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Softening the Ribs

Lying on the back and sides, with some rolling transfers between, hands often on the lower ribs, learning to sense and soften the ribs, spine, and shoulder blades and integrate their movement with the pelvis and legs.

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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.

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Tip 1 – Interrupted?

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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.

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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.

  • As you choose your support surface (carpet, mat, folded towel for head, etc.), consider your ability to roll between side-lying and back-lying. Leave enough space, and perhaps have some extra options nearby for a softer surface to roll on (perhaps a blanket) if you discover you need it.
  • Initially when you get to side-lying you may want a folded towel for head support, but as your rolling develops you may notice it’s useful to use less head support, or to roll off of it as you roll to back-lying.
  • If you struggle for any reason with this lesson, you might explore The Periscope first and return to this one later. Or you might explore the first 36 minutes of this lesson several times.

I was asked about this lesson, “Could you describe a little more what you mean by “lower ribs”? I’m a bit confused about where my interlaced hands should be placed.” I mean that your hands would be interlaced, resting partially on your upper abdomen and partially on the lower ribs, the lowest parts of the chest. The fingers may be on soft tissue just below your sternum, but probably your thumbs and about half your palms will be on ribs.

This lesson is found in our collection Freeing the Spine, Chest, Shoulders, and Neck.

It also appears in our Deep Dive course called Shoulder Cloak, Rib Basket, Sliding Sternum.

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 or Deep Dive it’s in.

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19 Comments

  1. Stacy on August 1, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Excellent lesson and so clearly able to sense parts of myself better!

  2. dafi on August 6, 2017 at 5:14 am

    please Nick- add more lessons
    thank u.
    it was great ! very clear

  3. Jacqueline Schärer on November 5, 2017 at 5:53 am

    Thank you very much. It was very clear and great.

  4. Deirdre O Connor on October 19, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Really great lesson – thank you so much Nick – so much more freedom in my shoulders and ribs.

  5. Adam Wernick on April 13, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Great lesson, Nick! I am struggling with shoulder pain, due to an injury from throwing a softball. This lesson helped release most of the tension surrounding the injury and better isolate the problem spot. It was really helpful! (Plus, as always, I just feel better overall after doing one of your lessons). Thanks!

  6. Aicha Brogan on April 23, 2019 at 3:49 am

    Thanks so much Nick!! I enjoyed this and really appreciate your sharing and the site.

  7. vanessa on August 28, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    another great lesson to explore parts of our body that we easily forget about!

  8. a.g. on February 1, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    just done this close together with the Periscope after quite a few months.
    really tremendous how many more layers and depths I found (having probably come across new ways elsewhere along the way.)
    it is quite humbling somehow!!
    thank you for conveying your teaching and insights with such care that one keeps discovering new connections…new ways.

  9. Ursula on March 21, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    The widening I feel in the back as I lift the elbows is such a a different way of moving for me.Very positive. My only issue when lifting both elbows, while I do feel the lower ribs making more contact, I find my chin lifting and neck arching which likely is not desirable as I want to feel length at back of neck. Suggestions? Thanks as always for these beautiful lessons.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on March 22, 2020 at 9:15 am

      It’s a very sophisticated movement, and (as always) not “wrong” to feel whatever you feel. That said, I personally resonate with that challenge in this lesson, and I recommend doing the movement with your elbows but attending primarily to the feeling in your neck, only going as far with the elbows (even if it’s not actually lifting them, but just lightening them) as you can enjoy witnessing the experience in your neck. I believe you will find more satisfaction and change that way. Next time you explore the lesson, try it that small, or smaller, and let me know how it goes!

      • Lorraine on May 9, 2021 at 2:36 pm

        This discussion was so interesting to me. I find both movements of my neck and chin i.e. arching or lengthening the back of my neck, while lifting my elbows fairly natural. So I spent some time exploring what I do that is different. Parts of my upper back have been, and sometimes still are fairly opaque to me and this lesson, and subsequent explorations made me much more aware of that part of my body and its potential for movement. So thank you Nick and Ursula for your thoughts.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on February 20, 2023 at 1:24 pm

      Update: This issue is explored in-depth in our recent Deep Dive called Jaw, Neck, and Shoulders.

  10. Mica on July 20, 2020 at 5:47 am

    I’ve done MM5 [“The Master Moves”, lesson 5; it’s a book by Moshe Feldenkrais. -NSK] before, it’s still unclear to me if I should in rolling to the side, turn the wrists and then straighten both arms.
    Regardless, thank you for these lessons. It either adds another layer of clarity or makes me rediscover the clarity that had slipped away from me.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 26, 2020 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, my intention is as you roll, over time, to see if you can learn to softly, safely turn the wrists and straighten your arms.

  11. Jennifer Ostermann on July 28, 2020 at 1:58 am

    Thanks Nick! First time I’ve commented… I’ve really been enjoying your lessons. I am a practitioner and often cram by listening to a lesson of yours, take notes and teach it the following morning. With this one, I actually only did the first 37 minutes (sort of a lesson that stands on it’s own as you mention) and kind of worked on it for quite a while on my floor in the wee hours of the night, with a 5 year old finally asleep after a nightmare, and my husband out of town for a while. I made an “ending” to the lesson out of rolling to lie on the back from both the hand on the forehead and hand on the ribs, letting attendants choose the one they felt most clear about first, and then they did the other one, and then we checked the ease of the back lying lifting elbows. It worked out so well! Really beautiful lesson and enrichment. My class is all seniors with various injuries/limitations, so it was perfect to take an hour to do the first 36 minutes of your lesson. I added an extra check of back lying lifting elbows in there somewhere, too… Wow, now I feel like I’m commenting on a recipe I read online – “The recipe was fantastic! I didn’t have molasses so I used honey and added some walnuts since my husband likes them, and it turned out great!” Thank you for your wonderful teaching!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 30, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      Ha! My wife and I always joke about online recipes that way, but the metaphor is great: you’re making what you need out of the material that’s presented! In someways this is a “big” lesson and it makes a lot of sense to me to do less of it more thoroughly. I love exploring and teaching lessons that are “small” in terms of what’s done, but rich in terms of “flavor” (continuing our metaphor…). Enjoy!

  12. Terry Moro on June 18, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks. That was rib-a-licious. I did feel changes in my intercostals. Beautiful.

  13. Alex on February 17, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    Super lesson, beautifully taught. Thank you Nick. This is the 3rd time I´ve had a go at this one within two days. The lesson makes me feel more calm, secure, awake and definitely more aware of the fact that the ribs go all around and are shaped way differently than I had imagined. When I look at anatomical drawings of ribs, they often look almost horizontal, whereas I felt mine much more going downward from back to front. A confusing discovery. I think I have a long learned habit of holding my rib-basket flat …even on the inhale, and not allowing the ribs the freedom to expand as much as they could. Just for the sake of experimentation, I will keep doing this lesson for a few more days now and see what there is to discover:) I loved how at some point I started using my voice instinctively along with the movement. It happened by itself. Really pleasant.

  14. Elaine Krautman on July 16, 2022 at 9:35 am

    Thank you. When I stood up at the end, I felt I was carrying my upper self more lightly, yet clearly, and the front of my chest, my neck, and my head felt more comfortably placed above the lower half of me. Also, when lying down, when I moved both elbows out while also lifting my head, I had a happy feeling of energy flowing through both arms and legs down into my fingertips and toes. It was a pleasant suprise. 7/2022

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