Introduction to the Bell Hand

All biological systems conserve energy to maximize survival. Our own nervous systems calibrate the cost of any action according to the organism’s need to survive.

Too many high-cost actions will wear any species down. It’s obvious to say that an intelligent system uses energy when necessary and ceases when it’s not. We humans are so smart we can override our biology and exert energy continously in response to a false sense of requirements, i.e., habits. We are smart and not so smart at the same time.

The idea in these lessons is to cease the high-cost, half-contracted state of readiness we often live in, allowing you to conserve energy for when you really need it.

Some people call it the jellyfish hand. Dr. Feldenkrais called it the bell hand because your hand makes a bell shape. It is one of many iconic movements that affect the state of your entire being.

First, all of these lessons are extremely calming. Second, they all help with the muscle tone of the hand, arm, face, and whole self. This one is a basic introduction.

The hand does thousands and thousands of movements. Probably more different movements than any other part of you. It occupies ten times as much of the area of your motor cortex than anything else because of its complexity. Try this lesson to begin to unravel some of those habits.

This lesson involves moving the legs in the hip sockets so slowly you can’t help but soften and let go. You’ll integrate the head, spine, and pelvis as you play with the hand.

This lesson continues the easy movement of the legs with the arms, back and forth.

Because the representation in the cortex is so big, how you organize what you do with your hand has a great significance for what happens through your entire self. With this lesson you start moving big muscles of the trunk while doing the bell hand.

More explorations of the hand.

Wired into the use of the hand are many, many habits. Habits are interesting. We need habits. Habits create some kind of order. We need habits to put on our clothes, brush our teeth.

Some serve us well and some interfere with us being our best selves. Some habits are tricky because we don't know we're doing them. They are the things that we do anyway, even though they interfere with what we want to do.

Use the bell hand to discover what interferes.

Use this lesson to clarify when you’re exerting extra holding in the neck.

I used to do the bell hand on the subway in New York City to get through a stressful commute. I also did it while a passenger on LA freeways, which is probably what you find under “stress” in the dictionary: Stress=LA freeways! It helped calm the physiological response of hyper-vigilance by lowering my heart rate, regulating my breath, and reducing tension in the jaw, toes, and eyes.

How would you use the bell hand?

Learning to think in patterns of relationships, in sensations divorced from the fixity of words, allows us to find hidden resources and the ability to make new patterns...In short, we think personally, originally, and thus take another route to the thing we already know.
— Moshe Feldenkrais