Five Ways to Feel What's Good for You
Start by distinguishing your sensations. Do you know the difference between comfort and contraction, ease and effort? Try these short movements to find out.
Feel free to read the text only, play the audio only, or both.
1. Sit up straight
Sit up really straight. Feel your back arch. Touch behind your back and feel the ropey, stiff muscles working hard. Could you hold that position for a long time? Where would you fatigue?
Now bring the lower ribs at your WAIST backwards a tiny amount. What do you notice about the back muscles? Are they still rigid? Feel with your hand if you like.
Don’t go to the place where you slouch, just go far enough to cease the hard contraction. Notice if you take a breath.
This is critical to sitting. Please, please avoid sitting up too straight as you’ll fatigue and create hyper-extended back muscles, which leads to all kinds of problems. Trust me, please let the ribs at the waist sink back a tiny bit. Let your low back lengthen. Do it now. And then every five minutes until it’s your default. Or do a lot of Feldenkrais flexion lessons!
It’s okay to rest in sitting.
Try this short audio to feel your easiest sitting place.
2. Stand up straight
Stand up really straight like we did in sitting. What do you do with your belly, shoulders, upper back, and chest? Are you breathing? What does “straight” mean? Can you feel it has something to do with how someone told you to be? I know it does for me. I was told to stand up straight my whole life.
Could you maintain this uprightness for a long time? Does it feel rigid? Too much rigidity and we’re immobile. We stop breathing.
If you have a partner or office mate nearby, have them press down on top of your torso. Do you sway a little forward with your pelvis? Most all of us do not stand with the mass over the base.
One cue to find it, whether you have a partner nearby or not, is to think of the pubic bone pointing between the ankle bones. This is not arching the back, it’s bringing the pelvis backward. Do you feel like you’ll fall? That’s because your chest must counter-balance by coming slightly forwards.
When your mass is truly over your base, your belly drops, your shoulders hang, and you take a breath.
Have your partner push down through your bones again. When you’re on the bones in gravity, there is no wobble. The person pushing feels only the floor.
If you’re not sure, exaggerate the opposite and tuck your pelvis way under. That’s a serious wobble! Then come out of that and test a few places to find support.
Another cue: stand behind a chair. Put your hands on the back and move your belly straight back a small amount to increase the distance between your pelvis and the chair. It’s like the pelvis is on a railroad track. Take your hands off the chair and hang your arms. Your pelvis will be further BACK over the fronts of your heels and your chest just a tiny bit forward.
You are not slouching, you’re just balanced between your head and your pelvis without the back having to strain. Try this recording with similar instructions (from “Help for standing and walking”)
Do you wish you could walk for a long time without fatigue or pain? I hear this request a lot in my practice. Test walking around a bit. Notice if you feel your ribs moving. Your pelvis. Your arms. Which foot do you trust more? Don’t try to make anything happen, just observe a few things. Do you lead with your head, chest, belly, or hips?
Now walk and try to keep your torso still. Can you feel that takes effort? Many people walk around unconsciously holding the torso in all kinds of ways.
Let your torso move again. What does that feel like?
Now walk only from your hip joints. People imagine they walk from their hips, but if you try it, it’s actually pretty hard.
Imagine a diagonal line painted across your back from the right shoulder to the left hip, and the left shoulder to the right hip. Where do they cross? Imagine a little hook at that place, and think of your legs swinging from that hook, in the middle of yourself.
Now walk from that place. Don’t do anything different muscularly, just image the legs swinging from higher up in your back.
This is human movement. We can even walk without legs, on our sit bones. Whenever you feel yourself fatiguing, think of swinging the legs from the middle of yourself. Remember that the hips are a junction box for the power of the torso.
Try this short audio for more clarification. (from “Help for standing and walking”)
In standing, float one arm up toward the ceiling, then the other one. Is one heavy or difficult? What tells you that one arm feels different?
Where is the effort: in the shoulder, neck, ribs, back?
As you test this, notice if your weight shifts backward, forward, to one side, or stays in the middle.
Now bring both arms up while holding your breath and gritting your teeth. What’s that like?
Now try it breathing out. Now breathing in. Which one is easier?
Rest. Walk around.
Stand still and lift your right shoulder up. Leave it up somewhere comfortable and tilt your head toward the shoulder as much as you can. Leave the shoulder and head close together and tilt your WHOLE SELF right and left so that the arm, shoulder, and head tilt down toward the floor and up toward the ceiling. They don’t separate as you tilt, they stay fixed.
I call this the “Frankenstein move” because it looks a little funny. Nevermind, tilt many times side to side with the head and shoulder close together.
Let it go and feel the right side of the neck, right shoulder, and right arm.
Now float your right arm up. Is it different?
Do the left side.
Listen to the short audio for more clarification. (From “Unwind tense shoulders, arms, and neck”)
How are you today? Which really means, how are you breathing today?
I suggest listening to the audio for this and do it from there. I’ll also describe it below.
In sitting, count how many breathing cycles you do in 15 seconds. A cycle is one inhalation and exhalation. Is it more or less than four? Remember that number.
Sitting on the edge of a hard chair without leaning back, round your back and exhale, then arch your back and inhale. Do this many times, slowly and comfortably, without exaggerating the movement.
Rest a moment, then reverse the pattern: Inhale as you round your back, and exhale as you arch your back. Do this many times.
Rest a moment, then return to the original way: Inhale as you arch, exhale as you round.
Pause, and count the breath cycles in 15 seconds. Is it different?
It has been said that more than four cycles in 15 seconds is a stress response. I woudn’t label this in that way. What I would say is that playing with the shape of the chest and the breath in this way allows the parasympathetic system to become more dominant, the “rest and digest” phase.