Before this section, do some or all of “Prep for rolling.” Your back will thank you for it!

I love the weight-shift lessons, but I didn't used to as my back was so stiff I tried to muscle through. Mostly I just fell over in a heap or got stuck.

Over time I realized that it's only by softening that we get stronger.

It sounds odd, but it's true. When the back muscles stop straining, they're available to move. It’s obvious that you can't access a contracted muscle because it's already maximally shortened, which is what we do with our back every day: we contract an already contracted muscle.

Imagine a square block rolling along the floor. To start rolling, the block has to lift up an entire side to perch on an edge. Then it goes ker-chunk, ker-chunk along its sharp angles.

Now imagine a ball rolling. The surface area is in continuous contact with the floor, and it requires much less energy to shift off its center. 

Yet we treat our back like a square and muscle through everything. Try these lessons to lengthen the back and start to yield to the ground. Life will feel easier.

(Note: all these lessons will be helpful for what feels like tight hamstrings.)

Sometimes we do big movements in Feldenkrais, but they’re big movements with appropriate work.

Using the abdominal muscles in a precise, directed way, you’ll guide the limbs on a diagonal by pressing the back—a lot. You might be surprised by the unraveling of contraction along the spine. After this, you’ll get better and better at using the trunk for walking, sitting, standing, anything that asks you to move the back, which is everything.

Do what you can and rest often. The brain will do everything else! (AY114)

A similar lesson using the idea of pressing the back backwards. As you lengthen the arms, the chest folds and softens. Finally, you roll up to sit!

Spreading your mass across a larger surface area is important for leveraging the floor. Think of yielding into the floor as you find more directions to bend and fold.

Discover graduated flexion: the muscles are slowly contracting instead of quickly like a situp or a crunch. Focus on the qualitative use of the slow-twitch muscles of the abdomen relative to your mass shifting over your base.

If you get stuck, think if the back going backwards like you did in the previous three lessons. Do not muscle through. Think of yielding the spine to the floor.

Once you play with it, you’ll find the weight shift becomes easy, light, and pleasurable. Only do what you can at this moment. It will change as you go along. (AY104)

Second part of graduated flexion.

Now we start a bit of rolling across a rounded back. Using all the skills of the previous lessons, you round the back and roll up the spine using the legs as a lever.

It’s wonderful to feel these new skills creep up on you. I taught this at a workshop recently where no one thought they could do it at first. By the end, everyone was doing the movement in a way that felt safe for them.

Test it out, see what you think!

This is about rounding in many ways, using the back to move the legs, something we forget about as adults. It’s “washing your face with your feet,” as Moshe says, accessing how we were as children by moving the legs with the back muscles, not against them.

When we move the legs against the back muscles, we feel tightness in the hamstrings. It’s really that the back is not coordinated with the leg muscles. You’ll feel the movement get easier as you sense the logic of the coordination. That’s how you improve: by sensing, over and over again, how you move. (Moshe, SF evening class, perfecting the self-image from ATM book)

This lesson has some big movements in it. You start by rolling up the spine, then spend many minutes clarifying how to round the back. At the very end you are invited to roll over the spine almost, but not quite, into a shoulder stand.

Try the movements and see what happens. Especially if they feel tricky at this moment: that’s where the learning happens is when we feel a little confused. As you go through the lesson, something you didn’t even know was possible starts to emerge. (AY9)

How do we change? Become aware of how you do what you do. Simply waking up one day and making a resolution to be different will not work. You need an option, a fully developed alternative, to the habit that you want to change that has as much survival value as your old habit.
— Moshe Feldenkrais