One Bell Hand / Two Bell Hands…and Feet (31m + 29m, Patrons)

Named after the shape the hand makes, this pair of half-hour lessons is designed to be completed together the first time through. Reset your nervous system and learn to relate the activity and skillfulness of your hands with your whole self.

  • Lesson 1 - Side-lying, balancing a forearm and lower leg in relationship with bell hand movements.
  • Lesson 2 (starts at 31:30) - Back-lying, sensing the relationship of the orientation of head and eyes with the activity of the hands, and relating the hands with the feet.

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!

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 – 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 – What’s New

Community tip: See what Nick and other Felden-fans are interested in right now. Check out What’s New at the bottom of our homepage for recent blog posts and listener comments.

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 – Technical Difficulties

Tech tip: If you have any trouble with the audio player, reboot your browser. That solves most issues. If not, please contact Nick.

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 – Comments

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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 1 – Interrupted?

Study tip: Interrupted or don’t have enough time? You can return to the lesson later today or tomorrow. Read how best to continue your learning on our FAQ page.

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.

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 – 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 – 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 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 – Lesson names

What’s in a lesson title? Lessons are about an hour unless a shorter duration is shown in the title. Thanks to our donors they’re freely offered unless marked “Patrons” – those are how we thank our Patron-level donors.

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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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The “bell hand” movement described at the beginning will become clear in the first few minutes of the lesson, but if you wish to see a photo or video demonstration click on the Context tab.

(The audio version above is the best way to experience this lesson, which was originally recorded on a Zoom call for our donors. )

Once you’re in the lesson 2 configuration, your palms will probably be oriented “down,” meaning facing the wall beneath your feet and/or the floor, depending where you are in the bell-hand movement. I mention “inward” toward the body as a possibility, but the real intention is a neutral, restful rotation in the forearms, which means the palms orient down for most people.

(The configuration for lesson 2 is back-lying, upper arms resting on the floor straight out toward the sidewalls at the height of the shoulders, elbows bent 90 degrees and resting on the floor, lower arms standing plumb in gravity, hands softly “dangling” in the air.)

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, definitely benefits the lesson.

On subsequent explorations of this lesson you might try

  • separating the two lessons: the first time through we recommend you enjoy the whole hour. After that you could try either 30-minute half on its own.
  • doing the whole thing with the other hand: reverse all rights and lefts.
  • actually closing the four fingertips to comfortably surround the tip of the thumb each time you “pulse” the bell hand. If this can be done effortlessly and softly it’s a useful alternative. Or just study that version of the bell hand in our lesson called Calming the Nervous System, Integrating Hands, Eyes, and Breath (37 min, Patrons).

Check out the Context tab for a link to the Zoom recording if you’d like to see the discussion with participants after this lesson was recorded. It was fascinating!

This lesson is found in Patrons Monthly, our collection of lessons exclusively for Feldenkrais Project Patron-level donors, with one or more new lessons added every month.

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

MEMBERS and Patrons: While the edited audio above is the best way to explore the lesson, it’s also available for all donors in unedited form as part of our March 2021 birthday Zoom call. The Zoom discussion with participants about the lessons was fascinating, in case you’re curious!

You can also view a video demonstration of the bell hand movement at the 10-minute mark, but you probably won’t need to once you get a few minutes into the audio lesson.

Please leave comments and questions below!

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  1. shan shnookal on January 17, 2022 at 1:20 am

    Wow, what an interesting and profound lesson. (How have i never done a “bell hand” lesson in so many years of Feldenkrais?) I discovered my JAW wants to open and close when i open and close my hand! Had to do the movements minutely small to uncouple this not-very-useful habit!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on January 19, 2022 at 8:03 am

      Perhaps not very useful, but actually that’s a very natural linkage. It’s great that you noticed it, and found a way to introduce choice about it. If you’re interested, “go fishing” for this in your regular life: when your hands are clenching, can you sense it in your jaw? Can you choose to differentiate them more?

  2. shan shnookal on January 18, 2022 at 8:50 pm

    Thanks so much, Nick. Can’t wait to explore more! Particularly when i’m riding my horse. My hands have to softly and sensitively hold the reins, yet be “firm” enough to keep a steady “contact”, as i follow all my horse’s movement in her neck, back and ribs.

  3. Ursula MacKinnon on March 14, 2023 at 3:24 pm

    Hi Nick, finally got to try the bell hands ones One bell hand, two bell hands and feet. Very strange and interesting lesson for sure. After part one my right side felt longer and like I was taking up more space …my left side felt wizened and crowded in on myself by comparison. Does that make any sense lol. I got very lost at times in the second half, which always causes me to try harder, particularly with the feet…sort of tensing my lower leg. It’s one I’ll do again though, as it was sort of soothing.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on March 19, 2023 at 10:45 am

      Yup, that strong sensory difference between the two sides makes perfect sense! Most folks end up there, at least on early explorations of really one-sided versions of bell hands like the first half of this lesson. Definitely do this lesson again sometime – I think it will become even more soothing and useful to you when you find yourself able to let go of trying hard. Try the tips in the Curiosities tab.

  4. Ursula MacKinnon on March 14, 2023 at 3:45 pm

    Oh and I forgot to ask, I do most lessons with a folded up thick beach towel under my head . Is that ok, not ideal I suppose but my head and front of neck strain otherwise.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on March 19, 2023 at 10:48 am

      Comfort first, always. The only pitfall with knowing what you need for comfort is never gently testing if it’s still appropriate to your current experience. For example, lots of folks who value a lot of head support at the beginning of the lesson find that later on in the lesson they enjoy fewer folds of their towel. Or if you do a second lesson on the same day, or a day after, you may find you need less. It’s helpful to be curious about everything, even sometimes re-examining our preferences and assumptions about comfort.

      • Ursula MacKinnon on March 21, 2023 at 8:09 pm

        Ahh yes that good advice, to test as you go along, to see if can reduce the height of head support.

  5. Karen Glennemeier on August 1, 2023 at 4:50 pm

    Hello Nick and others. Do you think this lesson would be helpful as a means to learn how to use my hands in a way that causes less overuse and muscle stress/fatigue? I use my hands a lot for my work and hobbies (gardening, cooking, music), and at age 55 I’m starting to feel stiffness and achiness in my fingers on a pretty regular basis. If there are lessons that focus on the arms and forearms, this might be another useful angle.

    Thanks so much!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 1, 2023 at 5:23 pm

      Yes, I believe it would be helpful for that, along with our other two bell hand lessons. Most folks have accumulated habits of using their hands in many activities with more force and strength than is necessary. There’s also often a tendency to splay the thumb unnecessarily widely away from the fingers. These lessons can reduce strain and help you begin to learn to use your hands in a softer, gentler way. They’ll still be strong when you need them to be, but more flowing and graceful and at ease when strength isn’t needed.

  6. Karen Glennemeier on August 1, 2023 at 8:42 pm

    Wonderful, thank you, I’ll give them a try!

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