Arms Like a Skeleton, with a Bias

Back-lying. This quiet, simple presentation of a classic Feldenkrais lesson becomes the background for a potent exploration: how does seeking and sensing our natural spinal bias – and resting our attention with it or away from it – affect how we move, feel, and function? Recorded near the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, this lesson starts with a four-minute talk about embodied equanimity, and the particular "rabbit hole" of learning we'll be heading down together.

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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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Whenever you bend your knees and stand your feet on the floor, allow a comfortable width between your knees and feet that allows you to balance your knees effortlessly.

The torso spine (lumbar and thoracic) are what I mean when we’re “thinking along one side of your spine.” It’s the torso spine – not your neck – that’s important to the spinal bias image as it’s introduced.

All vertebrates (including us) have a natural spinal bias, which means the spine can be sensed and functions a little more fluently, clearly, and as a whole on one side than the other. This isn’t something to be corrected or made symmetrical with the other side; rather we can benefit from learning to sense and harness it as integral to our identity and self-image.

Type in the word “bias” on our search page to see the other resources (several in our free public collection) that are mentioned in the recording. We’ve got a collection of valuable lessons that explore the primary spinal bias. If you’re a Member, login before searching and you’ll see even more lessons cross-referenced. Patron-level donors have access to additional “bias” lessons.

The pause button can be a learning tool: in the latter parts of the lesson when you’re asked to repeat earlier movements while thinking of the biased or other side of your spine (and seeking to be able to sense the difference) if you need more time to explore, just make more time by pausing the recording. Having a timeless sense of exploration is really helpful when developing new subtle awarenesses. One of the best things about studying from a recording (according to one of my longtime in-person students) is I’ll stop talking whenever you want me to!

This lesson is found in the collection called Learning the Limbs, from the Center. It’s also in our Free While Constrained Deep Dive.

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  1. Judith Rainey on May 22, 2020 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you moved into pleasure with my present self. Enjoying your lessons.

  2. Bettina Falk on May 23, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    I liked the lesson a lot. The pacing met my systems requirements nicely. And I also was very intrigued by the wording and several times surprised by the unintrusive and friendly invitations to take care of myself. I especially enjoyed working with the bias along the sides of the spine. Very interesting! I moved much more precise, slower and I had more sense of my spine and it’s continuous length while moving shoulder and hip.
    After getting up, standing + walking was very smooth, my back softer all the way down into my hipjoints. My vision softer and more peripheral and colors seemed more intense. Thank you!

  3. Sara on August 28, 2020 at 7:43 am

    This has been my go-to lesson in recovery from ‘mouse shoulder’ (computer related strain). I find that each time I practice it (many times now), different aspects and qualities of the (excellent) guidance are revealed. In other words it continues to inform my movement in fresh and interesting ways. Not all instructors are so skillful with language in conveying the profound simplicity and ease of Feldenkrias. Thank you for making this freely available.

  4. Lorraine on October 10, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    This lesson was a revelation to me.
    I have a number of injuries along the spine and my bias and awareness changes somewhat along the length of my spine. I am going to do it again, focusing my awareness on the places where my awareness goes fuzzy.

  5. Gertrude Schmidt on May 4, 2023 at 5:48 am

    What a beautiful lesson – it makes me feel grounded.

  6. Elise on October 11, 2023 at 12:18 pm

    Beautiful lesson. Thank you. May I ask : around the end, after the variation where one shoulder moves along the floor downwards while the side of the pelvis moves towards the shoulder upwards, we come back to something experienced on the first part of the lesson : legs bent, alternatively lifting one side (hip and shoulder with arm vertical) and the other.
    Is it on purpose that you don’t mention the possibility to include the previous variation to this movement ? I mean, it’s so nice to feel, while lifting one side, that the shoulder and hip can go towards each other. It’s quite funny : the side that is lifting can at the same time gives the sensation that it’s falling towards the floor : in other words the middle of the spine lifts carrying behind/ or pulling the shoulder and the hip.
    I noticed, you don’t mention again the variation on the plan of the floor. Is it deliberate ?
    Thank you again for this superb guidance.
    Elise (from France)

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 11, 2023 at 2:36 pm

      That’s a really lovely question. It sounds like you’re making the connections that I was looking to imply, but I may not have been as explicit as you wished, since my goal is to show how thinking of one side of the spine gathering slightly, vs the other, can change so much how the arms move. But the direct connection you improvised is great! It’s a way of making the lesson your own, which is in the end the larger point: the recordings are like playground environments; how you play in them is up to you!

      Please go ahead and write back if that isn’t a satisfying answer.

  7. Elise on October 12, 2023 at 2:34 am

    Thank you for answering so fully.
    I’m writing back for the pleasure and not because your answer was not “satisfying” !
    Maybe it actually doesn’t need to be explicit and it is enough to do this variation on the plan of the floor to understand that you can combine the two directions afterwards (ceiling floor and up down). Just to share another nice feeling : the moment you say, when one arm lengthens that the other elbow can be loose, it really can be a magic moment where everything knows what it has to do (including the head).
    And yes, about your main intention to show how putting your intention (and attention) on one side of the spine gathering vs the other could change so much how the arms move : I’m sure that’s true and it must be fascinating when it happens. For me, it was not yet such a strong difference. I will go again to visit this experience to see if I feel it more. You mention Sheryl Field : was it for this lesson that she made you realize this ?
    Thank you again.

    • Gertrude Schmidt on October 12, 2023 at 4:26 am

      I love your conversation with Elise. It made me curious to go back to this lesson looking for new sensations after all these positive changes in my body since May.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on January 17, 2024 at 6:29 pm

      It’s definitely subtle, but our primary spinal bias is an organizing element in all actions. Sheryl Field didn’t specifically teach it to me in the context of this lesson, but it can be integrated into any lesson.

  8. Gertrude Schmidt on October 12, 2023 at 5:42 am

    Wow, it’s amazing how beautiful lessons can become even more beautiful!

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