Breathing from Head to Heels

Various positions, about half back-lying. Experiments with the breath mechanism, learning how it relates to the head, spine, and pelvis, and integrates into the length of the heels for standing. Uses what the Feldenkrais community calls “paradoxical breathing.”

The Feldenkrais Project's 50+ free lessons, including the one below, are a crowd-funded labor of love. We are proud to be ad-free and 100% funded by our listeners.

We need your help to share Feldenkrais as widely as possible . In 2023 we had $34,000 of direct expenses, in addition to Nick’s 20 hours per week of Feldenkrais Project work. Donations pay Nick and fund our technology and part-time staff.

Please donate! You'll support our work and we'll help you track your study .

Become a Patron for $21/month or less and access 75+ more lessons , all for about what you'd pay for a single in-person Feldenkrais class. Or become a Member for as little as $3/month. Learn more

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.

Tip – What’s New

Community tip: See what Nick and other Felden-fans are interested in right now. Check out What’s New at the bottom of our homepage for recent blog posts and listener comments.

Tip – Directions are Relative

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.

Tip – Lesson names

What’s in a lesson title? Lessons are about an hour unless a shorter duration is shown in the title. Thanks to our donors they’re freely offered unless marked “Patrons” – those are how we thank our Patron-level donors.

Tip – Technical Difficulties

Tech tip: If you have any trouble with the audio player, reboot your browser. That solves most issues. If not, please contact Nick.

Tip 4 – Padding

Study tip: Comfort first! Carpeted floors usually work well, but it’s great to have an extra mat or blanket nearby in case you need a softer surface in some configurations.

Tip 1 – Interrupted?

Study tip: Interrupted or don’t have enough time? You can return to the lesson later today or tomorrow. Read how best to continue your learning on our FAQ page.

Tip – what to wear

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

Tip 5 – Discomfort

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.

Tip – Complete the Movement

Study tip: Complete one movement before beginning the next. You’ll improve faster if there’s enough time between movements that you feel fully at rest.

Tip – Rewinding

Study tip: Many instructions are repeated. If you get a little lost, rest and listen. You’ll often find your way. Or use the rewind button on the page or your mobile device.

Tip – skip a lesson

Study tip: If you can’t find a comfortable way to do the initial movements or configuration of a lesson, it’s ok to skip it for now and go on to another lesson.

Tip – Join!

Join the Project! Members and Patrons see streamlined lesson pages, and can access My Journey (the and above), and the Related Lessons tab below.

Tip – Comments

Project tip: Leave a lesson comment below! It’s a great way to give feedback or ask a question, and it helps google find us so we can achieve The Feldenkrais Project’s vision!

Tip – Pause the recording

Study tip: If you’re really enjoying a movement and want to explore longer, or you just need a break for a while, pause the recording!

Tip 3 – Head Support

Study tip: It helps to have a large bath towel nearby when you start a lesson. You can fold it differently for comfortable head support in any configuration.

Tip 2 – Social Sharing

Project tip: Try the social buttons below. Please help us to achieve our vision: spreading the life-changing benefits of Feldenkrais study as widely as possible!

Browser/device size and audio player

Tech tip: On mobile or tablet? Once you start playing the audio, your device’s native playback controls should work well.

There is a hands-and-knees portion of this lesson. Adaptations to keep you comfortable are discussed. It may be helpful to have an extra towel, mat, or blanket nearby to fold up for additional softness under your knees. You may at any time stand on your fists if your wrists struggle with the position. Rest in another position as frequently as you like. If hands-and-knees is not possible for you, rest on your back with your knees bent and imagine the movements as they are described.

Click Clarifications for an important note.

The type of breathing explored in this lesson is not a prescription for how you should breathe. Nor is it “the Feldenkrais way” to breathe. It is only a tool to mobilize your breath apparatus and cultivate your awareness, so that your breathing can more fluently adapt to all of life’s demands.

We typically habitually use only a fraction of the options we have for breathing. One of the goals of studying the breath with the Feldenkrais Method is to free ourselves from habits and cultivate a more flexible, adaptive breath. Ideally our breathing is changing moment to moment always, in response to many factors: oxygen needs, position, movement, speech, our emotional landscape, etc.

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 can be particularly useful to go on to The Anti-Gravity Lesson soon after studying this one.

It also appears in our Breathing with Vitality Deep Dive.

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Tried It? Liked It?

If you like what you heard...

  1. Join the Project! You’ll support our free lessons while enjoying awesome donor benefits
  2. Sign up for our twice monthly newsletter featuring free lessons and new lessons
  3. Spread the word: Simply copy this page's web address to share this free lesson

Got a question for Nick, or a thought about this lesson?

Use the comments section below! Public comments build our community and help search engines find us.



  1. Joelle on July 31, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    My name is Joelle. I just discovered this website and a new opportunity to access atms! Fantastic!
    I tried to subscribe though and the access was denied….
    Would you know why????
    I just enjoyed one of the ATMs. Excellent work!
    Learning every day!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 1, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      Hello! Glad you’re enjoying the lessons. Thanks for your comment. I did find an error in the newsletter subscription process. I believe it is fixed now! Please try again and let me know if it doesn’t work.

  2. Chris Sigurdson on November 25, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    That was great. Neck activated in bad way early but gone by pushing and pulling phase as predicted.

  3. Nancy Judson on April 9, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Wonderfully taught lesson! After 10 years of Feldenkrais I can still discover new things about my breathing. Thank you!

  4. Kari Fjallstrom on July 21, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    Relaxing and clarifying. Thank you!

  5. Steve Chambers on July 23, 2020 at 4:40 am

    Fascinating lesson. I have been using Feldenkrais to help remove some fairly extreme pelvis (and now I understand whole body) compensations that had really messed me up after an L5/S1 disc extrusion.

    The on the belly breath seesaw causes me sciatic pain in the buttock on the side of the old injury but at the same time I sense it is getting to the root of my walking issues that are to do with the whole relaxed twist needed to walk properly. I have reduced the effort to avoid the pain and will return to this one often.


    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 26, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      I’m so pleased this lesson has your interest, and I’m glad to hear the magic words (“I have reduced the effort to avoid the pain”). Have you tried folding a towel into four or six layers and putting it under your iliac crests / very low abdomen when you’re on your belly? May be a worthwhile exploration to see if you can make yourself more comfortable just by configuring yourself with some support.

  6. Ann Thomson on September 16, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    I find the paradoxical breathing impressive.A few days after it I was doing some yoga all fours flexion and extension and found I was breathing paradoxically and it very much improved the quality of the movement. So it’s much more than an interesting Feldenkrais exploration as it has been absorbed! Also it works just as magically doing up face dog.

  7. Chris Abdo on December 19, 2021 at 7:03 am

    This was a keystone lesson for me. Downloaded this and going to play it half speed as well many times. My back feels about 3 times larger than before! Wild!

  8. Muriel on December 18, 2022 at 12:31 pm

    That was wonderful Nick! I’m recovering from a nasty cold and it felt so great to feel my lungs expand with my chest! Also, at the end, when I stood up, my hips were really solidly under my body, supporting my spine, while my head was sitting tall on my shoulders. Amazing feeling! thank you!

Leave a Comment