A Dynamic “Core” Lengthens the Spine (Patrons)

(Advanced lesson. Be sure to read Comfort & Configuration notes) Back-lying, often knees bent. Using a reference image of the five lines of the body, movements of folding the legs create gentle challenges to awareness and self-regulation as you first let the pelvis move freely, then later dynamically stabilize it. While the "core" reckons with the weight of the legs, you'll explore how to maintain simplicity and length in the spine, easy fullness of breathing, and efficiency of effort.

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 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 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 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.

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 – 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 – 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 – 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.

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Tip – LESSS is more

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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.

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We offer over 50 free lessons, but this one's just for our Patron-level donors. You can learn about it in the free lesson notes and comments below, but to access the audio you’ll need to join The FP as a Patron. Learn more

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This lesson is recommended for experienced Felden-fans only. It works well on its own but “last week’s class,” mentioned in the recording, is also a Feldenkrais Project lesson, and you may want to explore it first. Click the Context tab for more info.

In the many back-lying, knees bent, soles on the floor periods the knees can be quite bent if that’s comfortable, so that the lower legs are near vertical in the room.

Early on you’re prompted to pull a knee nearer to your chest, gently pulling your heel off the floor. The knee remains fully bent, heel near buttock, and it’s not even necessary to bring the heel much or at all off the floor – you might just lighten it, especially at first.

Remember to rest between movements, reduce your effort, and improve your comfort from one movement to the next, as always.

There’s no need to straighten your leg in the air until it’s very explicit, around 22 minutes in: “actually push your heel toward the ceiling.” Even then you’ll soon hear that it can be quite moderated, that your leg can remain as bent as needed.

“This feeling of the spine lengthening accompanies most actions of the body when they are properly carried out.”

This classic Moshe Feldenkrais quote, from his Awareness Through Movement book, is great to keep in mind in this lesson, and the idea is cued throughout. If that feeling can’t be sustained please rest more often, continue to reduce your efforts and the size of your movements, and gently explore/experiment your way toward finding it again.

“Last week’s class,” mentioned in the recording, is a Feldenkrais Project lesson too. If you wish, try Dynamic Diagonal Lengthening (Patrons) first and enjoy this pair of very different lessons related by five lines imagery and source.

Both lessons appear at the end of our Illusion of Isolation Deep Dive. We recommend exploring the whole course, especially if you struggle with this lesson.

This lesson is found in Patrons Monthly, our collection of lessons exclusively for Feldenkrais Project Patron-level donors, with one or more new lessons added every month. It was recorded in a live Zoom class on August 18, 2020 then edited for flow and clarity.

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  1. Lorraine on June 24, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    I found this lesson very challenging. Having done many ballet and pilates classes I am familiar with the idea of moving a limb while lengthening the spine. It was difficult, though, to do this in a feldenkrais way, without excess effort. I think I will benefit from repeating this lesson with the sole aim of doing less.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on June 24, 2021 at 4:26 pm

      Yes, I had a similar experience when I first studied this lesson: I feel at home with the concept, and yet in practice I found I had to be more careful than usual to continually reduce and reduce the effort and size of the movements. The benefits are worth the challenge of doing it truly minimally.

      Thanks for commenting, and let us know how it goes next time around!

  2. Lorraine on July 3, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    Doing this lesson a second time, I learned a great deal about how I move and about the options I have to move. When lifting a foot from the floor I observed that I can do this most efficiently at a particular point in the inhale. I realized that lengthening my spine lightens my legs and that this lengthening can share the work of lifting. It is very difficult for me not remember not to use excess effort but it was worth it.

  3. Ileana Vogelaar on December 5, 2021 at 7:00 pm

    I enjoyed the challenge. Used a lot of Pilates pelvic stabilization knowledge. Harder to refer to “coordination” cues, less familiar to me. It was definitely “ core “ work, very connected with the breath work.
    Thank you Nick.

  4. Richard Fancy on March 15, 2022 at 11:05 am

    After doing the last three lessons in The Illusion of Isolation, I felt reorganized to move, felt my spine lengthen almost passively as I actively engaged my core. A huge difference in my experience.

  5. Anne McDonald on June 25, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    A fantastic lesson! I believe, Feldenkrais said something like,”the problem may not be what’s most evident or obvious”. Imagining and attending to the spinal length, the breath, “not disturbing” the pelvis/head and just peeking at the obvious leg movements gave me a deeper understanding of Feldenkrais’ quote and what is meant by “the whole.’ Thank you, Nick.

  6. add on July 18, 2022 at 8:38 am

    HeyNick, did Lesson last nite—was challenging and confusing to me—seems like in years of ATM Lessons, there’s always this emphasis on ‘allowing/inviting’ the whole body to move—so when i first began lifting foot i enjoyed sensing the pelvis roll a bit to one side as well as ‘rock up+down’—I’m not understanding why we inhibited that movement in this lesson—?—and my lower back still feels a little tweaky this morning—do i need to do actual ‘ab/core’ exercises ??

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 18, 2022 at 1:10 pm

      Yes, this lesson is very unique in how it eventually inhibits the most common movements that want to happen as you lighten the foot. Instead it’s designed to encourage you to find your length and breath as you minimize the lifting until you can satisfy all these constraints comfortably. Try only lightening slightly if you do this one again, but take a few days off first. Check it out in context in our Illusion of Isolation Deep Dive course for a progression that can make it more accessible and illuminating.

  7. Sara Firman on August 13, 2023 at 3:14 am

    Wonderful sense of length. I love the sequence of floating the pelvis to the ceiling by sending the knees away and then pushing towards the crown to end.

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