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Fundamentals of a Healthy Back (workshop lesson)

Recorded live in a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class, the lesson below is copyright Nick Strauss-Klein, for personal use only. This and all our audio lessons are 100% donor-supported.

Read this before you begin  for practical tips and your responsibilities, and check out Comfort & Configuration below. Click the other lesson note tabs if you’re curious.

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Back-lying, often knees bent, sometimes legs crossed, tilting. Clarifying our image of the "five curves" of the axial skeleton in action: the traditional three (lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine), plus the sacrum/tailbone and the skull. Learning to sense functions and efforts through all five curves, including breathing.

If you struggle with the legs crossed, knees tilting configuration and movements used for parts of this lesson, you might instead do one of these first: Legs as Free as a Baby’s, or Folding, Foundation, and Feet, or The Hip Joints: Moving Proximal Around Distal. They will help improve the hips and lower back and make this lesson more accessible.

It’s helpful to have a very secure place for the foot stand when the legs are crossed closely together. Consider options to create more friction.

Near the end of this lesson I had a verbal slip I didn’t notice while teaching: I mention the “five lines” instead of the “five curves” of the spine. I meant the curves, which are the dominant image of the lesson.

For some learning context including goals and principles from the workshop where this lesson was recorded, check out my old TwinCitiesFeldenkrais.com blog post Info and lessons from Healthy Back workshop. It includes the principles discussed after the lesson, and links to versions of the lessons that followed after the break mentioned at the end of this recording. It’s an ancient blog post, so if you find lesson links aren’t working just search for them here.

This lesson is found in our Miscellaneous Lessons collection. It was taught at the beginning of a workshop and was followed by versions of these lessons:


Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to download this lesson’s MP3 file.


Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to view Nick’s comments about sources he used while developing this lesson.


Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to view related lesson titles and links.

Comfort & Configuration

If you struggle with the legs crossed, knees tilting configuration and movements used for parts of this lesson, you might instead do one of these first: Legs as Free as a Baby’s, or Folding, Foundation, and Feet, or The Hip Joints: Moving Proximal Around Distal. They will help improve the hips and lower back and make this lesson more accessible.

It’s helpful to have a very secure place for the foot stand when the legs are crossed closely together. Consider options to create more friction.

Clarifications

Near the end of this lesson I had a verbal slip I didn’t notice while teaching: I mention the “five lines” instead of the “five curves” of the spine. I meant the curves, which are the dominant image of the lesson.

Curiosities

For some learning context including goals and principles from the workshop where this lesson was recorded, check out my old TwinCitiesFeldenkrais.com blog post Info and lessons from Healthy Back workshop. It includes the principles discussed after the lesson, and links to versions of the lessons that followed after the break mentioned at the end of this recording. It’s an ancient blog post, so if you find lesson links aren’t working just search for them here.

Context

This lesson is found in our Miscellaneous Lessons collection. It was taught at the beginning of a workshop and was followed by versions of these lessons:

Download

Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to download this lesson’s MP3 file.

Source

Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to view Nick’s comments about sources he used while developing this lesson.

Related Lessons

Members and Patrons only. Please login or join the Project to view related lesson titles and links.

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12 Comments. Leave new

  • Cathie Walstad
    March 9, 2018 3:35 pm

    After the ‘MN Hunch Season’ is over, the easy going, very clear directions in following N.S.K. in slowly helping us to coordinate the movements with an amazing stretch, awareness and opening of the vertebrae to feel more flexible but controlled more, and feeling better alignment on my aging body and now can stand up straighter. Appreciate this so much after taking classes from N.S.K. many years ago at the JCC in St. Paul. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      April 23, 2018 8:33 am

      Especially after this difficult winter we Minnesotans are so glad to throw off our parkas and shivering hunches! Happy to help!

      Reply
  • That was a wonderful lesson Nick. It was really interesting to observe the relationship between the breath and the 5 curves.
    Thanks again

    Reply
  • Muriel Soriano
    May 11, 2020 3:19 pm

    Thank you so much Nick! Foppy breath and tummy was an interesting exploration and loved the giraffe image (-:
    Feeling much taller and straighter.

    Reply
  • Sarah Merriam Pierce
    November 17, 2020 3:51 pm

    Thank you Nick! This is a wonderful exploration of the spine and relationship with head and pelvis! So much food for thought. So warm wishes from Wales, GB 🙂

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      November 17, 2020 3:53 pm

      A little secret: I love this one too! I haven’t figured out a more prominent place for it in our collections, so I’m glad you ventured into our mysterious Miscellaneous Lessons and found it. Thanks for letting us know where you’re listening from – always fun to hear!

      Reply
  • Ileana Vogelaar
    July 23, 2021 11:06 pm

    Wonderfull and thank you so much. Liked the 2 noses part….and rolling the head in opposite direction..
    Was it a ” Feldenkrais boot camp ” ?? You were getting ready for a second leson. LOL

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      July 27, 2021 7:30 am

      That’s right, it was the first lesson in a workshop pair. Click the Context tab for the next lesson!

      Reply
  • I find this lesson very relaxing and soothing, but have two points of confusion:
    – knees tilting to one side – I’m doing a slight tilt, as tilting further causes confusion and discomfort. But when you suggest to *keep* the knees slightly tilted, and raise the head – how does one keep the knees tilted without having to strain the whole lower body? So far I can only tilt a bit and bring it right back, the idea of having to keep them tilted, even at a small angle, gives immediate strain and makes me think I’m doing something wrong! Maintaining the tilt recruits a lot of my muscles, even with friction under my foot.

    Second confusion – when bringing the head up (using arms, not neck muscles) – should I be squeezing my abdomen, like in a sit up? Or do I maintain perfectly calm abdomen / keep abs relaxed? The answer changes where the weight goes in my back.

    Thank you as always!

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      October 12, 2021 11:50 am

      For the second question, the abdominal muscles will be included and indeed do much of the work, but there’s no particular focus needed to squeeze them. As your head lightens and lifts do allow the weight and pressure to migrate down your chest and back. Allowing your abdomen to be included in the contractions will help you learn to press your back more fully into the ground to support lifting your head.

      First question: what happens if you lighten/lift your head with the legs crossed but not tilted? First see if you can find a way to do that comfortably (again, allowing the middle back, and maybe even lower back, to press the ground should help). Then see, if you tilt your knees an inch to the side, leave them there, and then lift your head, is there a comfortable way? There’s no need to tilt them any particular distance and we’re definitely not looking for strain. You’ll be learning even if you don’t tilt them at all, since the configuration of the hips and pelvis and lumbar is so different with the legs crossed.

      Reply
  • I find every lesson I do so helpful for something in my body- so thank you for that! I’m trying to introduce a friend to Feldenkrais who is struggling with sciatic pain. Could you direct me to the best lesson among the non-donor resources to start for her?

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      December 8, 2021 10:01 am

      Thanks, and thanks for the referral. Please send her to Getting Oriented – that’s the best place for most folks to get familiar with the method, and many of those lessons can be very nice for sciatica. She can simply start from the beginning, but should skip any lesson she can’t make comfortable for herself.

      Reply

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