Gathering the Spine, Stepping Down

Back-lying, side-lying, and transitioning into side-lying, refining and harnessing your image of your spine's bias and action as it relates to (and powers) the stepping down of your feet. All toward reorganizing your gait.

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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 – 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 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 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.

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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 – 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 1 – Interrupted?

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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!

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 – 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.

  • For a variety of reasons this lesson is a bit more challenging than most other Feldenkrais Project lessons. It’s fine for all who have at least a little ATM experience, especially if you’ve explored your way through earlier lessons in this collection.
  • Early in the lesson you’re asked to extend your arm “overhead,” and “overhead on the floor.” As always in my ATMs, these directions are relative to YOU. Since you’re lying on your back at the time, overhead means on the floor, not extended into the air toward the ceiling (which is in front of you, not overhead). If this isn’t comfortable for your arm it can be on the floor out to the side as much as is necessary for it to be restful, rather than straight upwards on the floor.

Here at the end of our collection called Learning the Limbs, from the Center, we directly explore how our most proximal, central structure (the spine) powers our legs and gait.

Learning to sense and use your primary spinal bias to your advantage in day-to-day movements is profoundly important work that can lead to significant quality of life improvements.

This bias is introduced and explored in our collection called Lessons for Freeing the Spine, Chest, Shoulders, and Neck. You can also find a bias study opportunity earlier in this collection in the Arms Like a Skeleton, with a Bias lesson.

This lesson is found in the collection called Learning the Limbs, from the Center.

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.

It can also be found in our Deep Dive called Supple Feet, Powerful Legs.

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

Use the comments section below! Public comments build our community and help search engines find us.



  1. Joan Haan on June 26, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Understood it better. Really noticed “long islands” as a result.
    Thank you!

  2. Julia Pace on November 28, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Hi Nick. This lesson must be important to me, bc it is not easy for me to make it easy. I have a very strong extension bias, and my whole lower back never rests on the floor as I lie on my back – the right side more active than the left (right foot surgery as an infant). As this lesson involves initiating action with both legs long, I am not able presently to find a way to allow my lower back to rest comfortably on the ground. Not having the floor to inform me I found I can feel very little regarding how I use my lower back, or even where it is in space. I can control it to a small extent, but it is not effortless. So, here’s my question: I have been placing a small, soft folded towel under my lower back, which touches my body gently, but does not push on it, so I can bring the floor up to my back (if Moses doesn’t go to the mountain…). I have found it very helpful, but I would like to hear your thoughts about it. And my apologies for the long long comment. JP

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 9, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      I appreciate the fine detail of this question, and I think your alteration sounds very wise. We do what we do in Feldenkrais to generate sensation, which requires lowering the effort, insisting on comfort, and plenty of safe and pleasant and interesting and varied stimulation, which I believe you’ve added to with the towel. As I imagine what I understand from your comment I also find myself thinking of you cultivating great length and breath through your lower back and waist as you look for these initiations. That’s a self-image challenge, since any trying for length and breath will actually reduce both. Finally, I agree with your conclusion: the lessons that are most difficult for us are often the most important. Of course that never means there’s a rush to achieve something with them. Quite the opposite, actually, even more so than usual!

  3. Lorraine on January 22, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    This was my first Feldenkrais lesson after a week in hospital. It was so wonderful to lie on the floor and let myself focus on myself. Because I was not feeling well, I had a little more opportunity to try less. Such a wonderful way to speed recovery!

  4. Deb on August 27, 2023 at 3:18 pm

    Haven’t done this lesson in quite a while. What a trip down memory lane remembering how hard I tried during those first times. What a lesson in attitude towards life.
    Thank you so much for doing this.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 30, 2023 at 10:14 am

      Isn’t it amazing how lessons seem to change over time? Of course it’s us who are always changing…. I appreciate your commenting on the long view of experience with a lesson. Happy for you – and all of us – when we sense we’re discovering over time the value and learning of less effort!

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