoulder girdle, a ribcage, and a breastbone akin to the breastplate of a suit of armor. Add to those immovable images the repetitive small motor demands of modern life, and it’s clear why so many of us have unconsciously learned rigid holding patterns.

To change this behavior we need only to rediscover, in our own felt-sense, that shoulders, ribs, and sternum have a marvelously mobile design. When we challenge our unhelpful beliefs through curious, pleasant movement explorations, our self-image and habits begin to shift to better match the miracle of our design. Along the way old injuries find new accommodations and paths to healing.

The lessons below are intended to gently but directly compete with limits we’ve learned about how the shoulders, ribs, and sternum function. In time you'll find that rigidities yield, and that your upper torso can be in a state of constant supple movement as it supports everything you do. As poet David Whyte said about deeply experiencing the parts of ourselves that feel stuck, “What is immovable in us is what moves most in the end.”

There is a progression to the lessons below. Experienced Felden-fans can dive in at the start of any box, but if you're newer or you study irregularly, start from #1.

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.

Shoulder Cloak

Release your “girdle”! Restore pleasurable relationships of neck, collar, scapulas, and ribs.

1) Simple Self-Hug (31 minutes)
Melt shoulder and chest tension with this intro version of a beloved Feldenkrais lesson

I’m 70 years now. This is a real blessing. Thank you.

2) The Periscope
Soften, mobilize, and integrate the chest and shoulders with another favorite

Wonderful lesson! I am enjoying the image of my scapula sliding along my upper ribs.

3) Effortless Arms and Shoulders (Patrons)
Use the periscope position for a different tension-melting game with gravity

4) Reaching, Twisting, and Gazing Smoothly (Patrons)
Survey the sky with a long sweeping arm to free your shoulders – and so much more!

At the end, my whole posture was improved. Head higher, shoulders straightened…

Rib Basket

Escape your “cage”! Discover a more flexible chest, and improve shoulders, neck, spine, breathing, walking, and more.

5) Rib Basket, Shoulder Cloak (Patrons)
One of Nick’s all-time favorites, and one of our only lessons that shows up in three Deep Dives. Why? As one listener put it…

I learned more about being upright than I have from any other lesson.

#5 is very accessible at the start, but gets quite challenging. If you need an alternative, try Making Peace (Patrons).

6) Refining Shoulders and Hips (45 min, Patrons)
Explore small, precise movements of the four corners of the torso and unlock supple relationships in the chest and back

Helped me recognize a lot of unnecessary holding patterns in my torso and neck.

7) Folding, Arching, and Rolling (Patrons)
Discover how large functions of the body benefit from more awareness of the sternum, spine, and ribs

8) Softening the Ribs
Draw on those rolling skills in sophisticated turning explorations of the ribs, scapulas, and hands

Thanks. That was rib-a-licious. I did feel changes in my intercostals. Beautiful.

When I stood up at the end, I felt I was carrying my upper self more lightly, yet clearly, and the front of my chest, my neck, and my head felt more comfortably placed above the lower half of me.

Sliding Sternum

The “breastbone” isn’t an armor plate! Learn to sense, use, and enjoy your sternum in practical functional movements.

9) Secrets of the Seated Twist
Develop your sternum awareness and relate it to more skillful rotation, folding, and arching in an upright context

On the final twist I floated off towards the horizon feeling a remarkable amount of movement throughout my whole body.

10) Walking from Your Sternum (Patrons)
Sense and use subtle sternum shifts as you expand your self-image of walking in this lying down lesson

Hi Nick, thank you so much for letting the cage door open! And allowing my limbs to move!????

Surprising to realise that the sternum could have such a strong role in initiating the final complex movements.

11) Breathing with Floating Ribs and Sternum (49 min, Patrons)
Encounter and enjoy more 3D breathing possibilities, and find a new sense of presence

What a wonderful lesson! I enjoyed feeling the softening of my ribs – the gliding of my shoulder blades – breathing easily – the whole shoulder area felt relaxed.

12) Sliding the Sternum, Integrating the Neck, Shoulders, and Chest (Patrons)
Draw on your learning throughout this course, and encourage the movement possibilities of your sternum with your own fingertips

This last lesson is a demanding Moshe Feldenkrais original. Once again, if you need an alternative try Making Peace (Patrons) instead.

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