The Carriage of the Head Affects the State of the Musculature (Patrons)

Lying on the belly, knees bent, soles of feet oriented toward the ceiling, learning to tilt the feet to the side in order to integrate the pelvis, the length of the spine, and the ribs and shoulders with various configurations of the head and neck. Also, late in the lesson, discovering the potency of imagined movements.

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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Tip – Complete the Movement

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Tip – skip a lesson

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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.

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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 1 – Interrupted?

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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 – 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 – 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.

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Please have different towel or pillow options nearby to get the support you need under your head and/or body when you’re lying on your front. A folded towel under the top of the pelvis can help with lumbar discomfort.

The Power of Prone: Twisting on Your Belly is a good alternative choice if you find that you can’t get comfortable in this lesson.

Feldenkrais sticks with one side for a long time, so you might also reverse all of the lefts and rights of the lesson and work with the legs tilting left, if that’s more comfortable than tilting to the right. This is also a great choice for subsequent listenings.

Moshe Feldenkrais acknowledges and contextualizes the difficulty of this lesson by noting that when we first begin to turn or roll our head after making a neuromuscular change while lying prone, our usual habits may not serve us. Pay attention, go slowly, and any initial discomfort should disappear very quickly. He explains,

The discomfort, or even pain, experienced during normal behavior after a large number of successive movements in one particular position is interesting…. When extensive change is introduced to most of the muscles…we nevertheless instruct our muscles to fall into their usual pattern. Only the experience of change and close attention will convince us to think and direct ourselves differently. Only when this experience of change causes us to discredit and inhibit the accustomed pattern, which now appears invalid to us, will we be able to accept the new pattern as habit or second nature.

Awareness Through Movement, p. 127

You are invited to look at yourself in a mirror at one point during this lesson. This is an optional step, but it can be very interesting to examine the systemic lopsided neuromuscular changes you may be experiencing after working with the legs going to only one side for much of the lesson.

After years of study I now get a kick out of how Moshe Feldenkrais’s names for his lessons in his Awareness Through Movement book, but I remember initially finding the titles very challenging. Some of them, like this one, are oriented toward the human learning and improvement process, and not always particularly descriptive of the primary movements that are happening on the floor.

This lesson is from Moshe Feldenkrais’s 1972 book Awareness Through Movement. The Feldenkrais Project has a collection of all 12 lessons from this source.

It was taught in the context of a Feldenkrais Fundamentals class which was designed to be a practical study of Moshe’s Awareness Through Movement book. Study tips for the book are here, along with info about where to get it.

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While taught in my own words, this lesson comes directly from Moshe Feldenkrais’s 1972 book Awareness Through Movement.

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17 Comments

  1. cj on December 9, 2017 at 2:06 am

    Another great lesson Nick. It is amazing just how powerful imagery is. How it can, in a very short time, transfer the effects of movement on one side to the other.

  2. Laurie on October 11, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    I very much dislike lessons on the belly, so I generally avoid them. However this lesson kept coming up in my mind as one to try for some issues I was having, resulting from Aikido front rolls.
    There was a new discovery that I encountered with this lesson, specifically with the idea of lengthening. Could it be that I was compacting myself instead of rolling out into length during the Aikido classes?
    During the lesson, the idea of lengthening was mentioned several times, and I discovered a movement of my spine, very subtle, that I didn’t realize could happen.
    Afterwards I felt a freedom in my lower thoracic region that seemingly had nothing to do with the neck or shoulder (the area of concern).
    I am realizing that it is important to try even those lessons that appear uncomfortable (as long as one knows the guidelines for keeping oneself comfortable so one can really learn). There are new discoveries to be had by trying the not so favorite lessons. Which makes this lesson a new favorite for the freedom I received!

  3. Jordana on November 2, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Amazing!
    It was challenging yet fruitful to imagine the movement on the second side. Thank you.

  4. Ursula MacKinnon on March 7, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    As a chronic pain sufferer, I think this is the lesson I need the most. it is not the most comfortable, but I am sensing the beginnings of lengthening. I do not yet understand though how I can possibly tilt the knees when legs are together so that one comes off the floor without wrenching my back. Lol Any tips? I have done many, many of the lessons and they keep me going on the hard days, so thank you greatly for this site!!!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on March 9, 2020 at 10:49 am

      Glad to offer it! The first option is always to go so small and so slow that you simply can’t hurt yourself. The intention is to “err” on the side of doing nothing, but of course it’s not an error at all. With quiet attention (and not making your nervous system defensive by “wrenching” things) you will improve, even if you’re barely moving or only imagining moving!

