The Buttocks

Lying on the back and front, and various kneeling and standing positions. Exploring and improving the use and awareness of the buttocks in relationship to the pelvis, legs, feet, belly, and spine. Once Feldenkrais fans are ready for this lesson it's a profoundly important one for better posture, walking, and running. See the Comfort & Configuration tab.

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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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At the beginning of the lesson you’re invited to sit in a chair if you prefer. Even if you’re comfortable sitting on the floor, you may wish to have a chair nearby for stability in later parts of the lesson. In all the kneeling and standing positions, it can be helpful to rest one or both hands on a chair for safety, if you have concerns about your balance.

During the kneeling parts of the lesson (standing on your knees, or one knee and one foot), several adaptations are mentioned if kneeling is not available for you. Standing on your feet is one possibility. Lying down and working in your imagination is another. Resting out of kneeling more frequently than the lesson requests is great too.

There are a few rests that are longer and quieter than usual, because of the physical intensity of the lesson. Enjoy yourself! (The streaming audio probably didn’t stop.)

  • The book mentioned in the lesson is The Brain’s Way of Healing, by Norman Doidge, which I wrote more about in this blog post. There’s a substantial free excerpt linked.
  • The Pelvic Clock lesson, mentioned by a student at the end, is a very well-known Feldenkrais lesson used to build awareness of movements of the pelvis and integrate them with the whole self. There’s a version of it in the same Better Posture, Walking, and Running collection as this lesson. It’s called Your Navigational Pelvis.
  • Many students find developing awareness and use of the buttocks can ease hamstring tightness and excess effort. If you’re interested in helping your hamstrings read the Related Lessons tabs from The Buttocks and Buttocks Organizing the Spine.

This lesson is found in the Better Posture, Walking, and Running collection. 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. The lesson called Activating the Arches is a great prelude to this lesson.

Both of those lessons can also be found in our Deep Dives called Supple Feet, Powerful Legs and Grounding for Liftoff.

Finally, it also appears in our course called The Pelvic Floor: Less Is More to help you differentiate contractions of the buttocks from contractions of the pelvic floor.

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32 Comments

  1. Alfons on May 14, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Certainly one of the most important lessons I came across so far. I teach it in every beginners class (at least parts of it). It’s such a great gift to discover the power of the big buttocks muscles, asymmetries, and how to get aware of how to use them. Too many people are having the so called “crossed pelvis syndrome” (coined by Dr. Vladimir Janda), where they use the back to do tasks the buttocks are meant for, and therefore develop back pain and hip pains, to the point they need surgery and hip replacement. This lesson certainly has the power to change that (if used as complimentary treatment). 🙂

    • Ursula MacKinnon on September 7, 2022 at 8:43 pm

      Wow this comment struck me immediately…I have always done work from my back my whole life, I literally do not know how to use the buttocks muscles. I must listen to this lesson with my imagination first to see what I can discover as I am in great pain in my back and hips at present.

      • Louise King on May 2, 2023 at 8:15 am

        Me too! I am having physio for Periformis syndrome, which is relieving the pain – but I believe this lesson will help me address the underlying cause

  2. Michelle on May 11, 2018 at 10:55 am

    I was glad that you mentioned the emotional component of learning to use these muscles more effectively. I was surprised to feel some sadness come up and felt more at ease with my emotions when you said that it’s not uncommon for them to come up.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on May 13, 2018 at 11:00 am

      Thanks for posting this comment. After 18 years of Feldenkrais I still feel similar surprising connections regularly. Isn’t it amazing? In the end our whole self is one embodied nervous system, with no ability to isolate the different “parts” of ourselves — mind and body. When any one aspect changes the whole pattern of self shifts. Still humbling and wonderful to me after all this time. Thanks for listening.

