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The Anti-Gravity Lesson

Recorded live in a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class, the lesson below is copyright Nick Strauss-Klein, for personal use only. This and all our audio lessons are 100% donor-supported. Before you begin, read this first for practical tips and your responsibilities, and check out Comfort & Configuration below. Click the other lesson note tabs if you’re curious.

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Back-lying, knees bent. Some modified side-lying. We can’t beat gravity, so let’s get organized to oppose it effortlessly with bones (instead of muscles).

As always, limit the size of the movements to what truly feels pleasant and interesting to you. There’s no value to pushing quickly or hard into the limits of the vertical (up the mat) driving movements that develop.

See also my discussion with a student in the comments below.

This lesson organizes our skeletons for more efficient delivery of gravitational and “anti-gravity” longitudinal forces through the body. It’s fascinating that we can study our upright relationship with gravity so effectively while lying down, perpendicular to it instead of plumb. This works because the longitudinal movements of the lesson produce sensations we can sort through, allowing us to better organize for uprightness, while lying against the firm floor. The level floor actually creates a substitute “plumb line” of gravity.

When our bones relate efficiently for the transfer of gravitational forces through our uprightness, our musculature is free to act and move us throughout the world, rather than stuck resisting gravity. Our growing proprioceptive ability to identify skeletally-efficient uprightness, and avoid unnecessary muscular holding when we stand, is one primary goal and benefit of Feldenkrais study.

To put it another way, Moshe Feldenkrais once said that good posture is when we are doing nothing [with our muscles]. It’s not strictly true, since our musculature is constantly rebalancing us like an upside-down pendulum, but these are light, brief contractions, not the long, powerful, habitual contractions that cause back pain and other discomfort, and trouble so many people about how they stand.

For more info about awakening your skeleton, check out  “My bones are alive!” – Reflections on Skeletal Awareness.

This lesson is found in the collection called Lessons for Standing, Walking, and Running.

Like most of our lessons, this one can be studied out of context, but you may find additional learning value by approaching it in the order of the collection it’s in. It particularly benefits from being studied soon after the lesson Breathing from Head to Heels.


Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to download this lesson’s MP3 file.


Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to view Nick’s comments about sources he used while developing this lesson.


Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to view related lesson titles and links.

Comfort & Configuration

As always, limit the size of the movements to what truly feels pleasant and interesting to you. There’s no value to pushing quickly or hard into the limits of the vertical (up the mat) driving movements that develop.

See also my discussion with a student in the comments below.

Curiosities

This lesson organizes our skeletons for more efficient delivery of gravitational and “anti-gravity” longitudinal forces through the body. It’s fascinating that we can study our upright relationship with gravity so effectively while lying down, perpendicular to it instead of plumb. This works because the longitudinal movements of the lesson produce sensations we can sort through, allowing us to better organize for uprightness, while lying against the firm floor. The level floor actually creates a substitute “plumb line” of gravity.

When our bones relate efficiently for the transfer of gravitational forces through our uprightness, our musculature is free to act and move us throughout the world, rather than stuck resisting gravity. Our growing proprioceptive ability to identify skeletally-efficient uprightness, and avoid unnecessary muscular holding when we stand, is one primary goal and benefit of Feldenkrais study.

To put it another way, Moshe Feldenkrais once said that good posture is when we are doing nothing [with our muscles]. It’s not strictly true, since our musculature is constantly rebalancing us like an upside-down pendulum, but these are light, brief contractions, not the long, powerful, habitual contractions that cause back pain and other discomfort, and trouble so many people about how they stand.

For more info about awakening your skeleton, check out  “My bones are alive!” – Reflections on Skeletal Awareness.

Context

This lesson is found in the collection called Lessons for Standing, Walking, and Running.

Like most of our lessons, this one can be studied out of context, but you may find additional learning value by approaching it in the order of the collection it’s in. It particularly benefits from being studied soon after the lesson Breathing from Head to Heels.

Download

Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to download this lesson’s MP3 file.

Source

Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to view Nick’s comments about sources he used while developing this lesson.

Related Lessons

Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to view related lesson titles and links.

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

18 Comments. Leave new

  • Enjoyed experiencing the push/pull from a variety of positions! Felt length and lightness.

    Reply
  • This was sooo hard for me :O I can’t believe. I am doing feldenkrais for a month 2x, a week and I can’t recognize why was this so hard for me :/ couldn’t relax and do any thing in that position on the side, my hip and side chest were in pain from the floor. Don’t know what I was doing wrong. Should I repeat this lesson until it gets easier for me?

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      Nick Strauss-Klein
      August 6, 2018 9:37 am

      Hello! It’s great that you’ve been studying so often, and not a problem that you’ve bumped into a lesson that is very difficult for you — it happens to everyone, and which particular lessons are very challenging is something each individual discovers over time. When you notice that you can’t relax or get comfortable with a lesson or any part of lesson, it’s best at first to rest in a comfortable position and IMAGINE doing the lesson, or to skip it for now and come back to it later (after revisiting ATMs you enjoy or going on to other new ones). You might also try playing with the difficult movement in bed if the hardness of the floor/mat was part of the problem for that brief sidelying part.

