Freeing Your Breath and Spine (16 or 37 min)

Various positions, using what the Feldenkrais community calls “paradoxical breathing.” The back-lying first 16 minutes can be studied alone. Discover more pleasurable, adaptable breathing using 360 degree experiments with the chest and abdomen, and find a more supple, supportive spine along the way!

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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 – 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!

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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 – 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 – 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 1 – Interrupted?

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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 – 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 – skip a lesson

Study tip: If you can’t find a comfortable way to do the initial movements or configuration of a lesson, it’s ok to skip it for now and go on to another lesson.

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.

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.

When you’re asked to increase the pressure inside your abdomen by driving your breath volume downward, do so gently, mildly, and comfortably.

In the second half of the lesson there are belly-lying and hands-and-knees configurations. Adaptations to keep you comfortable are discussed. For hands and knees, it may be helpful to have an extra towel, mat, or blanket nearby to fold up for additional softness under your knees. You may at any time stand on your fists if your wrists struggle with the position. Rest in another position as frequently as you like. If hands-and-knees is not possible for you, rest on your back with your knees bent and imagine the movements as they are described.

Back-lying, as you begin to “float your head into the air” with your interlaced fingers behind your head, the position is much like a sit-up, but the effort and range are far, far less.

Belly-lying, as you “wag your tail,” your bottom, belly, thighs, and heels are all invited to roll (I say “toss”) from side to side.

We typically habitually use only a fraction of the options we have for breathing. One of the goals of studying the breath with the Feldenkrais Method is to free ourselves from habits and cultivate a more flexible, adaptive breath. Ideally our breathing is changing moment to moment always, in response to many factors: oxygen needs, position, movement, speech, our emotional landscape, etc.

For a brief anatomy lesson about the breathing apparatus followed by the experiential learning of a Feldenkrais lesson check out Thinking and Breathing (Patrons).

This audio recording is found in Getting Oriented, our introductory collection of Feldenkrais basics for newcomers (and longtimers looking for a “tune-up”).

It also appears in our Breathing with Vitality Deep Dive.

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Patrons can listen to an expanded version of this lesson with about 15 additional minutes at the end, including discussion about the effects of coughing and the problem with trying to breathe any “right” way, and several additional ATM variations.

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13 Comments

  1. Andrea on July 8, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    I like this lesson a lot. Just a question. When doing the movement of rolling on the head when u are on your forearms, when I finished i felt like I was going to get a nosebleed. I didnt get one but just had the sensation. Was I doing something wrong? Thanks

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 14, 2020 at 4:11 pm

      As you explore and follow the “only do what’s comfortable” instructions, that guideline goes for any kind of experience/sensation during the lessons. Assuming you were moving slowly, smoothly, and comfortably you were doing just fine by the movements – but, if you have an unpleasant sensation or even an uncertain one, it’s best to do less, go slower, or take a break. Later, if you come back into the movement or repeat the lesson, stay curious about those sensations.

  2. Rashmi Ripley on July 9, 2020 at 8:49 am

    Really enjoyed this lesson, Nick. As a long time meditator, it’s fascinating to feel grounded and full in a new and different way. Also, loved your question on sensing into which breath is more pleasurable. Thank you for the reminder of pleasure, and for your precise instruction!

  3. Andrea on July 14, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks

  4. Beverly Brookman on October 31, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    Again I want to remark, at first I only did the first 16 minutes 2 or three times because I have been discovering how my breathing is mostly belly with my ribs very retricted in movement. this is am\n incredibly valuable learning for me. I’m learning to “point my breath” to teach my body how to move more “fluidly” ?!

  5. Beverly Brookman on November 1, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    Second time doing the whole lesson,usually only did first ½. There was a definite shift in how much more I breathe with my whole body! I notice my shoulders even moving, not only my belly.thanks I believe my chest rib constrictions will lossen. Thanks, Nick

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on November 1, 2020 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks for sharing your process with me and other users! Great to hear that you’re discovering new options. I love that you took me up on just doing the first 16 minutes the first few times!

  6. Simone on August 2, 2021 at 8:56 am

    I did this one and the next, the simple floor clock yesterday morning. Afterwards, I felt really cold (even after putting on sweats) and nauseous. After about an hour, I started to feel normal again. Did I try too hard??!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 2, 2021 at 11:15 am

      It may be that the two lessons one after another were too much, or as you suggest you overdid something. Hard to say from a distance. Did you feel any straining or unpleasantness during either lesson? This is an unusual response, so please take it extra easy for your next lesson and don’t hesitate to ask more questions.

  7. Tamar Zinn on September 13, 2021 at 7:50 am

    Today was my first experience of paradoxical breathing in an extended lesson. While I was introduced to aspects of this during FI sessions several months ago, it was enlightening to move through the process more slowly and with these variations. I plan to repeat this lesson several times and then do the other two you mention. Thank you Nick!

  8. Muriel on February 16, 2022 at 11:11 am

    Another magic lesson! as you say Nick everything is related! I’ve been struggling with on and off stiff neck and shoulders for the past month, so when I lay down to do this lesson, I was only expecting to “relax” and breathe deeper. Well that did happen in a very interesting way in so far as my belly expanded much lower and deeper and my chest was willing to swell> Wonderfull feeling, but the best feeling of all was doing the bit at the end on our hands and knees, and discovering that my neck was free to join in! and is still free to write this email (-;
    Thank you so much Nick for your fantastically clear and slow-paced instructions!

  9. Celeste on April 24, 2023 at 2:18 am

    Hi Nick! It is the first time I leave a comment but I have done some lessons already with you and I LOVE THEM!. I have been going through some mild little niggles around my body so I have decided to embark on a nervous system healing process and Feldenkrais will be one of my main activities to do so, so thank you so much for offering this space.

    Question: I usually close my eyes when on the floor. Do you recommend trying to keep them open? I am aware of how impactful eyes can be so I wanted to know your opinion about this.

    Thank you so much!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on April 24, 2023 at 11:31 am

      Welcome! Indeed, our eyes have an enormous role in organizing our movement. Generally leaving your eyes closed is a good default choice in lessons that don’t mention them, as long as that’s relaxing and pleasant for you. In some lessons you’ll be specifically invited to open your eyes and gaze at places in the room, or moving parts of yourself. Some lessons will even play in great detail with the integration and differentiation of yours eyes. You might type “eyes” into our lesson search to check out what’s available

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