  3. Gail Fishman on August 15, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    Often I feel powerless to find my body’s strength. This lesson brings me to a very powerful feeling, bringing me sustenance inside and out. Nick’s gentle guidance give me courage and strength

  4. va on August 29, 2019 at 9:37 am

    I have done this lesson five times. It has helped me gain clear insights into the neuro-muscular patterns in my pelvis and low back that contribute to hip pain (Osteoarthritis). This lesson also releases psoas tension for me and has a very therapeutic effect.

  5. ilona on September 8, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    This lesson turbocharged my derriere, inspiring me to hike the following day! I also noticed that when I was on one knee, I could feel the contractions equally on both sides. Does that mean I have superpowers? 😉

  6. Matthew Lanzi on June 26, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    There are several times throughout the lesson where you ask us to contract the muscles powerfully…are we not to be trying for power the whole time?

    Also, especially in kneeling i notice that when I quench the butt muscles, the lower muscles below, down to the knee feel very tight and like they’re trying to do most of the work. This makes me think I should be quenching much lighter so that I only feel the butt muscles contracting? I’m not sure if this lesson is meant to address this or if there is another lesson I should maybe try in order to work on this?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 2, 2020 at 5:21 pm

      There’s some nuance here so it’s hard to be sure from afar, but I think you’re on the right track when you consider going lighter. At times in the lesson I do invite more powerful clenching, but otherwise it sounds like you’re experiencing a lot of undifferentiated clenching in your legs – the way you describe it makes me agree that you could mostly go lighter so you feel mostly only the buttocks. I see you’re a Patron right now – thank you for your support! This means you have access to our other buttocks-focused lesson, which may help clarify these questions.

      • Essie on September 6, 2021 at 10:16 am

        This comment caught my attention – I have the problem with buttocks and hamstring acting together (a problem on my right side but not the left, creating imbalance). This lesson helps, but I’m wondering if you have more lessons that help differentiate buttocks vs. hamstring?

        • Nick Strauss-Klein on September 6, 2021 at 2:46 pm

          Yes, there are several including “our other buttocks-focused” lesson mentioned above that could help with that differentiation. Most are listed in the Related Lessons tab above (access to the Related Lessons tabs are a donor “thank you” benefit for Members and Patrons). And there’s another Patrons-only lesson that may help: Advanced Folding. You can peruse the Patrons-only lesson titles and descriptions here.

  7. May Aubrey on October 21, 2020 at 10:30 am

    Many of these lessons are reinterpretations of (inspired by and loosley based on) ATM Lessons taught by Moshe Feldenkrais at the Alexander Yanai, Esalan, San Fransisco and Amherst trainings, or other workshops. These rich and diverse set of lessons are available from the International Feldenkrais Federation or Feldenkrais Resources. These audio lessons are not reproductions of the original lessons. For the online lessons, the sources – for example the original Alexander Yanai lesson titles – are retained for scholarship purposes and to properly acknowledge the ideas and structure of the original lessons.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 21, 2020 at 11:25 am

      I appreciate you making this clear for everyone. I enjoy staying close to the structure and learning principles used in the original Moshe Feldenkrais lessons, while teaching with my own words and emphasis, and responding to the live students who were present during the recording.

      And yes, whenever I’m working from a particular source you’ll always be able to find it in the in the Source tab under each lesson’s audio player. I love the scholarship of ongoing reworking of Feldenkrais’s lessons that our practitioner community enjoys, and I want to do my part to make my sources clear.

      I’m thrilled when I get emails from Feldenkrais Project listeners who have been inspired to buy the originals!

      • Trish on July 9, 2024 at 11:39 am

        Great for Sensing the release around a very tight left leg hip joint. Will repeat this as much as possible to gain the ultimate benefit thankyou for your help.

        • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 9, 2024 at 12:51 pm

          Great! Yes, this is a very important lesson, and great for waking up an under-utilized area.

          For you and others interested in more explorations of the buttocks, two of our dozen bonus video lessons for all donors (both Members & Patrons) are based on the same source lesson. They carry it further, into studies about walking and self empowerment.

          Consider joining The FP, even for just one month, to access these! Click here to preview this material.

