Walking with Your Sternum (Patrons)

Back-lying, often knees bent. Learning how preparatory movements for taking a step involve the whole self, by sensing and exploring movements of the sternum, both as a reference and a challenge to expand the self-image of walking. Lengthening and sweeping the arms in many directions encourages suppleness of the chest and awareness of the sternum, and helps integrate them with movements of the pelvis, hips, and walking.

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 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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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 – 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.

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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 – 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 – 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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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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As always, “up” and “down” refer to you in your present orientation (even when lying down), so, when you’re asked to “lay your arm upward on the floor” or “sweep your arm up your mat,” it means it will be or travel along the floor, in the direction of your head, like a child making a snow angel. Down the mat is toward your feet.

This lesson also uses a position lying on your back, the arms reaching forward, toward the actual ceiling. The arms are described as standing upright in the room, plumb (parallel) with gravity. Distinctions are made clearly between this configuration and the “snow angel” arm positions and movements.

If you’re curious about the anatomy mentioned in this lesson, or the multi-bone nature of what we commonly call the sternum, here’s a Google image search for “sternum”.

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 appears in two Deep Dive courses: Walking from Your Spine and Shoulder Cloak, Rib Basket, Sliding Sternum.

“Last week’s lesson” is referenced a few times; it’s also a Feldenkrais Project recording, available among our free lessons as Spine and Chest Side-Bending, Lengthening Limbs. It’s also part of the Walking from Your Spine Deep Dive.

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  1. Sue D on October 7, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    What a great homebrew lesson! Particularly useful to challenge the sternum and its partner in crime, the ribcage, to move. Surprising to realise that the sternum could have such a strong role in initiating the final complex movements. I wanted to go for a walk afterwards as I suspect that it would give an opportunity for changes to persist. It was dark so I didn’t today! Thanks very much.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 7, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      “Partner in crime” – that’s funny! I think you’re alluding to the embedded cultural learning so many of us have picked up, that the ribcage and sternum are some kind of inflexible monolith. It is a crime how common that misconception is! I find it helpful to always be questioning and challenging this one…. I wonder, if we just had never called it a “cage,” if we wouldn’t be as rigid there as we often are!

  2. lasquilt@gmail.com on October 28, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Hi Nick – Near the end of this one, when you are asking us to feel and create the connection between the standing arm, the pushing of 1 foot and the lightning of the other foot, I experienced that phenomenon of “a predictable neurological response.” Thank you!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 28, 2019 at 9:36 am

      That’s awesome! Would you mind elaborating a little bit? Others might enjoy knowing what that “inside baseball” Feldenkrais comment means.

  3. Niva on July 7, 2020 at 6:24 am

    Hi Nick, thanks for a beautiful lesson!
    Following the movements of the sternum, I imagined it as a piece of jewlery, like a lovely clasp of a bracelet holding the ribs together (in front) like they were several rows of beads.
    A great pleasure this lesson.

  4. Lorraine on March 11, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    Because I have just done a lesson on spinal bias, in this lesson I was able to observe how much what my head is comfortable doing depends on the movement of my spine and how much the differences on each side depend on my spinal bias and how much this relates to my sternum. How did I ever learn to walk?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on March 11, 2021 at 4:00 pm

      Wonder of wonders, right?! It really is quite miraculous what we’ve achieved as a species. It also feels like a miracle that just becoming more aware a few of the myriad of details and relationships in walking can offer new options and improvement!

  5. Muriel on June 21, 2021 at 5:29 am

    Hi Nick, thank you so much for letting the cage door open! And allowing my limbs to move!????

  6. ann guhman on June 30, 2021 at 11:28 am

    heard you on “moving into the unknown” podcast and was excited when i heard the title of this lesson. i have been working on this both for walking and riding my mule. in riding feeling not only his foot falls but the movement of his rib cage so i can either follow or guide with mine is very valuable for tempo and harmony. this lesson is a great one for equestrians.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 1, 2021 at 3:13 pm

      Great to hear! I’ll try to remember this when I hear from equestrians, which is not as rare as I would have thought: seems like a lot of folks like you enjoy Feldenkrais!

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