Tag Archives: anatomy

Move Your Shoulders Like Wheels

What’s Happening in May & June

The next Feldenkrais® series are just around the corner, and they’ll be shorter than usual: four and five weeks.

At the end of June, I’m going to the Feldenkrais conference for five days. Count on my coming back with a bunch of new ideas we’ll play with in class, as I’ll be training with my mentor Jeff Haller, as well as several other deeply experienced teachers. The theme this year is “Discover Ease: Finding What Already Exists.”

Interested? The conference has workshops open to the public. These include:

Human skeleton dancing DAB, perform dabbing move gesture, posing on white background.The conference is in Boulder, CO, which has been on my bucket list for years, so I’m taking some additional time to explore and perhaps do a short retreat in July. Classes will likely begin again the second or third week of July.

The focus in my May and June classes will be shoulders, arms, and hands. Most of us have injured our shoulders, or dealt with Carpel Tunnel or another repetitive-motion issue. We all benefit from understanding more clearly how to mobilize this area. (How often do you find your shoulders up by your ears?)

More about Your Shoulder Girdle

“Nearly every bone in the trunk, from occiput to pelvis, furnishes surfaces for the attachments of muscles which are also attached to some portion of the shoulder apparatus. . .”—Mabel Elsworth Todd, The Thinking Body: A Study of the Balancing Forces of Dynamic Man.

Classic Awareness Through Movement lesson.Todd points out that our shoulder and arm muscles have a wheel-like distribution. She writes, “The muscle power must be applied so as to operate through as many arcs as the range and direction of movements require. This is accomplished by a wheel-like design whereby muscles attached through great distances over many surfaces of the skeletal framework converge about the shoulder joint. . . . It is this wheel-like arrangement of lines of muscle force through all planes which gives such enormous power to the arms and hands, not alone in doing heavy work. . . but also in the control of delicately centered movements of the hands and fingers.” (Ibid)

We’ll be rolling those wheels in June: register here.

Sunday Classes

Russ Mitchell, fresh from the latest segment of his Feldenkrais training, will teach five classic lessons on Sundays. You can bet I’ll be there! Register for his series here.

Saturday Classes

Do Saturday mornings work best for you? Consider coming to Patterns Lab, 11:30 am-1:30 pm. Prerequiste: at least one series of classes or package of private lessons with me, or previous experience with the Feldenkrais Method®. Please email me if you’re interested in joining.

Locating Your Hip Joints & Why It Matters

Where to Start

The Feldenkrais Method® has no set lesson plans. We don’t have a school board. There’s no one dictating to me what themes to choose when teaching.

People walk around stools in a studio

© International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Robert Golden

So, after six years of teaching, I follow my hunches when planning what to teach. I listen to my private clients, to students in my classes. I continue with my advanced study. Patterns emerge. Something comes into the foreground.

Now it’s hip joints which keep presenting themselves to me.

Connecting with Your Strength

My ongoing interest remains uncovering innate strength. And clarifying use of our hip joints is key. The pelvis is our power center. Those bones are the biggest we have. The lumber vertebrae are enormous, compared to our cervical vertebrae.

2 gymnasts posing in studioThe head of the femur is spherical, almost. It has the potential to rotate in almost any direction. Yet most of us use only a fraction of the potential. Watch a dancer or gymnast to see the hip joint exploited to its fullest.

Most of us don’t have hypermobile joints like acrobats. Yet we can still find more range of motion than we’re currently taking advantage of. We can find, for example, the top of our hip joint, that place around which we can pivot freely and discover what Moshe Feldenkrais called good posture: the ability to move in any direction without preparation.

Why Study Anatomy?

I’ve been going back to the transcripts of the lessons Moshe Feldenkrais taught years ago in Jerusalem. We have roughly 600 of these lessons, from the time he spent teaching on Alexander Yanai Street. I’m finding gems in his comments to students. He says repeatedly that we don’t know where our hip joints are. We can’t accurately locate them on ourselves. We think our hip joints are located where our pants crease at the top of our legs. They aren’t. Because we move from a faulty understanding of our anatomy, we damage our hip joints and low back. Moshe said that 60 years ago, and it’s still true today.

The heads of the femurs point towards your sacrum. Your hip joints are located where they can direct ground forces up and into your spine on either side to help you stand erect and move your spine freely.

When you stand using your skeleton clearly, without unnecessary activity in your core, you’ll feel support flowing up from your heels to your hip joints, all the way to the crown of your head.

It’s literally a heady feeling.

So why do so many of us lack or forget that connection? Many reasons: injury, prolonged sitting, inactivity in general. I also think the English language doesn’t help.

Basic Pelvic Anatomy

Illustration of human pelvis.We have one word, “pelvis,” for what are actually three bones: the sacrum in the middle and an ilium/ischium on either side. To add to the confusion, we don’t have one word for the hip bones on either side of the sacrum. Each is composed of three elements, the ilium, ischium, and pubis. These are separated in newborns and become fused by adulthood. The three elements form a deep socket called the acetabulum where they meet. The acetabulum articulates with the head of the femur. In front, the pubic bone on either side is connected by cartilage. So each of these three parts of your pelvis has the potential to move independently. To see that potential exploited to its fullest, watch a skillful belly dancer.

Why isn’t study of basic human anatomy required? How we’re put together is fascinating. When kids meet my skeleton Heinrich, they can’t stop touching him, moving his bones around, asking questions. It’s absurd and a profound disservice to allow children to reach adulthood in ignorance of how their physical selves function. (Of course, public school would probably find a way to make anatomy boring. But that’s another story.)Female skeleton reclining

The point is, understanding and clarifying function of our hip joints is key to improving our movement and self-use. This spring, that will be the theme throughout my classes. I hope you’ll join me.

Going Deeper with Anatomy

If you’d like to study human anatomy on your own, there’s no better place to start than Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain. Her analysis focuses on function, not the study of anatomy for its own sake. She’s a dancer and physical therapist. The book is full of great illustrations. It’s organized so you can easily pick it up and simply read the section dealing with the pelvis. Or go cover to cover, if you like.