BY Frank Wildman, Ph.D.
This “Chair Play” exercise is excerpted from the book,The Busy Person’s Guide to Easier Movement, by Frank Wildman, Ph.D., which describes how to use Feldenkrais to move with more ease, comfort and efficiency.
If your work is a pain in the back (not uncommon for sitting jobs), you can relieve the problem with this simple Feldenkrais exercise.
Many people have overly rigid ideas about how they should sit in a chair. Think about all the different ways children move their bodies in relationship to a chair. In this exercise, you will learn to develop more flexible ideas about how to relate to a chair, which will create a much more flexible body.
- Sitting near the front of your chair, place the palm of your right hand on your lower back and the palm of your left hand on the top of your head. Make sure both of your feet are solidly on the floor with your feet and knees well apart.
- Move your lower back into your right hand by rolling your pelvis on the chair and then roll your pelvis until you reel your back hollow into an arch. As you do this, observe the change in the height level of your head. Rest with your arms down. Are you sitting more on your right side?
Awareness Advice: If it is too difficult to put the palm of your hand on your back, put the back of your hand there. Your only effort should be in sensing the, movement. Use your right fingertips to feel the vertebrae as well as feeling the muscles with your hand.
- Repeat the same action with the palm of your left hand on your lower back and the palm of your right hand on your head. Which side is easier? Rest. Observe your sitting posture.
- Sit on the right side of your chair so that the right side of your pelvis is unsupported and only your left side remains on the chair. Put your right hand on your waistline as you would in a casual way with your fingers spread toward your stomach and your thumb in the back. Lower and raise the right side of your pelvis so that it goes below the level of the chair and up. Can you feel the right side of your waistline lengthening and shortening? If you put your left hand on top of your head at the same time, can you feel the connection between the movement of your pelvis and your entire spine and neck? Rest sitting back in your chair.
Awareness Advice: Make sure your feet and legs are fairly wide apart and observe how your right leg assists the right side of your pelvis by pushing the heel into the floor. You might want to experiment by lifting the right heel from the floor as you lower the right side of your pelvis.
- Repeat the same movement on the other side by having only your right buttock on the chair, with your left hand on your waist and your right hand on the top of your head. Make sure that your legs are wide apart. Is this side more or less fluid than the other side? Rest sitting back in your chair.
- Sit facing the back of your chair. Lean your folded arms on the top of the back of the chair with your pelvis near the front of the chair. Roll your pelvis forward to hollow your back, and backwards to curve it. Try it with your head resting on your arms as well. Can you also rock your pelvis from side to side here, pushing through one foot while lifting one side of the pelvis and then the other? Can you do this with your head at rest on your arms as well?
- Put your hands on your knees and put your chest against the back of the chair with your head looking down and your eyes closed. Can you roll your pelvis forwards pushing your belly out towards the back of the chair and then backwards, holding it in as your spine curves away from your chair. Let your belly push forwards and backwards in harmony with the movement of your spine and pelvis until it becomes easy to feel how your breathing can assist the motion. Rest leaning on the back of your chair.
Awareness Advice: For many people with difficulties in their middle or lower back, it is much easier to sit facing the back of a chair because of the support it can provide and the requirement of opening the hips. This lesson or any of the movements in it could be useful to perform whenever stress accumulates from the seated position.
Frank Wildman PhD, is founder and director of the Feldenkrais Movement Institute in Berkeley, California. For more information on Feldenkrais or to order The Busy Person’s Guide to Easier Movement, click here.
Excerpted from Strive Magazine.