Bending Sideways

Framed with standing explorations of shifting weight, this back-lying lesson explores important and often underrepresented functions (in our self-image of movement) of bending sideways, and connects them to improving balance, and our use of the hips, spine, chest, neck, head, and functions of the legs and feet.

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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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Study tip: Wear loose, comfortable clothes that are warm enough for quiet movement. Remove or avoid anything restrictive like belts or glasses.

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Tip – Complete the Movement

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Tip 5 – Discomfort

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You’ll need your regular floor or mat setup for a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson, but this lesson begins in standing.

Avoid high-friction surfaces (like a sticky yoga mat) for this lesson.

I’m using the usual Feldenkrais meanings of directions: up, down, and forward are used a lot in this lesson. These are always in relationship to you. When you’re standing, up is toward your head and the ceiling. When you’re lying down, up is still toward your head, but now it means sliding up your mat. Forward is where you’re facing (while lying on your back, that means toward the ceiling).

This was recorded as the first lesson in a class series of ATMs about stability and mobility. Right before the recording begins I had read a quotation to the class:

Stability is nice. It also means difficulty to initiate movement as well as difficulty to be moved. Stability increases the feeling of safety. Instability means risk, but easy mobility. Both are biologically important. Being addicted to one of them makes one unsafe for lack of choice.

–Moshe Feldenkrais

This lesson is found in the collection called Freeing the Spine, Chest, Shoulders, and Neck.

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 can also be found in two Deep Dive courses: Supple Feet, Powerful Legs, and Better Balance.

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  1. Shan on May 29, 2019 at 7:51 am

    Another great lesson! Thanks, Nick.

  2. Sarah chase on December 18, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    Fantastic lesson.
    I was amazed by how effortless it felt to shift my weight to stand on one leg afterwards as compared to before. Old patterns that I had developed when I had my leg in a hip to toe cast for several months as a teen, surfaced into memory, and seemed to dissolve and reorganize even as I became aware of them.
    This is my second time through this series and I am hearing each lesson as if for the first time. New insights available moment to moment. Thankyou!

  3. Julie on February 3, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    What joy to watch the pandas playing in the recent snowfall at the National Zoo this week! The panda cam, positioned above them, gave me a clear view of one panda walking back up to the top of the hill to slide back down. I was struck by the opposing yet gracefully swinging movements of her head, shoulders, spine, hips and legs as she climbed. Although I’m just a pathetic two-legged creature, this lesson leaves me feeling as loose jointed, steady and strong as that panda — and just as playful. Thank you, Nick!

  4. Remi Falquet on March 30, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    I really enjoyed this lesson! I was debating doing a yoga practice but felt very stiff around neck and shoulders. So I picked the side bending lesson and as soon as I started, i could feel signs of changes and release. With just the very beginning movements of lengthening one arm on the floor i was yawning every 10 seconds and feeling a lot of letting go. The most important for me was your instruction of easing up and letting go of tension while doing the movement. I could feel myself tensing and lifting the head or shoulders unessecerely. Doing the movements with less range and less effort became easier and very pleasant. At the end, standing up doing the reference movement I felt so much softer in ribs, neck and shoulders. Much softer than I would have expected! Thank you so much!

    • Remi on March 31, 2021 at 10:46 am

      Just adding a suggestion to keep movement very light and pause often as these side bending muscles ( QL, obliques etc,) can get tight the next day.

  5. lorraine stone on November 7, 2021 at 4:56 pm

    Amazing! My side bending improved during this lesson, but so did my ability to tilt over the standing leg.

  6. Lorraine on August 26, 2022 at 8:27 pm

    Since I last did this lesson I have had a fall and a back injury. There is a part of my spine which seems to not join in with the rest and blocks communication. This lesson did much to improve harmonious action. Thankyou very much for this lesson.

  7. Freini on December 4, 2022 at 3:13 pm

    ich war neugierig als ich wieder auf 2 Beinen stand–jede Bewegung besteht aus so vielen Facetten. Ist das spannend 🙂 und es macht Freude. Danke für diese Lektion.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 5, 2022 at 10:05 am

      Thanks for your comment Freini! I also wanted to share with everyone the quite lovely Google translation from German that I just enjoyed:

      “I was curious when I stood on 2 legs again – every movement consists of so many facets. It’s exciting 🙂 and it’s fun. Thanks for this lesson.”

      A mentor of mine used to love teaching about how we parse ATM sensations like we’re looking at the facets of a fine jewel.

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