The Movement of the Eyes Organizes the Movement of the Body (Patrons)

Standing, then mostly side-sitting on the floor, with rests lying on the back. Discovering how improving the smooth tracking of the eyes in various turning motions can improve the whole self.

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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“Side-sitting” is described at the very beginning, and again around 12:00. If you can’t get comfortable in side-sitting try Secrets of the Seated Twist first.

Here’s a photo, which also includes the position of the arms most often used in the lesson:Dead Bird photo

  • This would be called side-sitting to the left because my knees are to the left, and my feet are to the right. The outside of my left foot is resting on the floor, and the sole of my left foot is positioned as if standing on the bottom of my right thigh (a place also described in the lesson as the top of my right knee). My left hand is helping support me, and my right hand is dangling loosely in front of my eyes, at the height of my horizon. This is the first seated home position of the lesson, though you may choose its exact opposite (simply reverse all these rights and lefts)–whichever is more comfortable.
  • Yoga blocks are discussed as something you can sit on to make it easier for your hips and pelvis, or put under your support hand if need. A few inches of folded bath towel works too. You could also lean on your fist at any time instead of your palm.
  • If necessary it is also possible to do all the seated portions of this lesson sitting near the front of a firm, level chair, with the knees and feet comfortably wide apart, tipping the knees to the side you are turning to, and shifting the weight onto that side’s sitbone while you twist in that direction.

Working toward smoother, more level movements of the eyes across the horizon is the essential ingredient in this lesson, even if at times a lot of cues are needed to describe other body movements. The more you keep the sensation and movement of your eyes in the forefront of your attention (perhaps easier on subsequent listenings once you know all the movements) the more potent this lesson will become at improving the organization of your whole body.

Once you’re standing and turning again at the end, remember what you noticed at the beginning and compare: exactly which parts of you change direction first? Do you reverse direction more as a whole, or more from your eyes, than before?

This lesson is sometimes called “Dead Bird” in the Feldenkrais Practitioner community because of the shape of the arm and dangling hand, although recently many practitioners are moving away from this unpleasant image.

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

It also appears in our Illusion of Isolation Deep Dive.

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.

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

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  1. Rodolfo Torres on August 29, 2018 at 5:37 am

    Hi Nick,

    I first did this lesson back in 2002 when I recorded it on cassette straight from the book. Probably have not done it since 2005. Your pacing was very enjoyable. I remember the lesson somewhat differently. Are they abridged in any way?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 29, 2018 at 8:27 am

      Hello! It’s been a few years since I recorded and listened to this one, but my intention with these lessons from Moshe’s ATM book has been to stay as close to the written lesson as possible, even as I put things in my own words. At this point the lessons I have left to add to this collection are the ones that will require a little more creativity! So I’m pretty certain this version is close to the source, though I do recall some ambiguity in Moshe’s instructions about differentiation of the eyes. I chose to play with that step late in the lesson in supine, to hedge my bets a little. If you happen to compare directly, comment again and let us all know! -Nick

  2. Cinma on March 21, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    I have only just come to Feldenkrais.
    During a retreat that I attended Feldenkrais was run each morning.
    I found them amazing….Having MS I felt a huge benefit in my movement.
    I just now did this session and now I will do it regularly because by the end of it my balance and movement was so much better.
    I’m a convert.
    Thank you

  3. Matthew Lanzi on July 24, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    Definitely one of my favorite lessons. It may seem our eyes are working and our body is what gets stuck when really it’s the other way around.

    Is there a lesson that works with the eyes in more of an up and down manner? Also what lesson would you recommend for improving the side sitting configuration?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 26, 2020 at 12:51 pm

      [2023 Update: Basic Folding and Arching (Patrons) is a more direct exploration of your question (up/down eyes).]

      I believe that the first half of More Precise Hips and Spine includes movements like this, at least for the skull, jaw, and tongue – maybe the eyes too (it’s been a long time since I’ve done it). Either way it will help with the eyes up and down question.

      Regarding getting more comfortable in side-sitting, I’ve added info to the Related Notes tab on this lesson, above! Thanks to your comment I’ve added another cross-reference for donors there.

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