Connecting Shoulders and Hips Part 1

Side-lying, improving functional relationships of the shoulders and hips through small and large movements. Constructing and improving your image of the "quadrilateral" of the torso while integrating the ribs, spine, neck, and head. Later, harnessing the suppleness of the quadrilateral to support reaching and circling the arm.

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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.

Tip – LESSS is more

LESSS is more: Light, Easy, Small, Slow, & Smooth movements will ease pains and improve your underlying neuromuscular habits faster than any other kind of movement, no matter who you are or what your training is!

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.

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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 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 – 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 1 – Interrupted?

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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.

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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 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.

  • When lying on your side, the floor side arm is always resting, extended out in front of you at the height of your shoulder, palm facing the ceiling. There are no movement instructions given for this arm.
  • Use a comfortable surface for side-lying: you may need an extra mat or blanket if it’s difficult to lie on your hip or shoulder.
  • If you are only comfortable lying on one side, you may do the whole lesson that way, or simply rest on your back and imagine working with the other side during some periods.
  • Have a large bath towel nearby to fold for head support if needed. Consider unique folded thicknesses that work well for you depending on the situation: back-lying, side-lying, or rolling. You may find you enjoy less or no head support as the lesson progresses.
  • In the last 10 minutes of the lesson larger movements are explored, as an introduction to some of the larger movements in Part 2. You are invited to skip the end if you feel like you’ve already explored enough. Or you could make it very small, and work mostly in your imagination.

Throughout this lesson:

  • 99% of the time the movement directions I’m giving refer to the ceiling side of your body: the shoulder and hip “facing” the ceiling, or the hand and knee that are “stacked on top” of the floor side ones.
  • Make and quietly repeat all movements in a Light, Easy, Soft, Slow, and Smooth (LESSS is more!) way.
  • Exceptions to these two guidelines are rare and really explicit when they happen: I sometimes ask you to move quickly (but still small); I briefly talk about movements of the hip and shoulder and ribs on the floor.

While our limbs, the most distal parts of the body, usually do most of our direct interacting with the world, their muscle and bone structure is designed for refined, detailed tasks of enacting our intention in the world: touching things, balancing and orienting our weight on two little feet. They’re made to precisely direct muscular forces that come from more proximal (central) parts of us, not to create our efforts, as we sometimes think.

Despite this reality of physics and anatomy we often have the idea that our hands, feet, and limbs are the source of our power, but even the powerful leg muscles are designed to work in harmony with more powerful muscles of the torso and pelvis. Most of us spend little time improving the coordination and efficiency of our “center,” our proximal selves. This faulty self-image leads to self-use that creates wear and tear for our distal structures as they struggle without enough effective support from our powerful middle parts: carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, and many knee, ankle and foot troubles are a few common ailments often related to this phenomenon.

While improving the proximal/distal relationship is a regular goal in Feldenkrais lessons, this lesson starts our collection specifically designed to help you understand and improve the clarity, effectiveness, and ease of moving “from the center.”

For more about walking, check out Nick’s article called We Evolved for Easy Walking.

This lesson is found in the collection called Learning the Limbs, from the Center.

When you have completed this lesson once or more and you are very comfortable with it, go on to Connecting Shoulders and Hips Part 2!

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  1. Rudy Hunter on June 23, 2017 at 11:05 am

    So…wow! Thanks Nick!
    I already LOVE Feldenkrais and recommend it all the time. Just did part one and thrilled to bits. I’ve spent many, many, many hours on the floor in ATM classes when rehabbing my back from an injury years ago…and now as prevention/get the kinks out. LOVED this lesson, your voice, the pace and most of all the delicious experience of the changes. Going to donate now [very happily!] and nudge others to check you out & do the same. Much love, Rudy Hunter

  2. Carol Beck on September 8, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Great class and I also gladly donate to keep it all going!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on September 8, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Thank you so much for your support! It really makes a difference in my ability to make time for the project.

  3. C on March 9, 2020 at 7:09 am

    I really liked the lessons, I previously suffered from a strain in my elbow.I outstarted with a very wobbly image of the 4 corners and it improved greatly.I like the idea of imagining a lot.Thanks for the lesson.It is greatly appreciated.

  4. Maite Malcorra balda on August 21, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Thank you very much Nick, it was really sensual today for me 🙂

    Greetings from Spain

  5. Bernadette Reeders on September 3, 2020 at 2:28 am

    Thanks from lockdown in Melbourne. cases back up to 113 today 🙁

  6. Karin on September 19, 2020 at 9:26 am

    I love your classes Nick, before lockdown I was participating in a weekly ATM class locally. i’m so delighted to have found your classes and to support your work through donation. This class has released a great deal of holding tension and troubles with one side of my body. Thank you, your energy cells light yet holding, a joy to experience :’

  7. Karin on September 23, 2020 at 5:10 am

    Oops! Some typos there, it was meant to say ‘your energy is light yet holding, a joy to experience ‘

  8. Jean Dehmer on December 8, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Nice! I liked sweeping the ceiling side arm above the head and also reaching it out incrementally around a circle. Really felt a nice stretch and releasing in shoulder and hip (groin and low back) areas. Thanks for providing these lessons!