      The most important thing either way is not to stay in or push through ANY unpleasant experiences while studying ATM. If you do, your mind and body will be organized for defense instead of learning, and it will be fruitless for improvement. Explore little bits of the difficulty, even if only in your imagination, keeping in mind the three “golden rules” of ATM study: breathe comfortably, don’t push your limits, and interpret the instructions in a spirit of curiosity and creativity (never willpower or “pushing through”). If you can’t move and sense within those boundaries, just rest and imagine!

      Let me know if I can help further.

      -Nick

      Reply
  • I’m confused, is the back and forth movement more like the oscillation from Ruthy Alon’s Blanket roller or is my body supposed to me sliding along the floor towards my heal or foot and away ? So that if there was paint under me there would be big brush strokes ? Or just like a bear rubbing it’s back on a tree?

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      Nick Strauss-Klein
      April 8, 2019 11:42 am

      The movement is vertical, parallel with your spine, movements up and down your mat. I think that means big brush strokes, in your imagery question. No side-to-side rubbing (love the bear image, though!). Please let me know if that clarifies things.

      Reply
  • Hi Nick, I have done this lesson many times and always enjoy it. Today, I had a dramatic awareness at the end of the lesson about how the breath affects my verticality, lifting up away form the floor, relaxing a little into the floor in the rhythm of the breath. I find it easy to sense the breath expanding around me in all directions outward, but today I am much more aware of how the breath expands me upwards. It feels wonderful! And so great to have a new awareness and insight with a lesson I have done many times already.

    Reply
  • After an hour of letting my body respond to commands I am back again in charge.

    When you suggest finding where to place one foot for rolling or moving I find that placing my standing foot at different angles to my calf or to the floor gives me extra possibilities to find the best spot. I am sure that this is intended too but I only hit on doing it recently.

    Thanks for the fun.

    (My dog rolls over onto his back or stomach alongside me, which is very companionable )

    Reply
  • Nick Strauss-Klein
    Nick Strauss-Klein
    October 1, 2019 4:39 pm

    I love how exploring a lesson a few times yields new insight. This is a nice subtlety you’ve found! And it’s funny how dogs and cats seem to love ATM time. On one of our Patron live video lessons we had three cats walking around their mat-lying owners, on camera!

    Reply
  • I am taking your advice about doing 30 minutes of a lesson when i can’t find an hour. But at the 30 minutes my lower back was tight. Trying too hard? My breathing was slow and relaxed. I will stop now after 30 and come back another day.

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      Nick Strauss-Klein
      October 27, 2019 10:29 am

      Hello! Always hard to say from a distance (and not knowing how you felt before you started) but trying too hard is the most common challenge for most people. Even after years of study, an unusual lesson like this one can tempt us to ignore effortful movement. When you do resume, improvise very lightly and minimally through some of what you remember from the first 30 minutes. Can you do micro versions of the movements without your lower back tightening? Check our FAQ page for more interrupted lesson guidelines.

      Reply
  • This works so well. I float up and down steps without grabbing the handrail

    Reply
  • Ha made me laugh. Both cats come and lie at my head and feet while I do a lesson which is at least 4 or 5 times a week. With chronic pain, it keeps me sane or somewhat sane lol when I don’t know where to turn. Thank you for this cite, over and over

    Reply
  • I found this lesson very challenging. So my first try at overcoming this was to work too hard physically. Then when I found a way to let this go, I found some mentally challenging movements so I clutched at my resolve and pushed too hard with my thinking.
    My cat usually enjoys me doing ATM’s and comes and lays beside me, often inconveniently close. Today she raced around the room, climbed the furniture and demanded that the doors be opened.
    Anyway in the end I feel as though I got most of the lesson and the cat is still my friend.

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      Nick Strauss-Klein
      September 24, 2020 9:44 am

      Having enjoyed many ATMs with a cat very interested in being on the mat with me I really smile to hear this story. They somehow seem to feel our level of equanimity! Pleased to hear about your ongoing learning process, thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • I did this lesson again today. It was much easier, more like finding a pattern of movement within me than forcing something onto my nervous system. I needed much less effort both physically and cognitively. I feel much more relaxed at the end and I’m beginning to understand how this works functionally. All of this happened in between the two times I have done this lesson, without conscious effort – the magic of human learning and the feldenkrais method.
    My ballet teacher used to say that it would help if I imagined that my shoulders were a coat hanger and that I was hanging off it. I finally have some idea what it is that suspends the coat hanger in the first place.

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      Nick Strauss-Klein
      December 11, 2020 4:54 pm

      Thanks for another peek into your process. Some rich stuff here that I’m sure others will enjoy reading – I love the passive processing you sensed! And the image from your ballet teacher resonates. I sometimes call the shoulder girdle a hanging “cloak”, clasped at our collar bones, scapulas free and flowing over our ribs.

      Reply
  • So liberating and lifting at the end of a day at my desk. I feel as if my discs are more cushioned and my whole system more resilient. Thank you!

    Reply

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