Folding, Foundation, and Feet

Back-lying, knees bent, integrating bending of the ankles through the joints of the legs and into the pelvis and lower back, blending into a classic Feldenkrais lesson which draws the head, elbows, and knees toward each other in different combinations. Improve the folding and unfolding of the body through refining coordination of the flexor muscles, building awareness of the use of the ground (foundation), and lengthening the extensors.

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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: Wear loose, comfortable clothes that are warm enough for quiet movement. Remove or avoid anything restrictive like belts or glasses.

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.

  • As you get into the movements of the lesson you’ll notice quickly that they resemble traditional abdominal exercises you may be familiar with. Please minimize the size and effort, and maximize your comfort and sensitivity instead. In this learning context there’s no value to fatiguing your muscles.
  • Experiment with how you hold your head with your interlaced hands to find the most comfortable way. You may want to hold a lot of your neck along with the base of your skull.
  • There’s never any goal to make the elbow and knee touch in these movements; they are simply aiming toward each other. Often through the course of the lesson they will spontaneously start to get much closer, or perhaps touch, but this is not due to more effort. In fact we’re looking for you to use less effort to fold as you become more efficient and get free of unnecessary muscle tonus in your back that is competing with the folding.
  • Those who are very flexible can simply move the elbow and knee past each other, with the elbow brushing sometimes the inside of the knee, sometimes the outside.
  • Breath, Belly, Back, and Hips: Connecting to the Earth is an alternate approach to Activating the Arches (the next lesson in this collection). It’s a related lesson that includes folding but also has many more diverse variations. It’s especially useful if this lesson’s focus on folding variations feels too challenging right now.

This recording begins with a three minute talk about what Feldenkrais is and isn’t, and how Feldenkrais movements are always in service of awareness, even when they resemble traditional exercise. Why build awareness? Because our awareness is what regulates how we behave.

This lesson is found in the Better Posture, Walking, and Running collection.

Like most of our lessons, this one can be studied out of context, but you may find additional learning value by approaching it in the order of the collection it’s in.

The lesson mentioned from “last week” was Floating Toward Bridging. If you’ve come this page as the second lesson in our Better Posture, Walking, and Running collection you’ll notice I’ve elected not to include Floating Toward Bridging in this collection, but it’s fine to do that lesson any time if you’re curious. There are also many related bridging ideas in the next Better Posture, Walking, and Running collection lesson.

This lesson also appears in our Deep Dive called Supple Feet, Powerful Legs.

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

This is a refinement and refocusing of an older lesson called Folding, Foundation, and Length. Logged in Patrons can listen to this alternate teaching in the Legacy and Alternate Lessons collection.

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  1. Stephanie Achatzi on March 8, 2016 at 2:17 am

    What a wonderful folding lesson. To connect the folding of the upper torso with the lifting of the foot and the tilting of the pelvis, helped me to engage my lower back in the movement. Never before I felt it that clearly. Thank you! Stephanie

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on March 8, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      I love how this lesson clarifies the lower back too! As I wrote in the notes, I really am indebted to Mark Reese for his linking of classic folding the torso with the flexion of the feet and pelvis.

  2. cj on June 25, 2017 at 1:41 am

    I have done a lot of Feldenkrais with many instructors and your lesson are no doubt the best I have experienced. Thank you for sharing these.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on June 26, 2017 at 8:33 am

      I’m so glad you are enjoying and valuing them. Please spread the word!

  3. Christal on January 4, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    What a fantastic lesson, I’ve been struggling with various forms of somatic practice, feldenkrais, Alexander etc. believing that there is something there for me that would unlock a lot of tired long term tension, but simply haven’t been able to really tap into anything more then a vague feeling of relaxation, never real change. This lesson was completely different it’s as though I found a new sit-up, a new torso… a new center.
    Thank you

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on January 7, 2018 at 10:06 am

      Thanks for your comment! I’m so glad to hear you found new ideas and experiences, and I hope you explore many more lessons! Please spread the word.

  4. Sigurdson Chris on April 16, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    Great lesson . At the end of a day of standing, this puts me back in a more functional posture and relieves back strain. I breathe more fully too!

  5. Julie on May 3, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    This is a lesson that I repeat regularly to center my frame, balance and posture. Each time I repeat, my awareness grows deeper. So do the connections that carry so magically into my walking and increasingly bring lasting relief to chronic back, hip and shoulder pain. Thank you for teaching me how to walk again!

  6. Zdenka on August 28, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    I did the lesson two days ago, because I have an issue in one of my knees. And it worked, my knee hurts less. But I also enjoyed very much the lesson because of the playfulness, originality and creativity. Thanks Nick

  7. Mary Hunter on December 28, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    That was wonderful, thank you!

  8. Andrea on May 5, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    That was so . . . . Feldenkrais. . . At first, my upper shoulders/back were working to fold, and at the end no! My lower back area was doing the pressures. It was risky of me because my SCM does a lot of work in sit ups, but it seems to handle well. . . sure I’ll need to repeat this lesson many times.

