Rolling to Sitting

We’re off to a rolling start with this four-week series in April-May 2011. This recording has some introductory and framing comments for new-comers about the developmental and learning approach of the Method. And you probably haven’t had this much fun trying to do something seemingly impossible since you were 8 months old or so. Find yourself a little more space than usual for this lesson.


A hallmark of well-organized movement, according to Feldenkrais, is its reversibility. At any point in an action, can you turn around, go back, change your mind, do something else? An optimally-organized action would be one where you retain the freedom at any point to change your mind (or react to changing circumstances) and do something different.

By this measure, jumping out of a window is an action that would be hard to organize optimally. Once you’ve started, there’s no going back.

Lying on the side, sliding your hand forwards and backwards is a movement that is easy to do reversibly. You probably didn’t feel like you were falling in doing Sidelying, sliding hands and knees. But you may have felt slightly the first hint of non-reversiblity, which is simply that it takes more effort to turn around and go back than to keep going.

(Some people actually will more or less “fall” either forwards or backwards when lying on their sides.)

If you’re doing a somersault, head over heels, can you really organize the movement to be reversible? I bet you can. But let’s start with something a little less challenging. We were folding forwards, curling into a ball last week; can we roll ourselves in that ball between lying on the ground and sitting up and do that in a completely reversible way?

You are (where) your pelvis (is)

When we say that people in general (people in our culture) “live in their heads,” this is more than metaphorical. If you watch people moving from one orientation to another, or from one level to another (lying to sitting or sitting to standing), their action is usually organized around the idea of getting their head where it’s going. The pelvis is an afterthought. And then everything is difficult and challenging, because your pelvis is the center of you. You aren’t going anywhere your pelvis isn’t committed to being.

Depending on your position, your center of gravity will be more or less in the pelvic area. (Think of the dan-tien of the martial arts.) The biggest and strongest muscles in the body surround the pelvis. Many of you will have been finding with the “scanning” week after week that your pelvis lays most heavily on the floor, lying on your back.

Indeed, to achieve the ability to be agile–ready to move in any direction without preparation, Feldenkrais’s definition of maturity–while lying on the ground would be no mean feat. When we’re standing up, standing still is an achievement (it takes children a long time to learn to organize themselves so they don’t need to be in constant motion, because the position of standing is one of high potential–it takes virtually nothing to tip us and put us in need of shifting to regain balance). But when we’re lying down, we like to stay put. Getting up is work.

Does it need to be? What would it take for the whole of us to be as agile and available to act from lying as from standing?

Scissor legs

Two weeks earlier, we did a lesson (not recorded, but similar to Amherst, Year 2, Tape #31) that involved rolling a full 360 degrees on the floor. I noticed that there was much less agility in the phase of the rolling that was face down–and in that lesson, we spent less time on that aspect. So here’s a lesson a couple of weeks later to spend some time developing that agility face down. It also introduces a different trajectory to go from lying to sitting…but for some reason my voice recorder has decided to stop after 43 minutes. So this lesson is incomplete.

Where would you take the elements given so far in the lesson? How would you put them together into a movement that starts lying face down and ends sitting up, legs long, facing the other direction (i.e. your feet stay pointing the same way, more or less, but you sit facing your feet at the end)?