Lessons From Feldenkrais, Part 4: Skeletal Awareness

March 26, 2016 Updated: March 26, 2016

Moshe Feldenkrais stated: “People have never thought about how consciousness develops. You’ll see in the long run people have to become skeleton-conscious. Otherwise, their consciousness will not evolve but will remain muscle-conscious, or foot-conscious, that’s all. They will not evolve. “The future of the evolvement of consciousness will be to reduce it from the muscle stiffness to the skeletal appreciation.”  (Amherst, July 2, 1981)

Skeletal awareness is a concept also found in tai chi. In practical application, skeletal awareness enables one to move as an integrated system as opposed to a segmental system. This is important because integrated movement allows for the most efficient action and greatly reduces the likelihood of stress on our tendons and joints.  

Instead of force being driven by muscle and stopping in our joints, force is channeled longitudinally through the skeleton.  

In this section, we consider force application, specifically how we push or pull. Set aside at least 10 minutes to complete this lesson. Take your time and enjoy the process.  

1. Find a wall or stationary surface. Stand 1–2 feet away from the wall with your feet parallel to the wall. Notice the pressure in your feet.

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

2. Place your right hand on the wall in a position where you could push comfortably. Slowly and gently push the wall and notice what you experience in the wrist, shoulder, and back. Where is most of the force coming from? Repeat several times with very little effort.

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

3. Place your right leg forward. Again, push the wall with your right hand, and observe how the wall pushes back into your hand.  Does your body lean forward? Notice the change in pressure in your feet.  

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

4. Place your left leg forward. Again, push the wall with your right hand and observe your experience. Where is most of the force coming from?  

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

5. With your left leg forward, think of the right heel as you push with your right hand. Can your observe the flow of the force from the heel to your hand? Repeat with the right leg forward.

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

6. With your left leg forward, think of the left heel as you push with your right hand. Can you direct the flow from your left heel to your right hand? Repeat with the right leg forward.

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

7. Leave the wall and walk around for a bit. Stand several feet away from the wall.  

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

8. With your right leg forward and your hand in a position where it could push the wall from a distance (not touching), focus on your left heel. Gradually fill your left leg with imaginary sand so it feels heavy.

In your imagination, push the wall, starting with your focus on the left heel. Think of the flow as a sequence through the skeleton: heel—knee—hip—pelvis—spine—shoulder—hand. Repeat with the focus on the right heel with the right leg full of sand.  

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

9. Repeat the same sequence with the left hand pushing. Then repeat with both hands. Observe that you can push from either leg. Can you push from your center?  

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Lessons from Feldenkrais. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

How could you apply the same lesson to pulling?  

A samurai’s sword is hammered, honed, and polished thousands of times until it has developed a perfect edge. The sword represents an extension of the samurai’s mind and body. To be a samurai, one must master the three fundamental properties of movement: orientation, timing, and execution. Sharpen your skills and train with a samurai’s spirit in your daily life.  

I would like to thank you for investing your time in self-learning by exploring some of these Feldenkrais principles. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or would like to share feedback.  

Matt Leve is a physical therapist and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner at Shift Integrative Medicine in Manhattan. He incorporates principles of physical therapy, The Feldenkrais Method®, tai chi, and aikido to help clients achieve optimal performance and self-organization. For questions, email him at Matt@Shift.nyc. For more information, call 212-604-1316.

About Feldenkrais

Born in Ukraine in 1904, Moshe Feldenkrais was a physicist, judo master, and an individual deeply interested in the nature of learning and human consciousness. The method of movement he developed helps people transform the way they move, relieving stresses they habitually place on their bodies by reducing unnecessary muscular effort. 
 
His method is conveyed either with gentle hands-on manipulations by a practitioner or with structured group Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lessons, in which students are verbally guided in a set of particular movements. These lessons have a unique emphasis on purposeful, slow, and gentle movement, which is thought to enhance sensory learning. As you do this lesson, think about “doing less” or “reducing effort.”
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