  8. Jeanie Hutnick on March 10, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    After having done this Buttocks lesson for the first time I feel it was great and I feel enervated but naturally tired and my muscles feel very fatigued. How often should I do the lesson? I am really starting from scratch when it comes to relearning to walk so I don’t get exhausted in 5 minutes. Many orthopedic surgeries and PT, “how” to walk was never the focus. It was always that I “could” walk and be happy with that. But i get soo tired after just little walking I know I my not using my body correctly.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on March 12, 2021 at 5:11 pm

      When repeating a lesson perhaps your biggest learning asset is actually your moment-to-moment interest and curiosity (in addition to your comfort, of course). So if you’re curious and feel that you can explore it anew and not rotely, you could repeat a lesson within as little as a day or so as many times as you wish. When it’s time for other learning environments (lessons), go on to any of the others in this collection. Almost every Feldenkrais lesson will have a positive affect on walking, since it’s one of the most basic functions we evolved for, but each of the lessons in this collection may be particularly useful.

  9. Alex on January 2, 2022 at 9:06 am

    Hi Nick! 2nd time around with this buttocks lesson. I have recommended it to a friend who loved it as well. I love the fact that I actually get to squeeze a muscle properly:) Feldenkrais is such a cool way of learning how to move better, yet with all the minimal efforting plus my slowly but surely advancing age I feel I have (maybe also need?) less and less muscle mass to actually move my skeleton around:) Fun to hear you are playing around with kettle bells. Doing it the Feldy way?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on January 3, 2022 at 1:03 pm

      Nothing like aging to highlight the value of efficiency! High performance folks also feel it, but it would be great for the world if we all (even young, healthy, strong folks) focused on building awareness and skill toward efficient, sustainable movement. I love vigorous exercise and yup, I apply Feldy thinking to all of it. Meaning: I listen carefully and adjust constantly whenever I’m exerting my body. Lots of anticipation/imagination, too: how do I want this next effort to feel? I work backward from that affect to imagined movement, and then to feel the organization arrive before the effort.

  10. Michelle on November 4, 2022 at 12:09 pm

    Hey Nick,
    I noticed that the muscles around my … um… I guess upper thorasic/ lower cervical…. released somewhat while doing this lesson. I started to play around with allowing my head to move with each movement, trying to let it tip back or tip forward in response to the movement. I found that lengthening the spine (allowing the head to tip forward) felt more integrated but I’m wondering if you have a lesson that explores the relationship between these two movements more specifically.
    Thanks!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on November 7, 2022 at 9:55 am

      I think that by two movements you mean flexing the buttocks and tipping the head – is that right? I’ll think on this and point you to other lessons once I’m sure.

  11. Michelle Wruck on November 7, 2022 at 10:10 am

    Yes – that’s right. Thanks for taking some time with this. kind regards.

  12. Shelley on December 28, 2023 at 8:47 pm

    Thank you for this lesson.
    I seem to have stuck hips. When doing the right leg standing buttock squeezing with left leg weighted lightly in the big toe, my hip leg joint started clunking away. It didn’t feel painful. Almost relieved. I could walk easier after this lesson. Usually I have to think about each step.

  13. Chrish on January 28, 2024 at 10:24 am

    Thank you, Nick! This was a beautifully taught lesson, rich and very powerful. As practitioners we often shy away from this lesson, and yet whenever I teach it, my students are delighted and learn so much. I also found a whole bunch of new connections when I was doing it. Again, thank you.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on January 29, 2024 at 4:21 pm

      Fabulous! Fun to hear your thoughts on this lesson. I totally agree that it’s a lesson that’s always appreciated, under-taught, and really essential…so much so that I’ve been planning more buttocks explorations from The Feldenkrais Project, coming soon. Thanks for your financial contribution, too!

