This extensor lesson may have you seeing the world in a whole new way. What other limitations in the world are limitations in your own organization?

Oh dear; philosophy and sociology rear their heads. I’m not really into personalizing responsibility like this. Let’s have a long blog post about that when I’m not heading off to catch a plane.

Lifting a long leg

This is the first of two lessons in the January 15 Workshop: Weight and Weightlessness, 2011. We’re in sidelying, finding how to manage the weight of the long leg in various directions/configurations.

It’s a mash-up of Mia & Gaby’s lesson (1977 #9) and Moshe’s AY #232 (minimal movements lying on the side, for those following along at home.

The second lesson is Walking Backward–or in a recording from a couple of years ago, Walking backward.

Making the spine flexible and integrating it

Albinus_t03Chronic tension of the lumbar and neck extensors is a fundamental pattern of limitation. This lesson addresses these areas actively and passively, with ingenious variations that address some key “hidden spots,” particularly in the upper back and neck.

The image from Albinus may help you visualize the bodies and spinous processes of the vertebrae.

You can read a discussion of some passages in Moshe’s books that relate to this lesson here: Commentary on AY 177: Making the spine flexible and integrating it.

Fingers Backward

This third lesson in the fingers-to-spine series continues to play with the independence of each finger (second lesson–but the recording didn’t work)–in relation now to extension, across the shoulders. This is a rare lesson: we do “both sides at once” from about a third of the way in.

March 2013: Updated file to right sample size.

Extension and standing upright

“Extension” is the use of the muscles that unfold joints. But the theme of lessons emphasizing extension is more than unfolding joints.

We’re always working within the system that stands upright on its two feet in gravity. That is, the human being. And the arrangement of the skeleton as we stand upright in gravity is somewhere nearer to the extended position of the joints than the flexed (notice in standing how much farther you can bend your hip joint, lifting your knee up in the air, than you can extend it, lifting your leg back out behind you).

Does that mean we need to strengthen those muscles in order to improve our upright posture? Feldenkrais approached the question in a very different way.

For many of us, those extensors (especially the small of the back, the neck, in the legs) are working so hard all day long against the unnecessary activity of the flexors that it’s fatiguing just to be upright in gravity. We don’t need to give them extra strength to work even harder against the flexors that don’t let go (extra strength to compress the discs between the vertebrae and cause other sorts of injuries). Instead, we need to find our balance on the skeleton itself, so all our muscles (flexors and extensors) are to the greatest degree possible freed of unnecessary postural work and freed for real action when we call on them.

In lessons emphasizing extension, as in all lessons, you want to do less instead of more, turn your interest first to ease and comfort and finding a small and pleasant increment of some new sensation that moves in the right direction, rather than focusing on effort and achievement.

A small change somewhere along the path from your feet to the top of your head can make a world of difference to your ease, balance, availability for action. We aren’t moving backwards in order to strengthen those extensors, but in order to find new options and freedom for the skeleton in a direction we usually spend less time exploring. With that greater freedom and new options, you can at last make use of the strength of those extensor muscles for action, instead of using them so much just to keep your head up.

Face down, circles with the head

Where does flexibility come from? Why is it that we can only move so far, and then we stop? Tight muscles? Bad joints?–Or habits?

What are habits anyway? Feldenkrais had the idea that our limitations are the things we do really well. They work for us. So we do them again and again and forget that we can act differently. And what dissolves the power of habits isn’t willpower, but perception. A habit is like a blind spot, and the process of change is a process of changing perception.

This was a “free intro” night at the Yoga Loft. This lesson does a nice job of showing an impact in the first 10 minutes of the student’s experience.

Found it! Lesson re-attached, May 2013.

Folding over bent leg

With a certain obsessive focus I return from three weeks of holidays to come back to the last theme I was teaching….the raising and lowering of the head will be familiar from the Lowering the head┬álesson.

But in addition to the raising and lowering is something a little different…when you slide your arms out along the floor, what kind of movement is this for your spine (and everything connected of course)? Not just the extension you know from Lifting on the stomach, but another kind of lengthening….after which we come back to this idea of lifting on the stomach but with a different perspective. (Not to mention with one leg folded up under you in a crazy way!)

At the end you lift your head. What else could you lift? Where would you take this movement next?

Or check out a few youtube versions of the dying swan and look for what’s different for these dancers–

Uliana Lopatkina doing it the way it “should” be done (particularly 2:00 to 2:20):

And Allen Dennis camping it up in drag (at 2:40-3:00):