An unmistakable and powerful experience of lengthening

Do you know the long-running television game show, Jeopardy? The contestants receive clues in the form of answers and have to phrase their responses in the form of a question.

I’m asking because I enjoy playing Jeopardy with Feldenkrais® lessons. I do that by considering, “If the lesson is the answer, what question is it answering?” 

For instance, yesterday I taught Alexander Yanai 60 — ON THE STOMACH — as the final installment of this week’s third-anniversary celebration of the Feldenkrais teacher and trainee online study group, An AY a day.*  I like to think of this lesson, during which students actually spend only a fraction of the time lying on the stomach, as the answer to the question, “How can you give yourself an Alexander Technique lesson?”

You may wonder how Feldenkrais would have been able to answer this question but, as it happens, the Technique is one of the roots of Moshe’s method. During his time living in London, Feldenkrais became good friends with Charles Neal, who had been one of Alexander’s leading teachers; they became co-investigators and collaborators, sharing what they each knew and working with each other. Feldenkrais also received a lesson directly from F. Mattias Alexander, whom he said had the best hands he’d ever felt.

During my years living in Champaign, Illinois, the closest practicing Feldenkrais teachers were more than three hours away in Chicago; however, I was fortunate that Joan Murray, who ran a renowned Alexander teacher training course with her husband, Alex, was but a few miles from my place. Over the course of the years, I’ve read Alexander’s books and researched his life, received over fifty Alexander lessons from some of the most outstanding teacher trainers in the US including Joan, Sarnell Ogus, Frank Ottiwell, Aileen Crow, and Marjorie Barstow, and I was lucky enough to have had the chance to study with Marge as well. In other words, though I’m not an Alexander Teacher (and I don’t play one on television, either), I have more than a passing knowledge of this antecedent to our work.

In AY 60, the student makes minuscule movements that follow the progression of a classic choreography of an Alexander table lesson, move by infinitesimally small move. The lesson elicits the sublime delicacy of action and clarity of direction at the heart of the Technique.

Most importantly, the sensations that slowly unfold — letting the back of the neck go, the shoulders widen, and the spine elongate — create an unmistakable and powerful first-person experience of “lengthening,” which, though an essential aspect of many approaches to somatic education and neurophysical learning, can otherwise remain quite elusive and mysterious.

Enough of talking about AY 60. 

If you’d like to find out what I’m referring to for yourself, you can experience the ATM® by logging into your Mind in Motion Online (MIMO) account and then clicking here. Before you do the lesson, please note that the lesson is neither medical care nor treatment. If you have any concerns about whether you should do it or not, consult with your physician. 

You can find this lesson later, by signing into your account, going to Library, selecting Free ATMs > Alexander Yanai. You’ll find the lesson on the last page because they’re listed in the order in which they were added to the site, not by their AY numbers. Clicking on title will bring you to a page where you’ll be able to listen to the recording immediately or download the file for later.

If you haven’t joined the website yet, it’s quick and easy to create your free Improve My Abilities (IMA) account here. Your account will give you access to other free lessons, the Lesson Locator, and the digital version of my book, Articulating Changes, all at no cost whatsoever to you.

P.S. If you have a Become A Better Teacher (BABT) account, you can also access the audio recording of the post-lesson discussion. So you know, the conversation prior to the lesson, which I refer to at the beginning of the discussion and mention again, briefly, at the end of the conversation, was about the protests across the world demanding justice for George Floyd and calling for social change. 

(If you don’t have a BABT account yet, please sign into MIMO, go to your My Account page, and request one. This account provides access to everything that comes with an IMA account plus hundreds of free ATM transcripts and more.)  

* I was blown away to see a recording-breaking 225 colleagues show up for the lesson. A heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you!

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  1. Hi Larry, It’s 5:35 and I must soon get to bed. I had a number of Alexander lessons, I can’t remember how long ago. What often happened at the end of a lesson was the fulfillment of my unavowed wish: to feel my head float when I got off the table. That has seemed to me over time to be an implied part of the Feldenkrais Method. Forward and up. The experience of the head floating and the hips hanging and being ready and able to move in any direction at any time without hesitation is something we also aim for in the practice of taiji. I would think that’s the case in all the martial arts. To be continued.

    1. Hello Rika –
      That feeling of your head floating is fantastic!
      Methinks there are multiple means by which we can (re)find it.
      for Feldenkrais, the freedom of movement of the head was a measure of how well “organized — or coordinated — someone is.