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S3NSE: Diagonals

“A diagonal line or movement goes in a sloping direction, for example, from one corner of a square across to the opposite corner”

~Collins Dictionary

Sometimes in life, things are elusive before becoming obvious.  Moshe Feldenkrais thought this was so true in his method that he named one of his books “The Elusive Obvious”.  Many Feldenkrais students find the diagonal Awareness Through Movement Lessons to be quite elusive.  This is completely understandable, diagonal movement is one of the more complex patterns in human functioning.

To understand movement, it is helpful to know about the three planes of movement.  They are sagittal, transverse and frontal (or coronal).  The sagittal plane divides the human form into left and right.  A classic sagittal plane movement is the cat/cow in Yoga.  The transverse plane divides the body into upper and lower.  Turning to the right and left is movement in the transverse plane. The frontal plane divides the body into front and back.  Side bending is a frontal plane movement.  The picture below illustrates the three planes of motion. 

 Planes of human anatomy: Sagittal plane, Coronal plane, Transverse plane
Credit Juan Pablo Bouza under the terms of cc-by-3.0


Most Feldenkrais Training programs usually start with movements in the sagittal plane (flexion and extension lessons).  These tend to be easier to learn and perform.  As the training continues, rotational lessons in the transverse planes are introduced into the training.  Later lateral flexion or side bending lessons will be added to the mix.  When the students are experienced and competent with movements in the three major planes, they are ready for diagonal lessons. Why?

The complex diagonal movement requires action in all three major planes.  Walking is a great example of a diagonal movement pattern.  Look closely at this stick figure and you will notice movements in sagittal, transverse and frontal planes all integrated together in one pattern.

Look at the side view and see how the centerline moves forwards and backwards.  That is flexion and extension in the sagittal plane.  In the front view, you can see how the figure side bends in the frontal plane as their weight shifts side to side.  Also in the front view, you can see the arms rotating inward and outward in the transverse plane.  All these movements combine for smooth and efficient walking.  

Here is a link to a video that explains the 5 and diagonal lines that are often used in Awareness Through Movement lessons:

After watching the video, imagine your own diagonal lines.  One line is from your right shoulder to your left hip.  The other line is from the left shoulder to the right hip.  Keeping these imaginary lines in mind, take a walk and notice when the lines get shorter and longer.  When do you feel the line from right shoulder to left hip become shorter?  What does the other line do?  Does it also get shorter or does it get longer?

If the answer to these questions are elusive, don’t worry, most people have no idea how the diagonal lines work.  If you want diagonal movement patterns (for better walking, running, throwing, tennis and even swimming) to be obvious, then join S3NSE for some July diagonal fun!


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