Fresh from our Feldenkrais Friday Awareness through Movement afternoon at The Life Centre in Romiley. Today we’ve been mobilising the spine to help us move with ease. (And with side benefits of feeling more relaxed, more gently present, more aligned and in my case, definitely breathing better).
One way or another, nearly all our movements involve the spine. Sometimes a little stuckness in one part of the body can be eased by mobilising our spine. As one participant commented at the end of the afternoon: It feels as if someone has used an oil can on all my moving parts. (BTW: try a Feldenkrais workshop and see how you rise to the challenge of describing the way it affects how you feel about your body. Feel it in the body. Not always easy to put into words.)
Our lessons this afternoon were themed according to the three ways that we mobilise our spine.
Lesson 1 we paid attention to turning.
Lesson 2 we explored lateral bending movements.
Lesson 3 we were guided through moves bending forwards and backwards (flexion and extension).
There may be further information on these lessons available elsewhere. However, here’s some of what we did in each lesson. There’s often a kind of trance which means that recall can be vague.
Lesson 1: Turning
This lesson took place lying on our backs. (Key Feldenkrais principle: take gravity out of the equation and we can pay more attention to the movements in our body without concerns about falling over!) For each part of this lesson we had our knees bent, feet flat on floor about hip width apart.
We began by with small movements of the left knee. Small movement of the knee tilting to the left. Repeating. Keeping movements small and slow. Noticing if there’s movement elsewhere in the body. Becoming aware of connections. Then a similar movement with right knee. Taking the knee to the left a few centimetres and back. Practicing the movement on an exhaled breath. These moves are not like exercises. They are not building muscles. They are about neural networks and making connections. What fires together wires together. Rest on the in breath. Rest and let the brain pay attention, let the neurones re-wire.
This lesson continued with moving other parts of the body. Always small movements. For example after the left knee, and right knee we moved the right shoulder. Lifting it a few centimetres from the floor. With guided awareness, it is possible to notice that even with such small movements of knee and shoulder, there was movement in the pelvis, the rib cage.
We combined these movements, left knee and right shoulder. We noticed that if we moved our knees and rolled the head, how the ease varied if the moves were both to the left or if there was a cross lateral component, turning the head to the right and tilting the knee to the left. A key part of the Feldenkrais approach is to make these moves so that we sometimes follow our intuitive sense of the easy way. Other times we are guided to do the opposite.
While doing these moves I was aware that sometimes there would be a stuck point, a point of resistance. After the sequence of moves, something softened, movement flowed, there was greater ease.
At the end of lesson 1 we were invited to stand and notice how we felt. For me, there was much more ease in the 7 cervical vertebra, and what seemed like more engagement in the thoracic region.
Lesson 2: Side bending.
For Lesson 2 we were on our side. The lesson was about 40 minutes long and we spent some minutes on our left and then some minutes on our right, alternating throughout as we explored movements. Each time we explored a movement our starting position was on our side with knees bent. On the left side we had our right arm (if necessary) supporting our head, right hand with palm flat and elbow bent, supporting our position.
In this position we could explore movements of the knee and foot. Lift the knee a little. Rest back down. Repeat. Raise the heel. Rest. Repeat. Keep the knees and heels in contact and move the toes, increasing the gap between left and right toes.
Lift our head in our hands (on left side, use right hand to support head and lift). Notice the effect as the rib cage moves and/or the hips move. The spine moves, cervical, thoracic, lumbar all adjust with the movement. This one seemed particularly helpful in enabling a more relaxed movement of the rib cage and allowing gentler yet expansive breathing.
After lesson 2, side-bending seemed easier, gentler, softer, achieved with greater ease.
Lesson 3: bending forwards and backwards
Some lizard movements, some baby movements. Moshe Feldenkrais applied his engineering brain to observations of babies moving to develop his lessons. Just put Baby Liv Feldenkrais Method into your search engine of choice.
By exploring the movements of a baby learning to crawl, you can free up movements that perhaps you might have forgotten that you knew. Crawl like a baby. Then walk tall and with presence. Part of the wonder of the Feldenkrais Method.
Once again we did this by paying attention to the left side of the body and then the right side. By constraining use of one part of the body, there’s a chance to learn more clearly about how the movements happen.
For lesson three we spent a few minutes at a time, on our stomachs, before changing position. Sometimes on stomach, head turned to left, left leg bent, right arm by our right side relaxed at our side (hand near hips), left hand with palm flat about shoulder height supporting the body. On this side we experimented with sliding our knee towards the head and away from the head. Slowly. A few centimetres at a time. Noticing other movements that supported this movement.
We varied the movements, moving the head a little bit towards the knee and back again. Then head and knee moving towards each other. A kind of folding movement. In this position, moving the head backwards. Then moving head and knee as if there was a stick connecting them so that they both moved down and then upwards. For each of these experiments in movement we alternated, first left side, then right side, reducing response in the other side. First with the left knee and then with the right knee. Between each experiment we rested so that we were able to absorb information from the experience.
For the last part of lesson 3, we were guided to be on our fronts with our hands in the position for press ups. Left knee bent. Slide the knee up/down. Look under the arm to the left. Return to start position and then look under right arm slide the right knee up/down. Before you know it you’re moving from your inner crocodile.
Afterwards, invited to stand and bend, the sense of parts being better oiled, better connected, the moves easier. Feeling fully present, better connected.
In the days ahead I know that I will feel the benefits of this Awareness Through Movement workshop. And then, in a few days time I may find myself stretched on the floor, doing some of the moves with as much gentle attention as I can and continue to enjoy the benefits of Moshe Feldenkrais’ genius, Veronica’s teaching and the moves that bring ease, extend range and enable better connections.
Whatever the theme, there are benefits felt through out the body. Every thing is connected. After a Feldenkrais Friday there can be a real sense of the joy of movement when the body-mind experiences such deep connection.