Erecting the head over the elbows

One reason I’m back in my old training program notes is that I recall a really important series of lessons we could call “sphinx” lessons that I can’t find in any other canonical source. (I don’t have the San Francisco training notes, so perhaps they’re from there.) I believe Marilupe Campero and Beatriz Walterspiel were teaching this module.

The developmental idea is that for babies, lifting the head over the elbows while lying face down and freeing the forearms for developing fine motor control of the hands is a key sequence for organizing the head, neck, and shoulders to support the hands.

Feldenkrais loved the word “erecting” for arriving at a clear vertical orientation. Whether or not he loved the sexual connotation of the word in English, I can’t say. But in the experience of the lessons, it has much more to do with upright, alert, balanced use of the skeleton in gravity, ready for action, than that connotation suggests. So in this lesson, erecting the head over the elbow is developmentally the first experience towards being a bipedal creature with a head poised on top of the spine, ready to see, react to, and act in the world around us. The idea of the head “erecting itself” reflects the deep reflexes involved in this orientation. (I had typed “uprightness” but the very mention of that word makes the idea more static and effortful than what our reflexes can achieve.)

Having this kind of idea in mind can really change the way that you experience the “movement” that the lessons develops.

This is the “first” lesson in that series. (The lesson before was side-lying, lifting the head sideways and the top leg, and drawing circles with one or the other or both, in various directions.)

Erecting the head over the elbows
M6 II.2.1

Face up; sense shoulder blades. (Ref.)

Side-lying, arms extended in front, knees and hips bent at 90 degrees (one leg on top of the other).

On L side.
– Slide R arm forward.
– Slide R arm backward.

On L side, also with top leg resting on floor in front of bottom leg. (Not clear in my notes what the sequence or development of leg positions was.)
– Slide R arm forward and backward, same distance in each direction.

On L side.
– Slide L arm forward. Can be tiny.

On L side.
– Slide L arm backward. Use R arm as support/help in any way you like.

On L side.
– Develop movement of sliding L arm backward farther. What happens to pelvis, legs, head? (Let legs straighten as you come onto the stomach.) At some point you can come up on the L elbow and the head stands (“erects itself”) over the elbow.

Do the other side. (Going through the variations.)

Go back and forth. Gradually it’s more a matter of erecting yourself over the elbow and less a matter of pushing with the palm of the supporting arm.