What does the jaw have to do with the ankle?


This is the best lesson, ever. Okay, one of the best! Okay, it’s the best lesson for me, right now, today!

If you’ve ever heard me teach, you know that I get over-excited. Some Feldenkrais trainers disparage teachers like me for “biasing” students toward liking or not-liking a lesson. (Really, I could not care less.) But yes, you are always allowed to dislike a lesson that someone else likes.

For me, there’s there’s a little post-it note in the back of my mind reminding me I loved this lesson, but I forgot just how much!

It's about letting go in my jaw. Yes, my jaw! Every time I seek a way to move all my joints together in one of these “connect you all up lessons,” I run into that fun extra tension in my jaw.

What I do is use the gentle movements of this lesson to check in with my jaw, over and over again. In the recording, you'll hear me repeat the trifecta of, “belly, breath, and jaw” many times. That means, any tension in the belly, breath, or jaw affects walking, sitting, running, arms, shoulders, eyes, and neck! Basically everything.

So what is this lesson about? You could say it's about flexion and extension in the leg joints to improve walking. Meh. That's not very interesting. Consider this:

  • One client loves this lesson for swinging the arms and letting go in the upper chest because that's where she carries tension.

  • Another client loves it for the neck movement and the way her head sits freely on top of the spine as she swings her legs.

  • Another is a cyclist who loves this lesson to connect into the power of his torso.

The answer is that these lessons are “about” what you need to feel in this moment. Sure, you'll improve the movement of the joints of the leg if you repeat the basic instructions.

But if you bring awareness to the places where you might be holding and practice letting go as you move, that's the magic of improving your whole life.

For me, that's pretty much always in the jaw! When I attend to my jaw, the rest of me responds much better. If I'm unconsciously holding in my jaw, I push my joints along without realizing it. Which is what I do in life, too!

It will most likely be different for you. Where are you holding today? Where can you let go?

If you like this lesson, check out Support for the ankles in the Feldenkrais Treasury (hint: There’s a part 2 of this lesson!).

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This week’s quote:

It’s not the act of moving that we want to improve, it’s what we want from it: More ease, more efficiency, less pain, better relationships, fewer walls, less inner contraction, less shame about who we are, more acceptance, more smiles, more breath. When you cease holding onto the contractions that block you, your inner and outer worlds connect with unimpeded, efficient, and powerful action.
— Zoe Birch