Getting Free with a Bell Hand (Patrons)

Mostly in a "three-quarters prone" position (halfway between side-lying and front-lying). Learn to use a gently pulsing "bell hand" to calm and regulate your nervous system, and to help you organize larger, more demanding movements with greater freedom and skill. See the lesson notes for a recommended prerequisite lesson.

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 – 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.

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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.

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.

Browser/device size and audio player

Tech tip: On mobile or tablet? Once you start playing the audio, your device’s native playback controls should work well.

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.

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Tip – Technical Difficulties

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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 – 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 – 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.

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Tip – Rewinding

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 – 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!

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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If you’re not yet familiar with the bell hand genre of Feldenkrais lesson please explore one or both of these lessons first:

In this lesson, the hand making the bell movements should always have fingers free of the ground, meaning its palm is oriented to the ceiling or to the side.

If the three-quarters prone position is difficult you may place a pillow under the bent knee that’s out in front of you.

While the bell hand pulsing is more or less continuous, the lifting movements aren’t. Be sure to complete each lifting movement by letting all the efforts dissipate fully and then resting briefly before beginning the next lift.

Eventually you’ll get to choose which side you’re lying on. You’ll hear me frequently refer to the “floor side” or to “pulse your floor side arm” to remind you which hand you’re pulsing, but I don’t mean to move your arm, except when you’re transitioning in and out of lying on your back.

When you’re asked to lift your hand from the floor it will soon be clarified that I mean to lead from the wrist, letting the hand dangle down, fingers brushing the floor for much of the movement. The “silk scarf” is an image for gently floating something into the air, as if someone slung a scarf under your wrist (or later, your ankle) and delicately lifted.

Moshe Feldenkrais called the movement “bell hand” because of the shape the hand makes. He also spoke French and many Feldenkrais teachers have suspected he was thinking of “belle” (beautiful), too. Having an esthetically pleasing sense of the movement, both in its felt-sense and appearance, hugely benefits the lesson.

I also enjoy an image of the metaphorical bell that’s rung in the nervous system when you sustain this movement. It announces “Pay attention, every other movement you make is connected to this ringing bell.”

For humans, learning to do two or more different things skillfully at the same time is common and enormously practical. When you think about it, it’s also miraculous. We must patiently practice, differentiating and integrating until there’s a sense that the movements are a single coordinated action. When either movement is handled in an isolated, abrupt, or forceful way they disrupt each other. But when both are done beautifully, each benefits.

Learning specific skillful combination of movements is really valuable in all of life’s activities, but note: if you practice your actual learning skills by developing your capacity for differentiation and integration, you can learn faster — and learn almost anything. Try our Illusion of Isolation Deep Dive.

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

It also appears in our Deep Dive course called The Illusion of Isolation.

It was recorded on January 26, 2021.

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