One of Feldenkrais’ classic Awareness Through Movement® lessons is most often referred to by its nickname: SEE-SAW BREATHING. In the collection of classes he assembled for the book Awareness Through Movement, it is called Differentiating the Parts and Functions of Breathing.
In the early days of teaching this lesson, I was surprised to learn it was difficult or even disturbing for some students. This ATM®, which, simply put, is about alternately expanding the belly and the chest, had been intriguing and easy for me, so I got intrigued when that wasn’t the case for others.
Asking myself how I might make it more user-friendly, I came up with the image of moving a bubble up and down within the trunk. This insight offered another approach to the same theme, one which I’ve taught many times in public classes and workshops, training programs, and advanced courses over the years.
An unintended consequence of this approach was that the bubble voyage made the middle section of the trunk, the lower part of the chest and upper abdomen, between the upper chest (where the ribs attach directly to the breastbone) and the lower belly and lower back, appear. Instead of thinking of respiration having solely two levels, the chest and belly, the house of breath came to have three floors.
The “bubble” version of the ATM proved to be effective and engaging, but didn’t eliminate the oft insurmountable challenge it presented for some. That’s why my latest series of breathing lessons, It’s a Matter of Life and Breath, takes several lessons to progressively lead up to it. This incremental approach worked so well that even people who hadn’t enjoyed breathing lessons found it doable, enjoyable, and revelatory.
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