  14. Mari on February 11, 2024 at 8:10 pm

    Hi Nick, thank you for this uncommon lesson focused on an overlooked (for me) powerful part of my body. I’ve always been under the impression that arching makes me taller; that it is the the forward pelvic tilt that pushes up the spine upwards, and when that occurs the front of the body elongates while the back, well, arches. After this lesson my question is how come I grow taller while my pubis tilts forward and my spine moves back? I actually felt it, but can’t make sense of it. I want to teach this class, and would love clarification on this. Thank you!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on February 12, 2024 at 12:07 pm

      Great question, and I love how you worded it: you felt for yourself the answer, but it’s outside of your image of how things work so it’s hard to parse.

      Whether we get taller with tilting the top of the pelvis forward has to do with the starting shape of the spine, and where it becomes more arched. If we start with a lordotic (concave) lumbar, then tipping the top of the pelvis forward increases that arch which actually shortens us…in the lumbar. But tilting the pelvis forward may also be part of the pattern of lifting up the chest and arching in the thoracic, which makes us taller and may counter or even overcome the lumbar’s effect of shortening us.

      As you said, flexing the buttocks actually slightly pushes the pubis forward (and top of the pelvis backward), which straightens the lower spine, making it less curved and therefore slightly longer, if it was lordotic to start! At the same time the extension patterns of the back are also aroused with the buttocks contractions, straightening the thoracic arch too…leading to another way in which you become taller.

      So as always it’s the Feldenkrais answer: it’s HOW we do it. For example, if you start the top of your pelvis slumped back and your lumbar rounded backward, like when you’re sitting all rounded and behind your sitbones, then tilting the pelvis forward does lengthen the lumbar as comes out of flexion toward extension, up to a certain point. If you keep on arching your lumbar eventually it shortens again…but as above you may be so much more aware of lifting your chest and arching your middle spine that you miss the fact that your lower spine is now hyperlordotic and shortened again.

      Does that help? Hoping it was clear enough. Other modalities talk about the J-spine image (as opposed to the classic S-curve image). I’m a fan of the image of a long, strong column of lumbar vertebrae, less lordotic than many people think is ideal.

      As always when the conversation gets very anatomical it’s worth noting that what you feel really is more important for improving your function than your intellectual understanding. But in my experience the thinking mind can “catch up” with a well-tuned body.

      Definitely try the other buttocks lessons if you haven’t yet! They will all inform this question.

  15. Ursula on February 12, 2024 at 4:00 pm

    This is a great analogy and one I’ve thought about a lot. This J spine image helps me a lot with idea of lengthening and dropping the lumbar arch which with most of us is too arched when standing or rounded out when sitting. But then the s curves idea helps when you visualize the stacking of the spine. It’s why mountain pose so appeals to me in yoga…just standing with structures relaxed but balanced and aligned is sooo important for us with challenges!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on February 12, 2024 at 5:43 pm

      Lovely! I should have mentioned in my last comment above that What Is Good Posture is a great (but challenging) lesson for exploring this organization of the spine.

  16. Mari on February 17, 2024 at 7:50 am

    Hi Nick, Thank you for this multiple perspective response. It has helped me so much to put together new understandings. I’m fascinated by, as you well say, “how much outside of my image” this experience was.

    After much thinking and doing I’m now feeling all the connections very clearly. I realized that whenever I wanted to elongate and/or move out of a slump my to go place was to tilt the pelvis forward and let the upness travel through my back for that nice and easy lift. Keeping your clarifications in mind while doing this lesson again, I felt that I can get an even more balanced uprightness initiating from the gluteus maximus: two simultaneous pulls lengthening me in opposite directions … a feeling of growing taller from the gluteus up, and from the gluteus down and into the ground. And in so many configurations (sitting, kneeling, lying, with only one knee on the floor!)

    As you put it: “… straightening the thoracic arch too… leading to another way in which you become taller” And I might add, without the risk of going lordotic. 
Definitely, “the thinking mind can catch up.” It’s wonderful. I will try the other buttocks lessons, for sure. Thank you for this support.

    Mari

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