Stretch Without Strain (39 minutes)

Feldenkrais isn’t stretching, it’s learning! Mostly side-lying. Learn greater ease and mobility of your shoulders, neck, ribs, and hips, and discover how a reference twist of sweeping a long, straight arm sideways through the air can improve without any strain at all!

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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.

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.

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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 – 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.

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Tip 1 – Interrupted?

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Tip – Rewinding

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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 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.

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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.

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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 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.

Please have a bath towel nearby to fold to a comfortable height for side-lying head support. A smooth, level surface will allow your head to shift and roll.

If your mat feels too hard for comfortable side-lying, lay a smooth blanket or two on it.

Whenever you’re resting on your back, if you want your knees bent and your feet standing, let your feet and knees be comfortably apart, about the width of your hips.

When you begin moving from the first side-lying position, described as “quite square,” with legs “as if you were sitting in a simple chair” and the arms are straight out in front of you at shoulder height, it will look something like this…

…when you “open that top hand away from the bottom hand and sweep it up into the sky”. Of course you’ll “open the arm away from the other arm just as far as is absolutely comfortable”, which could be more than what you see in this photo, even as far as the arm going some distance behind you, as long as there’s no strain or stretch.

The other side-lying configuration used frequently is with the arms and legs comfortably resting however you like. Elbows can be bent, the ceiling side arm can be balanced on your side or have its hand anywhere in front of you, knees can be loosely bent and stacked wherever feels best.

Remember that in Feldenkrais study cardinal directions are relative to YOU: when you’re lying on your side, up is toward the top of your mat, down is toward the bottom. Forward is directly toward the wall in front of you and backward is toward the wall behind you.

On subsequent listenings, if it’s reasonably comfortable to lie on either side you might purposely choose to start on the other side (even if you have the same awareness of your preferred and non-preferred side). This will allow you to have a different experience of the lesson’s quite different explorations of your two sides.

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

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

In addition to the titles linked in the Related Lessons tab, you’ll find many connections to this lesson in the first sequence of our Deep Dive called Shoulder Cloak, Rib Basket, Sliding Sternum.

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

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

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. Lyn on March 25, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Thank you for these lessons.
    Body scan before versus after was dramatic.
    Before was noticeably stuck on most of right side.
    After the tissues felt more loosely draped from the centre line.
    Nice to feel such a change in a short period of time.

  2. Judith on May 16, 2020 at 10:37 am

    Thank you especially for inviting us to share these. Resources I look forward to further engagement with you.

  3. Kelly Jones Hicks on June 6, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Equal footing, weight on right and on left.

  4. beverly brookman on October 25, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    A magical shift in the balance of my body! Significant daily pain experienced in my left side. I laid first on right side. trying to coordinate the movements was really curious as I literally felt I could watch my body learn!! At the end, I felt all the called out feelings plus a sense of balance. At 75 quite unique experince right now as I am learning to use a ¾ inch lift on left leg. I promise I won’t write a book”. Wanted to express how much I am learning and appreciate joining. Thank you!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 25, 2020 at 2:30 pm

      Delighted to read all this, and thanks for joining the Feldenkrais Project! We’re honored to have you study with us and your support!

  5. Lorraine on May 8, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    A wonderful creation of yours! Your take on the method always encourages me to sense more and criticise less.

  6. evelyn davis on September 13, 2021 at 3:17 am

    i am so delighted by today’s lesson. Something clicked with regard to all the invitations you make for us… to find our own way, to do it smaller, to not do it at all, to be curious… i utterly love the imagery you use, and i was reminded of how i used to teach (‘natural’) dance 30 or 40 years ago. It suddenly struck me that this attitude you cultivate in us, of deep compassionate, pleasure seeking curiosity, is precisely what drew me to the dancing way way back then… an opportunity to ‘come home’ and to explore. So it was a powerful day today, to rediscover this ‘ability’, and realise that is ALWAYS available to me, not matter how old! and the information about how muscles can’t do anything without ‘trying’/aka/contracting made me think deeply about how to deal with my adductors, which are still agonisingly keen to do ALL the work. i wondered what i could do to help them lengthen and release, and that was when i remembered an image i was given ten years ago by a woman who now teaches feldenkrais… she said that it might help if i imagined threads on my knees drawing me forward… and it’s so true… when i focus on the image rather than on the muscles ‘doing’ it… i can allow change to happen. i went right up the hill and back without pain… those threads leading me along, and keeping it light and easy. thank you so much… This lesson was just brilliant…

  7. Chris Abdo on December 8, 2021 at 10:53 am

    I’ve worked with the side lying position for a while now over the last year or so, my struggle however was that my shoulder was uncomfortable with side lying to begin with. I would either have pain or would go numb. Recently I bought a wedge pillow so that my shoulder could hang over the edge, with a big pillow for my head and WOW! Massive massive difference! So I thought I’d share this here in case anyone else is already uncomfortable from the start.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 16, 2021 at 10:01 am

      That’s a great, sensitive, creative response to discomfort! Thanks for modeling your experimenting.

  8. addi on July 4, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Nick! Lovd this Lesson! not sOoo Long;-) but long enof to make me feel years younger !
    so fluid and easy—ThankYou so much !
    also, i sent an old fashioned check snailmail —. i don’t like particularly like online ‘pay’
    i am a member now i think!

  9. Kate Ruckman on February 8, 2024 at 8:16 pm

    I’m glad you mentioned the ratcheting effect! My right shoulder does that with about any movement…almost no cartilage. It WAS moving a little bit more freely by the end though, and I definitely didn’t push it.

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