  9. Lauren Robertson on February 14, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    I’m grateful for the clarity of your explanations and your decision to stay away from technical, anatomical terms. I’m a physical therapist–I’ve worked a lot with older adults with neurological difficulties and I’m acutely aware of how ineffective we are at helping people understand how their bodies move. I always hated how we hide behind technical explanations that nobody (maybe even healthcare people) understands.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on February 16, 2021 at 12:18 pm

      It’s interesting how precise anatomical discussion can be a limit on our skillfulness. I’m guilty as charged: much more interested in relationships and function of our parts than names!

  10. Martin Underwood on February 15, 2021 at 10:32 am

    I’m new to Feldenkrais and really enjoyed the new integration of the shoulder with the rest of the quadrilateral. I think there is more potential for this to happen if I understand how to use the image of the quadrilateral. I’m currently trying to feel those areas directly and just pay attention to the raw sensations of the areas then leave it up to some subconscious part of me to take over from there and use that information. Should I be doing anything more to get this image of the quadrilateral going so that everything works together better? I’m just not sure how to access that without just making a mental image and almost imagining that shape in my head as if it was a film projected onto my field of vision that I see where my eyes are.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on February 16, 2021 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks for this fantastic question. You’ve articulated something very subtle, and I am sure that many who are new to Feldenkrais can benefit. You’re on the right track when you mention raw sensations and “some subconscious part of me”: your brain is wired to learn from your embodied experience of subtle variations of movement experiments, and simply being as present as possible in the safe, comfortable, curious lesson environment goes most of the distance in this learning. After all, it’s the same way you learned and organized yourself as a pre-verbal, pre-analytical baby, when you did the most efficient and life-changing motor learning you’ll ever do!

      And also…you’re an intelligent, analytical adult, and we can leverage that part of our brains in the learning process, too. Your question about how to use image is great. While visualization is a valuable part of the imagery process, we’re arguably pointing you more toward kinesthetic imagination: with the thought of the quadrilateral in mind, how do actual and imagined movements relate to the idea of the image? Certainly visualization can help, but it’s not something that needs to be perfected, more of a jumping off point toward feeling sophisticated internal relationships more clearly.

      Please feel free to reply to this comment if you want to discuss more, and thanks for your interest and support.

  11. Geri DeStasio on February 25, 2021 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks for this lesson Nick! I always find myself coming back to this lesson, when I have tension in mid to upper back, neck and shoulder area! It does amazing things for my upper back congestion! So very grateful!

  12. Teresa Moro on May 16, 2021 at 6:29 pm

    Thank you, Thank you. Since I have COPD this has really helped me act on breathing without thinking about breathing. During Feldenkrais lessons I can go fully on auto pilot and give myself the freedom to just be with the movements without judging myself.

  13. Daniela on August 9, 2021 at 6:42 am

    I have a general question in relation to lying on the side. I sometimes wonder when lying there should I just allow my waist to kind of sink down into the floor, even if that means my spine will not be straight anymore? (I know for example that Pilates people advice against the latter) And what about the shoulder I am lying on? I could have it kind of stacked under me which means I will be more liftet in the shoulder area, or I could let it allow to glide forward?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 17, 2021 at 5:43 pm

      Within your comfort yes, you can let your waist rest, so you feel you’re fully resting on your side between times when you’re moving. Some people purposely put a few layers of a soft towel, or even a soft foam packing pad, underneath their waists if it’s hard to fully rest. And the shoulder you’re lying on will change as you move, since you’re rolling your weight at times more forward and more backward. Thanks for asking, and feel free to ask a follow-ups.

  14. Trudy Jacquelin on June 25, 2023 at 7:25 pm

    No matter how long I keep doing Feldenkrais (AND I should be doing more than I currently do!), it still amazes me with the results I get. Doing this session for me this morning was fantastic. I feel more at ease and comfortable, my sitting position is more upright, I feel more at ease and upright when walking and generally more at peace in my body, even in my bones, if that makes sense! My four sided shape was much more symmetrical when I finished. Just amazing. Thanks Nick – you are an awesome Feldenkrais instructor with the most clear instructions of all the teachers i have experienced…. It is almost like you are talking directly to me in the moment. Thank you for this site – it is truly invaluable!

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