Creative Connections Through Your Tongue, Jaw, Throat and Pelvic Floor

Have you ever been on the floor doing an ATM® lesson when your body responded in a way that was totally new to you? Were you astounded? Every time? That was my experience one morning when I was playing with coordinated movements of my tongue, neck, jaw and pelvis.  My play was inspired after I began listening to the Amherst recordings. It was the first time that I had heard them since I was there in 1980. Toward the beginning of the second summer, in the middle of an Awareness Through Movement® lesson, Moshe briefly alluded to the way that animals used their tongue and neck for drinking when at watering holes. The watering hole was open to all animals, predator and prey alike. So, for survival, everyone needed to have their neck free to see in any direction while they were drinking. A healthy baby who is being breastfed has a similar tongue/neck pattern. Unfortunately as we mature, these primary movements are inhibited by any number of life’s uncertain circumstances.

Out of curiosity, I expanded just one tiny little piece of the material in that Amherst lesson and created a four lesson series. The culmination of that series is the content of my presentation for the 2020 Annual Feldenkrais® Conference.

The lesson goes like this: The students’ own hands assist gentle neck extension so that they receive feedback from the outside while their tongue assists the neck movement from the inside. We then progress to connections from the jaw, to chest and  the shoulder blades and onward to the tailbone to stimulate the pelvic floor. 

I’ve successfully taught the lesson on Zoom, but be advised that it is not for beginners. It can, however, be transformed into an in-person student assisted Functional Integration® lesson for anyone, beginner or not. In this case, the practitioner would be sitting at the head of the table and be the one to support the student’s neck while instructing the student to softly do the ATM’s movements to make the connections in their body. As the practitioner, you have plenty of feedback through your hands to gently indicate where movement could be improved in their neck or wherever else your hands are drawn to go.   

Working in this way, either through the ATM or the FI® session,  my students reported increased comfort in their whole body, especially in their hip joints and neck, low back and sacrum. They also noticed elegant changes in the carriage of their head. More importantly, they reported a perceptual shift in their internal sense of self. I believe this occurs for two reasons. The first is that when you carry your head in a more dignified manner, you perceive more dignity in yourself. Secondly, when the carriage of the head shifts, the placement of the eyes relative to the head also shifts. Perception of the outer world is received from a new angle…maybe making new possibilities available. These reasons are just my personal musings, but I like them. As an aside, I’ve used this lesson very effectively when I’ve needed self care for my own neck.

The thing about this lesson that grabbed my attention the most was that rather than making skeletal connections, this lesson works through the informational and perceptual network of our fascia, which, like a fiber optic, conducts consciousness throughout our whole body. Therefore the exploration is delicate and deep. Here is a link to a short live fascia video for your pleasure and information. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

As Feldenkrais® teachers, we are aware that everything in our body is connected to everything else. Both the skeleton and the fascia are masters at this. However, some relationships are linked more closely than others. For example, in utero, the tongue and heart emerge from the same muscle. As they migrate and differentiate, the fascia between them stays in close relationship so that the pericardium and the movement of the tongue are one of those especially intimate relationships. The expressions down hearted, light hearted, tugging on my heart strings, or my heart was moved, or she speaks from the heart are as literal as they are metaphorical. Can you imagine that you can literally move your heart by connecting it to the motion of your tongue!  An extension of this lesson would begin to move a person in that direction. It is always true that our heart connections are vividly important, but especially in these extraordinary times, we yearn for our hearts to be as available as possible both to our self and others. 

We know that all Feldenkrais lessons are unique and elegant. This one, however, can take you for an exceptionally deep dive.

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