Stepping Down, with a Bias (Patrons)

This mostly side-lying lesson explores the relationship of our natural spinal bias with our uprightness. It's designed to help us clarify and harness the fine movements and wonderful sensitivity and power available throughout our spine as we step down. "Stepping down" is how we organize ourselves to deliver force through our legs as we stand, balance, walk, and move in all upright activities.

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 4 – Padding

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Tip – Complete the Movement

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Tip – what to wear

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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.

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Even if you don’t require head support for side-lying, it may be useful in this lesson: experiencing some slack in your spine may make some sensations more accessible than dangling your head over your shoulder down to the ground.

It’s mentioned in the recording, but good to repeat here: in side-lying, when you’re eventually asked to lift the ceiling-side knee away from the floor-side knee without rolling backward, don’t let strain build in your outer thigh. That isn’t the power we’re steering you toward. Go smaller, rest more, or adjust your starting position, all so you can learn to distribute effort away from the leg and into the spine and your weight on the floor.

On subsequent listenings, a good experiment might be to start by lying on your right side, and reverse rights and lefts throughout the first parts of the lesson. Once you get your best sense of your bias during the middle of the lesson (the back-lying steps), follow the final side-lying directions even if it’s the same as you did it last time (lie on the side that has your spinal bias facing the ceiling).

The “people with whom I saw related work being done” discussed at the beginning of the class are small children with developmental challenges who are students of Sheryl Field, the senior Feldenkrais practitioner whose work is the source for this lesson.

We’re directly exploring how our spine organizes our uprightness and movement. It’s easy to think that we interact with the world with our limbs, and it’s true, in the same way a car interacts with the world with its tires, “where the rubber meets the road.” But just like the tires are the end of a sophisticated system of power generation and transmission which starts at the engine, our feet and legs are designed to deliver force and movement generated initially at the spinal level. If you want to tune up a car, you wouldn’t spend all your time on the tires.

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 also introduced and explored near the end of our collection called Lessons for Freeing the Spine, Chest, Shoulders, and Neck.

All vertebrates (including humans) have this natural spinal bias, which means the spine bends a little more pleasantly and fluently toward one side than the other. This isn’t something to be corrected or made symmetrical with the other side; rather we can benefit from learning to sense and harness it as integral to our identity and self-image.

This is so important that I’ve even structured this lesson asymmetrically. Once you’ve got your best guess about your own bias, you’ll do most of the rest of the lesson in the side-lying configuration that makes it easiest to harness your sense of your bias and relate it to powering your ceiling-side leg. It’s a powerful whole self organizer, and you may be surprised how you’re not left feeling totally asymmetrical afterwards, or at least not for long.

This lesson is found in Patrons Monthly, our always-growing collection of new lessons (one or more added every month) for Feldenkrais Project Patrons. It’s also in our Walking from Your Spine Deep Dive.

Audio edits are more minimal in this collection (I’ve left in a little before class discussion, for example). I may edit this lesson down further in the future based on your feedback.

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  1. Anne McDonald on November 20, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Excellent ATM! It helped me uncover some beliefs I didn’t know I (still) had. I’ve used my “good” side to gather information in order to change my “bad” side. Instead of developing my strengths I’ve paradoxically focused on my weaknesses. The evolutionary need for developing a bias (quickly avoid a predator) also helped me accept and appreciate both sides of myself. I also loved the opposition of lengthening upward while stepping down. Going up and down at the same time has helped me do less. Thanks Nick for this great ATM.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on November 20, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      Fantastic! Very exciting to get this feedback. These are powerful, subtle concepts, at odds with a lot of cultural assumptions about symmetries and self-improvement. I’m so happy you’re diving deep!

  2. Pam Merten on October 12, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    I need to do this one a few more times to get the hang of it: It was difficult for me to envision how to position my bended knees. What I found fascinating was that when I lied on my right side, it was extremely difficult to press my spine into the floor. I continued to imagine the whole thing; eventually I was able to do so. Thanks, Nick!!

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