Strength Without Excess (23 min)

Feldenkrais isn’t exercise, it’s learning! Back-lying, often hands and head configured like a sit-up, learning to skillfully draw elbows and knees together by sensing and regulating the flexors AND the extensors.

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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 – 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 – 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!

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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 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 – 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!

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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.

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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 – 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 – 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.

Generally in Feldenkrais lessons, when you’re on your back with your knees are bent and feet “standing”, let your feet and knees be comfortably apart, about the width of your hips.

If you tried the “personal test of limberness” suggested in introductory talk, you might try that again after this lesson.

This audio recording is found in Getting Oriented, our introductory collection of Feldenkrais basics for newcomers (and longtimers looking for a “tune-up”).

It also appears in our course called The Pelvic Floor: Less Is More.

This lesson was recorded in an introductory workshop called Move Smarter, Safer, and Stronger with Feldenkrais: Stretch without Strain.

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Patrons can listen to Getting Oriented tracks 8-11 (the Stretch without Strain talks and lessons) without interruption as a complete 70-minute workshop recording.

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  1. on March 4, 2020 at 10:21 pm

    Lovely short ATM – Flexion is one of my favorites, this one can fit in nicely at the end of the day or in the middle of the afternoon when there’s not a lot of time. I especially like how you covered all four arm/leg combinations in an interesting sequence. Also focusing our attention on what is pressing into the mat was very fascinating to me today. I liked the image of the painting, and the directing of our attention to the space between the front and the back. Thank you very much!

  2. Boris Piker on August 31, 2021 at 12:07 pm

    Hi I’m having real doubt sometimes regarding effort/strain during ATM.

    In this one when we are instructed to lift head, for me I sense tension in the back of the neck as I’m just about to lift the head.

    So there’s no way I can comfortably lift my head without sensing effort in the back of my neck, so I even don’t lift head to get the hand under it, I roll my head onto my hand to prevent raising it slightly.

    I limit the movement to just my elbow wanting to raise the head so it moves close to my head and towards the knee, and I exert a gentle pressure into the back of my head with the hand to invite my head to rise if it wants to.

    It seems to work cause after a few reps of that and some rests on the floor, my head feels like it can finally rise without a lot of tension.

    And yet… I still feel like there’s a bit of discomfort but I’m not sure if I’m just being a baby at this point and that it doesn’t have to be perfect.

    Same thing with the knee, just having it in the air for awhile, when I stretch out to rest on the floor I feel tightness in my hip joint that wasn’t there before sometimes.

    I experimented with going slow and tolerating some minor effort and I did achieve greater range of movement by the end of the lesson, but honestly I wasn’t really feeling any more comfortable internally.

    I’m also struggling with the principle of “make a small movement”, cause I’m not sure if I should explore my range of movement more or just literally stick to really very small movements at the beginning of my range. Should I just explore both as long as it’s slow and comfortable.

    Speaking of slow, I find sometimes going slow is actually making me more “pent up” than being more loose and free but faster, and that sometimes it feels more comfortable to do a bigger faster movement than a slow one.
    However I’m suspecting that it’s a comfort issue, cause it seems the more comfortable you are, the easier it is to do a slower movement.

    Anyways I hope you can comment on these questions, they’ve been bothering me for months lol

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 31, 2021 at 2:39 pm

      Great questions, and your instincts are spot-on throughout! It’s not being a baby to truly teach yourself within your own comfort, BUT also: being “perfectly comfortable” is another type of self-imposition, and sometimes the realm we’re in requires instead a steady focus on *decreasing discomfort*. If the trend is agitating you more and more over the minutes of a lesson, you’re doing too much or too fast. But if the trend is less discomfort, you’re still curious and breathing and enjoying yourself overall (but you note a little discomfort) as long as it’s improving it’s probably ok!

      Similarly on the theme of not being perfect you are welcome to be sometimes go a little faster or a little bigger. Then, if you don’t like how it feels, make it slower or smaller again. Sometimes when things stay slow and small people can get “pent up” like you said – I call this “the wiggles” and I encourage you to wiggle! Pause the recording even, rest in another position, take a break if needed and walk around.

      Does that help? You had several questions and I may not have covered them all. Maybe play with those ideas then write back if you have followups?

      • Boris on August 31, 2021 at 5:43 pm

        Thanks for the comments, I’ll keep in mind the “decreasing discomfort” mentality in my next ATM, as well as the wiggles lol

        I may have missed your response to my last question, I’ll double check.

        Thanks for making free organized lessons, not everyone can afford the 100+ dollar feldenkrais footage archives.

  3. Chris Abdo on December 6, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    The head lifting felt awful, even a millimeter, so just did elbow to knee, hope it’s good enough 🙂 that felt better

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 6, 2021 at 5:30 pm

      That is an intelligent response to an unpleasant sensation. I’m glad you’re trusting the process and directions not to move into pain – well done!

    • Boris on December 6, 2021 at 6:21 pm

      I felt same, lots of tension in back of neck even at the very start of about to lift the head.

      What helped me is just imagining my head floating up weightlessly with my hand and after some repetitions of that and a rest, eventually the head started rising in a relaxed way.

  4. Ileana Vogelaar on July 14, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    For avoiding neck tension when lifting the head.

    It helps me to keep the chin tucked IN .

    This protects me to avoid stressing the back of the neck.

  5. Gertrude Schmidt on March 20, 2024 at 6:05 am

    This was kind of surprising how doing each movement curiously and gently only twice made such a huge difference in standing and walking afterwards – I’m looking forward to my walk throug the woods now!

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