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More Precise Hips and Spine

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, knees bent, with a floor-seated frame at the beginning and end. Preparing for and clarifying an important primary relationship in the body: arching the spine while flexing the hips.
  • At the very beginning, the seated instructions refer to sitting on the floor, not a chair.
  • The first 30 minutes of the lesson stands well as a learning experience on its own. You can stop there if you find the movements in the latter half are uncomfortable at this time, or perhaps just do the movements with whichever leg is more comfortable to hold over your body (don’t switch sides when prompted to).
  • In the second half of the lesson, as your interlaced fingers are holding a knee, feel free to explore to find the most comfortable distance of that leg from your midline.
  • During the ankle-resting-on-the-other-knee variations, your ankle may rest anywhere on your thigh, as needed for comfort. It doesn’t need to be on or near the knee if that doesn’t work for you.
  • If you have trouble staying comfortable in the second half of this lesson you may benefit from first working through (or revisiting) our Lessons for Standing, Walking, and Running, then returning to this lesson.

It’s notable how this lesson includes movements of the jaw and tongue in service of reorganizing the spine. There’s some very low-level mammalian relationships that are rich to explore.

For Feldenkrais Practitioners or experienced Felden-fans, after your first listening there are two valuable variations Moshe Feldenkrais uses that we didn’t get to in class:

  • At 44:00, after exploring the first hugging-the-knee configuration on both sides, you could experiment by doing the step you just completed again, except have the other leg lying long instead of knee bent, foot standing. So it’s the same movement as before: hugging the knee, drawing on it exactly at the same time you arch the spine, but the leg you’re not holding is lying long on the floor.
  • At the very end, after the “tree hugging” variation, let your left hand rest in front of you and hold onto your right lower leg or pants cuff with your right hand. As you arch your back, use your right hand to help lift your right leg while you push your right heel forward and straighten this leg. Try this a few times, gently. Here’s a classic Moshe comment about this challenging movement: “Whoever wants to tear a muscle can do an abrupt, powerful movement. Everyone else can make a delicate, fine movement.” Try it on the left side too.

There’s some discussion of this lesson in a newsletter I wrote called Learning to Learn, and Reflections on Teaching Feldenkrais.

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 was also featured in Nick’s blog post called Learning to Learn, and Reflections on Teaching Feldenkrais.


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
  • At the very beginning, the seated instructions refer to sitting on the floor, not a chair.
  • The first 30 minutes of the lesson stands well as a learning experience on its own. You can stop there if you find the movements in the latter half are uncomfortable at this time, or perhaps just do the movements with whichever leg is more comfortable to hold over your body (don’t switch sides when prompted to).
  • In the second half of the lesson, as your interlaced fingers are holding a knee, feel free to explore to find the most comfortable distance of that leg from your midline.
  • During the ankle-resting-on-the-other-knee variations, your ankle may rest anywhere on your thigh, as needed for comfort. It doesn’t need to be on or near the knee if that doesn’t work for you.
  • If you have trouble staying comfortable in the second half of this lesson you may benefit from first working through (or revisiting) our Lessons for Standing, Walking, and Running, then returning to this lesson.
Curiosities

It’s notable how this lesson includes movements of the jaw and tongue in service of reorganizing the spine. There’s some very low-level mammalian relationships that are rich to explore.

For Feldenkrais Practitioners or experienced Felden-fans, after your first listening there are two valuable variations Moshe Feldenkrais uses that we didn’t get to in class:

  • At 44:00, after exploring the first hugging-the-knee configuration on both sides, you could experiment by doing the step you just completed again, except have the other leg lying long instead of knee bent, foot standing. So it’s the same movement as before: hugging the knee, drawing on it exactly at the same time you arch the spine, but the leg you’re not holding is lying long on the floor.
  • At the very end, after the “tree hugging” variation, let your left hand rest in front of you and hold onto your right lower leg or pants cuff with your right hand. As you arch your back, use your right hand to help lift your right leg while you push your right heel forward and straighten this leg. Try this a few times, gently. Here’s a classic Moshe comment about this challenging movement: “Whoever wants to tear a muscle can do an abrupt, powerful movement. Everyone else can make a delicate, fine movement.” Try it on the left side too.

There’s some discussion of this lesson in a newsletter I wrote called Learning to Learn, and Reflections on Teaching Feldenkrais.

Context

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 was also featured in Nick’s blog post called Learning to Learn, and Reflections on Teaching Feldenkrais.

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.

We all thrive when more people are doing more Feldenkrais. Please share this resource!

14 Comments. Leave new

  • what tenderness. what finesse.
    like music. thank you deeply for restoring the sense of being human.

