Integrating the Feet, Torso, Head, and Breath: Connecting to the Earth (44 min, Patrons)

Back-lying, framed by standing. Refine your connection with the ground and use it to improve your posture, breathing, and action. Lengthen your feet and heels, differentiate your toes and ankles, and integrate your feet with your hips, diaphragm, spine, ribs, shoulders, head, and eyes. This lesson points at powerful primitive biological organizations of flexion, extension, and uprightness.

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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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.

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.

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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.

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.

Tip 1 – Interrupted?

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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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Much of this lesson takes place lying on your back with your legs long. If this becomes uncomfortable, roll up a bath towel and place it under your knees.

We don’t recommend a foam roller under the knees unless that’s the only comfortable option. The softness of a rolled towel may serve your learning better.

When you briefly lift your head at the beginning and end of the lesson, let yourself look down between your feet (if you’re comfortable enough to lift your head that much).

Perhaps on a second listening, if your legs naturally rest rolled out quite far or asymmetrically, you might explore positioning them so your feet are a little closer to parallel, as if standing, when you’re doing the movements of the feet. Comfort first – there’s no need to try to make the feet to face the ceiling directly.

The lesson “works” no matter where each foot is oriented, but the mechanics change in interesting ways when they are positioned symmetrically and a little more toward parallel.

See also discussion in the comments below.

On a subsequent listening you might choose the other foot to start with, if it’s comfortable for you.

At the very end you could explore what it means for your breath and posture to stand with the heels very heavy instead of just “kissing” the ground. Feel for yourself: why is the kissing state emphasized?

Patrons can access a short discussion in the Context tab, recorded just after this lesson was recorded. We talk about

  • charley horses (sudden cramps)
  • parasitic efforts vs integrated movement
  • diaphragm and heel connections
  • a Zen koan about the value of ignorance
  • bringing curiosity to anxiety and discomfort

For more details on why and how we integrate the feet with the whole self, you may enjoy an interview with Feldenkrais Trainer Jeff Haller on Youtube called Fascinating Feet! Understanding The Foundation Of Our Movement. Topics covered include skeletal support, changing habits, shoes, walking.

This lesson is found in Patrons Monthly, our collection of lessons exclusively for Feldenkrais Project Patron-level donors.

This important lesson appears in three Deep Dive courses: Supple Feet, Powerful Legs and Breathing with Vitality and Grounding for Liftoff.

It was recorded during our Patrons Quarterly video call of October, 2023, where you can find a 10-minute lesson discussion at the 44 minute mark of the ATM lesson.

Before watching the discussion, we recommend studying the lesson from the audio player above since it’s been edited for better clarity, flow, and sound quality. Then take at least a 5-10 minute break to sense yourself and the changes your feel before going on to the discussion.

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14 Comments

  1. Nick Strauss-Klein on November 2, 2023 at 6:10 pm

    After this lesson was recorded live, I received a series of three emails from one of the students, who gave me permission to share these excerpts and her name. I love this lesson and I find Gertrude’s reflections inspiring!

    It’s such a pleasure to sense these tiny movements all through my body from toes to head and head to toes. While eating my evening porridge from a nice bowl after this lesson I felt the beauty of this movement, the lightness of my arms, the gliding of my shoulder blades which allows my ribs to open so the breath can flow easily.

    For me it feels like a subtle game of extensors and flexors which leads me to undisturbed and balanced uprightness. It’s a whole body experience: feet, hands, toes, fingers, diaphragm, pelvic floor…. What I love most is the space I feel in my chest, my armits, room to breath and the pleasure of walking, imaging and sensing how it feels to dance….

    Incredible how the reorganisation of my bones goes on and on. Yesterday on my morning walk in the woods I put my attention on the interaction between my shoulders and feet enjoying my footbones playfully touching the uneven ground. In the evening I watched the interview with Jeff Haller on Youtube ‘Fascinating Feet! Understanding The Foundation Of Our Movement’ [Linked in the Curiosities tab above. -Nick] and I understood everything he said because I had experienced so much of it.

    – Gertrude Schmidt

    • Gertrude Schmidt on November 6, 2023 at 1:14 am

      In my opinion with ‘Integrating the Feet, Torso, Head, and Breath: Connecting to the Earth’ you created an outstanding masterpiece and I do love the title!

      I went through this lesson again and it makes me feel like I found my frame and my limbs can move so easily.

      You once gave me an advise for another subject: ‘..keep playing with the lesson and that unfamiliar state at the end. Aspects will become more familiar, more “you”, with time!’
      So I’m looking forward becoming more “me” by playing around with this one.

    • Chris Sigurdson on December 21, 2023 at 11:29 am

      Wow 🤩 s all I can say. I feel bigger. Fuller. A nagging tension in my neck is eased. I Feel like doing a walking meditation —in an incredibly new and rich way. This touched everything and I plan on doing it many times. Thank you

  2. Ileana Vogelaar on November 4, 2023 at 2:57 pm

    Question : my feet turning out are giving me a very diagonal reaction. Shall I try to keep feet more parallel or shall I stay with my natural turn out ?
    Thank you Nick, loved the lesson.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on November 10, 2023 at 5:07 pm

      Good question – I will be playing with this question myself! I think another journey or two through the lesson would be useful for us both. The natural turn out is probably the best way for most folks to start. But if you can comfortably position your legs a little more parallel, closer to how you’d stand but without effort, that will give new information. It also creates a clearer connection with the ground through the heels, which is useful for the lesson.

  3. Brigette on November 5, 2023 at 11:43 am

    What a beautiful lesson. I am experiencing a warmth and sense of heart opening from this lesson in relationship with the feet sensing the ground beneath me. My low back pain also has disappeared. Will revisit this lesson again. Deep gratitude for your work Nick.

  4. Sara on November 19, 2023 at 9:57 am

    Loved the difference between lifting my head at the start and then floating it at the end … just by playing with my feet.

  5. Niva on November 21, 2023 at 3:59 am

    Thanks, Nick, for a fascinating, interesting and fun lesson!
    My nerves were dancing inside me in the end:)
    I also wondered if to stay with my natural turn out of my feet, which is very asymmetrical.
    Will try what you advised above.
    Niva

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on November 21, 2023 at 7:12 am

      Thanks to your and Ileana’s comments I’ve added a Clarifications tab above. After doing the lesson again myself I do think it’s worth it to explore your options.

  6. c j on November 22, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    That was an amazing lesson.

  7. Gertrude Schmidt on January 19, 2024 at 11:54 am

    This time my Austrian heels are kissing American ground, greetings from Ft Lauderdale;-)

  8. Donna Koren on January 22, 2024 at 8:56 pm

    I am so much more aware of my feet as having variation, much like my back – with curves and softer parts – instead of the feeling that my feet are two uniform rectangles, as they felt before this lesson. And I am physically understanding (hah: ‘under standing’) much better your frequent cue to feel the energy of the floor. Wonderful!

  9. Chris Sigurdson on February 20, 2024 at 3:44 pm

    Can’t do this often enough

  10. Nick Strauss-Klein on February 28, 2024 at 6:19 am

    A note for fans of this lesson: I taught another version of it with different variations in my Self Empowerment workshop. I’ve added it to the Related Lessons tab above.

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