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S3NSE: Go In Reverse



“Sometimes you make more progress by going backwards”

~Steven Magee


Anyone would have thought these people were crazy, but Moshe Feldenkrais was not just anyone.  He was at a Gurdjieff retreat in the home of J.G. Bennet.  Bennet, a well-known follower of the philosopher and spiritual guru G.I. Gurdjieff, was leading an exercise on reversibility.  On a given signal, the group would stop and reverse their actions.  Most people would regard this behavior as madness.  But to Feldenkrais, there was a method to this madness. 


Reversibility is one of The Feldenkrais Method®’s four components of quality movement (along with breathing, no additional resistance or added effort).  Feldenkrais Trainer Yochanan Rywerant wrote this passage about reversibility in his book “Acquiring The Feldenkrais Profession'':


“To do a movement in a reversible manner is a sure way to improve efficiency.  It means that in any phase of the movement you can stop without falling and then continue, go back or change to any other direction.  In Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lessons, it means to have improved control over the amount of force used, over the gradual shift of the center of gravity, over the speed  of movement, and not having to stop breathing while moving.”  


“Acquiring The Feldenkrais Profession” pages 23 and 24.


Most movements in Feldenkrais lessons are reversible.  One moves away from the starting position and then returns to it.  You could think of it as driving to a new destination and then coming back home.  By taking the same route back, the drive home is easier.  The next trip to the same destination will be simple and efficient.   


Let’s use the reversibility principle in a real-life activity.  It is a great way of making getting up from a chair easier and more comfortable. 

 

  1. Start by sitting in a chair.

  2. Get up out of the chair.  Notice the amount of work and effort it takes to stand up. 

  3. Sit back down.  But pay careful attention to how you do it.  Go slow and controlled so you do not fall into the chair.  Is the movement reversible?  Or does getting out of the chair have a different movement pattern than sitting back down? 

  4. Slowly get out of the chair and stand for a moment or two.

  5. Answer these questions as you sit back down.  Do you start by folding from the hips or bending from the knees?  How much does your pelvis sit back towards the chair?  How much does your torso incline forward?  How does your weight shift on your feet?  What is the first part of your pelvis to touch the chair? How do you hinge from the hip and move your pelvis to sit tall?

  6. Use the answers to these questions to help you reverse engineer the sitting down to a more efficient standing up. 

  7. Pay close attention to how your pelvis lands on the chair.  This will help you find the best way to roll your pelvis off the chair and over your feet.   You could just make a small reversible movement on and off the chair to dial it in.

  8. Notice if it is now easier and more comfortable to get out of a chair.


Going backwards is a great way to get unstuck and move forward.  It’s not necessary to join a Gurdjieff retreat to learn how to use the reversibility principle.  S3NSE will teach you how to use this and other Feldenkrais tools to live your life at your best.  Join us here at S3NSE.org.


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