    Reply
  • Gisella Warmenhoven
    April 2, 2019 9:57 pm

    fabulous lesson; twice in a short time makes a huge difference

    Reply
  • I did this lesson over a year ago and didn’t like it. It seemed to aggravate a problem. Nick suggested doing it really gently, almost in imagination because it hit my issue pretty directly. I did it just now and it was amazing. Delightful and transformative re: my thoracic spine pain. The suggestions about gently doing it were right there all along but I didn’t heed them. Thanks again Nick for your skill and wisdom.

    Reply
  • I first did this lesson a week ago. Straight away I was aware of very tight hip flexors, and I had to stop the lesson half way through and then just listen to the rest, as my hip flexors were so fatigued. I did it again the following day, and got through it with micro movements. A few days later I did it again and it felt much easier. The interesting thing is that I have noticed my walking is different in the last few days. My hips and lower back are much freer, although at the same time I am very aware of my hip flexors still being tight. I’ll do this one again to see if I can continue to release these tight hips that I didn’t even know were an issue until I tried to do these moves!

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      August 27, 2019 3:55 pm

      Thanks for sharing this detailed learning story. There’s so much uncovered and discovered in ATM study, much of it in the “didn’t know I didn’t know” category. And yet, when change begins to happen we feel the functional improvements…wonderful!

      Reply
  • I was able to go into folded leg yoga pose after the first 45 minutes of this practice without pain and was able to allow the lengthening of the leg so the knees were able to go further to the floor! In one session.
    I will try this evening after a full day on my feet. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Nick this is actually the one I was searching for! Very very difficult for me to arch back when sitting with legs in front. I can do it with legs crossed in tailor position but not in legs straight out. Is it ok to do test movement In tailor position. It’s a good one. Probably many people struggle with this one as we all sit with a rounding lower spine.

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      May 26, 2020 5:16 pm

      I like this lesson and I experience the same challenge as you and many others: sitting on the floor with my legs in front of me and arching my back is very difficult. As always, alterations are not just ok, they are recommended! You might consider all the possibilities between tailor position and legs in front (for example, legs in front, but knees bent a bit, leaning out to the side). Then when the test movement returns, just do your own version of it and see how it’s changed.

      Reply
  • For me to manage this movement in a relaxed and natural way it needed to be very small. Even so it is still sometimes more jerky or forced than feels good. Nevertheless the learning involved was enormous.
    For many years I did dance classes and my right side was always stronger and my left side more coordinated. Observing myself in this lesson I now know what I do that makes this so.
    Immediately there are many changes in my functioning. My walking is freer and easier.
    I have a number of compression fractures in my spine. As I lay on my back at the end of the lesson my spine approached much more natural curves and it moves more easily.
    This is one of those lessons for which the benefits are so much more than I anticipated.
    Thank you for your sensitive delivery of a lesson that I may have found impossible with a less able teacher.

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      October 25, 2020 2:33 pm

      Thanks! Yes, there is a tricky movement at the core of this lesson and I love your description of how you needed to approach it, and what you got out of making it tiny! Less = more: this wisdom is as consistently true as it is difficult for newcomers (and even Feldenkrais longtimers, sometimes) to trust!

      Reply
  • Wonderful lesson!

    During the body scan on most lessons, you ask how our hips joints relate to the floor. I don’t know – it’s as if they are non-existent. I can easily locate and “feel” the other bones scanned. Any advice?

    Reply
    • Nick Strauss-Klein
      November 17, 2020 6:11 pm

      I’m glad you asked, as I felt similar questions and I’m sure others have, too. Consider this question a curiosity for future lessons, especially if you feel your hips are involved or have changed during the hour. Does your ability to locate them in your perception ever change? Is it always a flat no, or sometimes a more vague no (for example)? And most of all, don’t worry: it’s not unusual that some of the sensation/perception scan questions won’t “land” with everyone every time.

      Reply
  • lorraine stone
    June 17, 2021 4:54 pm

    I did this lesson again today and in the interim this movement has embedded in my mind. Arching my back while moving my leg towards my arching back seemed like the most natural way to do it . Truly amazing!

    Reply
  • After a very annoying and stressful week leading to some grouchy backs, my husband and I decided that only the dulcet tones of Nick will help us this late afternoon. So we set about doing this ATM and found it quite challenging. However, we proceeded with softness and minimal movement which made is all thatmuch easier. When we got to the part with sticking the tongue out a little with the loose jaw, we both couldn’t resist sneaking a peak at each other … and we just burst out laughing. All the form was lost under this mirth but a great time was had. Thank you Nick. We did recover and finished with noticeable results. After doing at least a year of Feldenkrais, this was the flattest our backs had ever become after an ATM. So soft and flat. Funnily enough, when we put out legs down to lie on our backs, we both got a cold rush of sensation behind our lower back. What an adventure. Thanks

    Reply

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