  9. Andrea on May 6, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    I have to update. I work up with a sore tight neck from this and tight traps. Obviously I’m straining there even though I’m not aware. When this happens in Feldenkrais, where you lack the awareness and ability to relax those muscles that want to fire, does that mean this lesson is too advanced?? I would love to know about how to be able to get progression in feldenkrais. Because my awareness is very low and coordination in good movements as well. Thanks

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on May 8, 2020 at 5:31 pm

      Thanks for the update. Sometimes a lesson sends us in a direction before we’re ready to change a particular aspect of our long-held patterns. It’s hard to tell from a distance, but that’s my guess here. For now, I would avoid lessons where you have to lift your head while lying on your back (like this one), or just simulate (imagine) these steps in lessons where this movement comes up but it’s not the primary focus. Lessons with very neck-passive rolling of the head may be helpful, like when you use a palm or back of your hand on your forehead to do the rolling. Also lessons working with pelvis mobility with head awareness: Your Navigational Pelvis comes to mind.

  10. Andrea on May 10, 2020 at 1:01 am

    wow you nailed it on the spot. I know they are engraved patterns in me. By sticking to the lessons that you have mentioned, will that with time help me get rid of those patterns, will it be enough to get rid of those long-held patterns?? And how do you know when to try more?? Thanks so much!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on May 11, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      Hard to answer in detail from afar (and even in person I can’t predict the future) but these two related principles may help: Feldenkrais learning is powered by your authentic curiosity, and therefore there’s little learning value to rote movement. So if you feel safe, engaged, joyful, comfortable, and better after particular lessons, by all means you can stick with only a very few lessons. But as soon as you’re feeling not so sure about those things or a little bored, it may be time to venture out into other lessons. Done small and lightly enough (even in your imagination) any lesson can inspire curiosity, expand awareness, and be beneficial to anyone. I see you’re a Member, so you can use the Related Lessons tabs on lessons you love to help you follow lines of learning that are working well for you.

  11. Andrea on May 11, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks so much. That was very helpful info

  12. Michelle on September 6, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Could you do more lessons on this? One of my ankles has a tough time with this. I twisted it years ago and it seems to be perpetually twisted in towards the arch. It has improved with this lesson but I’m wondering if other ankle or foot lessons would also be helpful.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on September 6, 2020 at 3:42 pm

      Besides the foot-related lesson mentioned in the Related Lessons tab, there are several in this collection (Lessons for Better Posture, Walking, and Running) which address the organization of the feet and ankles. Check out the lesson descriptions for mentions of feet, or simply work your way through the whole series. 2023 UPDATE: Also check out our Deep Dive course called Supple Feet, Powerful Legs.

  13. Muriel on December 16, 2020 at 5:40 am

    Hi Nick, although I’ve done this lesson a few times, it always amazes me how much more I discover each time! and how much taller I feel when I stand up after! thank you so much for this!

  14. Steve Chambers on January 20, 2021 at 3:23 am

    I found quite some benefit in spine awareness thinking of this as spine like a chain backwards. Some of the areas below the shoulder blades became freer in a way I couldn’t achieve in the chain lesson.

  15. Dorota Puchala on March 23, 2021 at 10:53 am

    Wanderf teaching as always! Thank you again and again for being amaizing inspitation to my practice of lerning , intergrating lesson into my own body and making teaching comunity class easy and clear ????

  16. Terry Moro on May 4, 2021 at 5:44 pm

    The folding made me feel like I was doing origami. This lesson really opened up my breath. Thank you.

  17. Ann Thomson on July 11, 2022 at 8:57 am

    I loved this lesson It’s always enjoyable when you feel perceptively different at the end. Also good to be able to evoke the essence of the lesson in a short time.
    I also ,with others ,did a number of the movements when standing ,and it is interesting to feel your nervous system grappling with a new balancing challenge.
    Many thanks Ann

  18. Julia Frances on August 7, 2022 at 10:33 am

    This lesson has been incredibly informative and beneficial for me. It has connected jigsaw puzzlements from other ATM’S into a bigger picture. Thank you so much! It’s my go-to favourite at the moment. Your teaching is truly wonderful and the gift of it here hugely appreciated

  19. Ann Thomson on August 20, 2022 at 10:00 am

    I agree with Julia and it’s part of my daily practice. It was so helpful to do a lesson which inspired me to find my own path. I have variations like big toe to elbow and nose to knee with remarkable benefits. I can now squat easily and have much more movement in my ribs and spine since embracing this lesson. It’s a winner!
    Thank you Nick

  20. Luisa on November 14, 2022 at 1:03 pm

    I became more aware of the middle of my body. At the end of the lesson, my walking was more graceful and articulated from the middle.

  21. Johanna on April 12, 2023 at 10:57 am

    Thank you, what a great lesson!

  22. addi on November 5, 2023 at 9:45 pm

    Lovd that lesson!! went from barely lifting my head to touching head to knees effortlessly and then rolling at the end like a ball! and of course after, in standing and walking -wow!
    the curves feel less curvy, head feels more back/supported and more upright overall and so ‘heavy’, because the skeleton is holding me so much more than my muscles usually needlessly do;) and also(!) the tingliy/‘chi’ feeli ng of energy free+moving—very nice—
    Glad im a member—Thanks for fun+powerful lesson-

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on November 10, 2023 at 5:02 pm

      Wonderful! Thanks for taking the time to let us know about your experience, and for your support!

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