      Second idea for this belly-lying configuration is to experiment with putting a folded up towel under your hips. Try different thickness and sizes until you find a position that allows you to feel, while resting, that your back is longer and more slack before you begin to move.

      Playing with some of the breathing lessons that use belly-lying might also help prepare you to benefit from this lesson: try Getting Oriented Lesson 7, or Breathing from Head to Heels.

      Thanks for listening and please spread the word about the Feldenkrais Project!

  5. Ursula on March 11, 2020 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks Nick I will try the towel and go gently

  6. Niva on May 21, 2020 at 10:32 am

    I love this lesson, feeling taller and ‘chic’ after.
    Thanks, Nick.

  7. Lorraine on November 21, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    I didn’t expect a facial, just by tilting my legs but I got one and even significant changes just by imagining.

  8. Shan on December 1, 2020 at 5:44 am

    Another fabulous lesson, thanks Nick! I love the clarity of your instructions, and the details that surprise my attention and improve my movement, even with lessons that are familiar from other sources.

  9. Laura Beaudoin on October 7, 2022 at 12:41 pm

    I clicked on this lesson yesterday in the throes of back spasms and just smiled. In zoom class over a year ago, a similar lesson guided me out of back pain. Back then I couldn’t imagine that getting on my stomach was even possible, let alone smart, but this time, I just did it. Moving the lower legs in this way was once again profoundly helpful. I want to stay out of back pain woes and am committing to doing the Daily most days. Just sayin’ 🙂 Thank you, Nick!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 7, 2022 at 3:44 pm

      Wonderful! And great that you’ve made a connection between a personal challenge and a genre of lessons to go looking for when you feel it. Thanks for sharing the story!

  10. Luisa on November 15, 2022 at 11:53 pm

    After working on the right side, I could see the right side of my face in the mirror noticeably more relaxed than the left side. After working on the left side, both parts of my face were equally relaxed. My head was erect and comfortable, and I had a feeling of increased wellbeing. Thank you for the superb way in which you lead the lessons!

  11. Chris Sigurdson on February 6, 2023 at 4:45 pm

    Wobble head in a good way. Relieved some thoracic discomfort. A bit challenging for my lower back. Will be more gentle next time. Hard not to maybe twist too much with gravity since it feels so good.

  12. Lorraine on February 20, 2024 at 11:34 pm

    I suffer from a significant dyspraxia and find imagining without doing pretty near impossible.
    One way I approach Feldenkrais lessons is to look for patterns in my nervous system. When I find them these seem to be inherent. Instead of imagining, I looked for a movement pattern that existed in my nervous system and, voila, something as close to imagining as I’ve ever achieved.

  13. Jennifer Snowdon on April 18, 2024 at 6:29 am

    Hey Nick,
    To be in this position — prone with feet up — for a long time really put a load in my lumbar spine. To have my knees on the ground meant my ASIS were not on the ground (muscle-y thighs), so an anterior tilt of pelvis, so lumbar lordosis. Ouch! I was so distracted by the low back that I didn’t notice much else.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on April 18, 2024 at 6:22 pm

      Ouch indeed! That’s the kind of can’t-get-comfortable signal we should listen to right away, ideally. Though the temptation to continue through pain is often strong, you said it perfectly: “I was so distracted by the low back that I didn’t notice much else.” Escalating pain takes us out of learning, out of the state of curiosity and questioning. It’s not worth pushing through. Better to enjoy another lesson, and perhaps come back to this one later.

      Thanks for letting me know. I’ve added some advice to this lesson’s Comfort & Configuration tab, and also copied there the recommended more accessible lesson from the Related Lessons tab.

      • Jennifer Snowdon on April 19, 2024 at 5:34 am

        Thanks Nick! Yeah, it didn’t bother me at first, but after a while I noticed my attention was on discomfort and not the lesson. That’s exactly when I stopped. Maybe I’ll come back to it another time. Lots of other lessons to explore and enjoy!

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