Pecking like a chicken
The key to everything is patience.
You get the chicken by hatching the egg,
not by smashing it.
— Arnold Glasgow
During a postgraduate program in Berkeley, Gaby Yaron, one of the graduates of Feldenkrais’ first teacher training, asked us to sit backward on a chair with both feet on the floor and forearms resting comfortably on the back. From this position, she asked each participant to slowly, gently bring their chin forward like a chicken pecking.
Rather than lowering, lifting, or tilting the head in any way, the idea was to move your face forward while staying seated. This action isn’t a true translation because if your head moves strictly along a horizontal line, your pelvis would soon lift from the chair. Advancing your skull in this manner in this position necessitates that your configuration changes, which means something has to happen in your spine.
Some folks say calling this pecking is not accurate. (See for yourself here.) It is a concise and evocative instruction. Whether it is an exact one, a chicken moves its neck along with the rest of the spinal column, from comb to tail.
How humans do this is a bit more interesting.
Even when constrained by keeping the location of the arms and feet constant and limited to the buttocks staying on the seat, we have more than one way of making this maneuver: You can either arch or round your spine. How you manifest and deviate from these fundamental forms will have its quirks. Heredity, history, posture, attitude, and training — both the kind you do on purpose and that which results from repeatedly performing the same actions at work or play; these aspects come together to shape how exactly you turn this intention into action.
Instead of only imagining this action in your mind’s eye, you give it a go. Are you curious about how you do it? As long as there’s no physical or medical reason not to make this particular motion, what about finding out for yourself?
You can grab a chair, sit backward with your feet on the floor and forearms on the back, and — taking it nice and slow, making a minimal motion using little or no effort — smoothly slide your chin forward. Remember to keep your arms on the chair and face parallel to the wall, window, or scenery directly in front of you. Please take your time returning to the initial position.
Repeat this gentle pecking movement, making it easier each time.
- What happens in the very first moments?
- Do you move place between the vertebrae of the neck?
- Is the spine of your chest involved?
- What about your lower back?
- In what way? Do you slouch? Or do you extend your back?
- Does your pelvis participate? Does it roll forward or back?
Gaby’s course was my introduction to a profound and potentially transformative sequence of Awareness Through Movement classes, one that had not been part of my training program. Though I wouldn’t have imagined working in that position, once we got going, I started to see how Moshe employed his methodology, using the challenges it creates as a catalyst for self-discovery and learning.
I’m thinking about Gaby and these ATMs as our online peer group circles back around to teaching them to each other. On Sunday, February 5th, at 8:00 AM Pacific time, I start the series by teaching CHIN MOVEMENTS ON A CHAIR, aka AY 478.
If you’re a colleague, I invite you to participate. If you’re not a Feldenkrais teacher, you might want to ask whoever you get lessons from to teach the series.
You can listen to the second pecking lesson (of four) on the Mind in Motion Online (MIMO) Library. Log in and click on “Library” in the main menu. Select Free Lessons in the left search window and choose Alexander Yanai in the one on the right. Then hit Return.
Scroll down to AY 479, MOVEMENTS OF THE CHIN TO THE SIDES ON A CHAIR.
Before you do this ATM lesson, please note that it is neither medical care nor treatment. If you have any concerns about whether you should do it or not, consult with your physician.
This recording is one of many available to folks who have accounts on the Mind in Motion Online website. If you don’t have one yet, you can sign up for free here.
(If you are a trainer, teacher, or trainee, you can request a Professional Become a Better Teacher account. Among other benefits, this gives you access to the recording of the discussion that followed the lesson.)
The rooster on a chair photo at the top of this post is by Yves Chaput; the pic of the chair is from cottonbro studio. Both are available from pexels.com
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