Week 2 Stretching and Bending

General information

This will be our tooic for the first week: Stretching and bending, basic movement patterns.

From breathing to Judo Rolls

This week we will start with the earliest independent action of a child, breathing. We will work with one of the small muscle groups - sucking.

And then progress to sports and something like a judo roll! This step is much smaller than you might think. Breathing and standing on your shoulder are closely connected and interconnect with one another. This is the essence of the Feldenkrais Method.

Both approaches will soften the musculature of the thoracic spine and ribcage. Breathing will get the diaphragm and tiny joints in-between ribs and vertebrae in motion and lower the muscle tone. Feeling comfortable in a candle position will use these new abilities and open them up even more. Letting go of the tension in the musculature of the back will free the floating ribs, and improve breathing.

Better movement abilities of the spine and easier breathing will - by proxy - result in more freedom for arm and leg movements.

Please adapt this week to your Child`s Needs

Stretching and bending are evolutionary among the first movements of living beings, it is a concept already used by unicellular organisms. These are the first movement in a child`s natural development as well and a requirement for the spine`s ability to bend sideways and twist.

Which direction does your child prefer? Please find out which direction is easier for your child, and start there. Does it prefer to bend, or to stretch back? You might already know. Or you could look at hints of the general tension in the smaller joints and muscles - is it easier for the child to look up (stretching back) or down (bending)? Are the hands held open, fingers stretching back and bending only in the upper limbs (stretching back), or held as fists (bending)?

You might want to put your child on the side on a slippery surface or blanket and move the blanket back and forth, and see where it moves more easily. Or you could place a big pillow or very small not fully inflated gymnastic ball under the child`s back, move it forward and back slightly and see whether it enjoys that position.

Another possibility would be to put the upper body of the child on a sofa or table (with soft surface) and gently pull the pelvis away from the edge, so that it is resting in your hands and free to move in any direction - up or down. Where does it move most easily? Some children like to bend back a lot. Let them experience this - just moving the pelvis gently up and down in this position for about 5 minutes would be a great lesson in itself.

Especially in bending back, the movements can look rather extreme. This is why I inserted the video above - if you think about it in another position, lying on the belly and lifting the head, you would get a 90" angle. Do not afraid to go back! Just make sure the child`s head is supported by the table all the time, and that it arches all of this spine (instead of having a rather stiff back and a sharp angle in the neck).

Prepare for this weeks lessons

Try gently moving your child either to bending forward, or back.

You will find:

  • you know exactly in what direction to go first. Please pick either the lessons for bending, or for looking up (stretching back), and do them first.
  • your child will move in one direction only, the other one is impossible. Pick that direction only and work on it for some time. Forget about the other direction, and never force the child. Improving one direction eventually will help to open other possibilites - but it is very important not to force it.
  • your child does not move in any of these directions. It is generally easier to start with the "looking up" - lessons. There is less movement in the space involved (in this course). Do them very small. These movements can be tiny - just gently trying to find the right direction or support is already a lot if your child moves very little.
  • your child moves in both directions. Start with the bending lessons - your child spent several months in this position and is already familiar with this pattern.

Remember: this is not about stretching muscles, finding big movements, or achieving. It is about experiencing a body in motion. The most important improvement is invisible.

Eventually, we will move in both directions. Preferences can switch fast. Support your child in it`s movements all the time, whichever direction it wants to go!

Here is an example of how to assess a child´s prefered direction:

A parent`s question

"It looked so easy when you did it, but I am not sure I am getting it right. I felt which direction to go in, and sometimes it worked, sometimes not so well. I am not sure"

As long as the child was not unhappy or in pain, and you felt it`s movement preference and helped it go there, it was fine. You provided the child with a lot of information it otherwise would not have had. Both of you were learning about cause and effect. So this was probably a good and helpful experience - it does not have to be in any way perfect.