The Anti-Gravity Lesson

Back-lying, often knees bent. Some modified side-lying and brief front-lying. We can’t beat gravity, so let’s get organized to oppose it effortlessly with bones instead of muscles. Pushing and pulling movements from the feet, moving you up and down your mat, are throughly explored, as the horizontal floor substitutes for the plumb line of gravity.

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Before you begin read this for practical tips and your responsibilities, and check out Comfort & Configuration below.

Recorded live in a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class, this lesson is copyright Nick Strauss-Klein, for personal use only.

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LESSS is more: Light, Easy, Small, Slow, & Smooth movements will ease pains and improve your underlying neuromuscular habits faster than any other kind of movement, no matter who you are or what your training is!

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Study tip: Directions are always relative to your body. For example, if you’re lying on your back “up” is toward your head, and “forward” is toward the ceiling.

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Study tip: If a configuration or movement causes any increase in discomfort, or you feel you just don’t want to do it, don’t! Make it smaller and slower, adapt it, or rest and imagine.

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Tip – Complete the Movement

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As always, “up” and “down” are relative to YOU. The movements are pushing and pulling up and down your mat, because you’re lying down.

You’ll hear me mention friction several times. Students in this class had access to sticky pads (actually they’re simply drawer liners) to make it easy for their soles and heels to find purchase with the floor. Please adjust your mat or socks accordingly when you feel you need more friction.

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 driving up and drawing down your mat movements that develop.

See also, in the comments below, discussions with students about finding more ease in this lesson.

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 Better Posture, 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.

It also appears in our Deep Dive course called Breathing with Vitality.

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horizontal-squiggle

29 Comments

  1. Joan Haan on February 6, 2017 at 10:11 am

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

  2. Helena on July 24, 2018 at 7:49 am

    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?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 6, 2018 at 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

  3. Sharon on April 6, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    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?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on April 8, 2019 at 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.

  4. Jo on August 28, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    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.

  5. Margie on September 28, 2019 at 9:42 am

    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 )

  6. Nick Strauss-Klein on October 1, 2019 at 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!

  7. Cheryl on October 26, 2019 at 8:09 am

    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.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 27, 2019 at 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.

  8. Margie on March 22, 2020 at 9:59 am

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

  9. Ursula on April 17, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    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

  10. Lorraine Stone on September 23, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    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.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on September 24, 2020 at 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!

  11. Lorraine on December 11, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    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.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 11, 2020 at 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.

      • Lorraine on December 12, 2020 at 3:38 pm

        What a wonderful image of the shoulder girdle! It may help to unglue my scapulas from my rib basket.

  12. Sara on February 13, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    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!

  13. lorraine stone on June 1, 2021 at 12:49 am

    This is the third time I’ve tried this lesson. I still have much to learn but it was easier to feel more and do less.
    It is wonderful to have something so challenging and interesting.

  14. Cindy on October 31, 2021 at 11:44 am

    Is there and easier way to navigate through the website.
    I am not a patreon, I dealing with Osteoprosis, I believe I need a different types of excercises Movements, I am trying to figure if Somatics is really what I need .
    I try to add this, but, if it is this difficult, I might not .
    I am familiar with Cynthia Allen.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 19, 2021 at 8:26 pm

      Hi Cindy. Our homepage (feldenkraisproject.com) is the portal to all our permanent audio lessons. From there you can access all our freely offered collections: click on any of the first six playful illustrations. Our Deep Dives also include many freely offered lessons – they’re a little further down on the homepage, as is our lesson search.

  15. Jean Pierre Dagenais on May 23, 2022 at 10:21 am

    I was attempting the lesson for the first time. I did it with relative ease, except for one movement.
    On my back, with the knees bent and my pelvis in the air, I could push with both feet very easily. However, I could not pull with both feet, as my pelvis would collapse to the floor; I had to pull with only one foot at a time. Is this part of the leaning process, and that eventually I will be able to pull with both feet at the same time.

  16. Nick Strauss-Klein on May 23, 2022 at 12:32 pm

    Hard to say from afar, but improvisation in the direction of the directions is always welcome, assuming you’re comfortable. Another route might be to start very small, for both the push and the pull: see if you can move just a little tiny bit up your mat, then reverse it.

  17. Jean Pierre Dagenais on May 23, 2022 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks for the reply. I will start very small push and pull and where that takes me. I believe the difficulty is due to very tight hamstrings because of a stroke I had in 2020. Do have any suggestion to release my hamstrings.

  18. Natalia on June 27, 2022 at 10:22 am

    Hi Nick,
    I love your classes and I recommend strongly to many friends.
    I did this class already twice and I am not sure if the vertical movement you mention is a kind of rocking or an invitation to slide with the whole body. Curious to know…
    Thanks for your work!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on June 27, 2022 at 11:29 am

      It is mostly sliding vertically: that is, up and down your mat in the plane of the floor. There is naturally a little rocking of the pelvis, but keep the intention vertically. Thanks for referring The FP to your friends!

  19. Matthew Lanzi on February 16, 2023 at 3:21 pm

    Is there a lesson that really focuses on learning to pull your body down with your feet?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on February 16, 2023 at 4:49 pm

      Not that I know of (on this site or elsewhere). I find it a tricky element myself, but I don’t believe it’s the focus of any lessons because it’s not very functional. Normally if you’re pulling toward the knees it’s a kind of flexion: drawing the body together to prepare for action, defending, etc.

      But in this ATM context we’re intended to stay long as we pull down, using it basically as an ancillary movement just prepare for the next push up through. I’ve definitely found myself practicing making it very neutral: going slowly and smoothly, letting parts slide on the floor instead of lift.

      I’ll be curious if any other Feldy superfans or pros weigh in. I may be wrong about no lessons focusing on this! Feel free also to elaborate on your questions about it.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on April 9, 2024 at 7:15 am

      UPDATE: In full supine (legs long) we now have a lesson that real develops pulling the body down the mat using the heels on the floor. Try Integrating the Feet, Torso, Head, and Breath: Connecting to the Earth (44 min, Patrons).

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