Opening the Chest
1. Stand with your feet spread hip width apart with your arms relaxed at your sides. Notice how your shoulders feel. Does one shoulder feel like it is higher than the other? Get a sense of the distance from the tip of one shoulder to the other. Is your head balanced over your shoulders or is it poking forward a bit or tilted to one side?
1. Stand easily. Notice how you have chosen to stand. How far apart are your feet and what direction are they pointing in? Is the weight more toward the toes or the heels, the inner or the outer edge? Is your pelvis balanced over the feet or is it a little forward or backward? Where are your shoulders in relationship to your pelvis and feet? How much space do you feel in your upper chest and ribcage? Does this part of you feel open or constricted? Finally, notice where your head is in relationship to the rest of your body. Pay attention to how tall you feel. Gently turn your head from side to side a few times. How much of the rest of you takes part in this movement?
2. Lie down on your back providing enough padding to be comfortable lying against the floor. Give yourself a few minutes to relax, to become aware of your breathing, and to observe the way you are lying on the floor. Which parts of you are clearly in contact with the floor and which parts are not touching? Which parts are comfortable and relaxed and where do you sense discomfort or tension?
Roll your head gently from side to side a few times and notice how far down your spine you can feel this movement.
For the following movements, repeat each movement gently as often as you feel like. 10 to 25 times is a guideline but let your comfort and intuition help you determine how much to do.
3. Roll over onto your stomach. Place one palm on top of the other and rest your forehead on the back of the upper hand. Spread your feet about hip width apart and then bend at the knees so that your lower legs are at right angles to the floor and the bottoms of your feet are facing the ceiling. Lean your feet against each other.
Start tilting both legs to the right without lifting either knee from the floor. This means that the left foot will slide down the right ankle and calf. Tilt only as far as you can easily and comfortably and then return both legs to the upright position. Repeat this movement a number of times paying attention to how the movement of the legs affects the spine. Does the movement go all the way up to the neck? Then rest on your stomach for a moment in whatever position you like.
4. Place your left palm on top of the right hand and place your right ear or cheek on the back of the left hand so that your head is turned to the left. Bend your knees again and lean the feet against each other and continue tilting both legs to the right and back to upright. Do your legs tilt further than before? Notice the pressure against the floor of the right side of the ribcage and relax your chest as much as you can. Try exhaling as you tilt the legs to the right. Make sure that it is a controlled movement rather than flopping your legs to the side. Follow the movement up the spine and notice where the movement is vertebra by vertebra and where larger segments of the spine move as a unit.
5. Rest on your stomach and then place your left hand as for doing a push-up with the elbow in the air and place your right arm down alongside your body. Place your legs as before and push with your left hand to assist the tilting of your legs to the right. Do this a number of times and then return to having the right cheek on the back of your hands and tilt the legs to the right again in this position. Do they tilt further than before without increasing the effort?
Roll over onto your back and take a good rest.
6. Roll onto your stomach again, place the left palm on the back of your right hand, and this time turn your head to the right. Bend your knees and lean your feet against each other. Continue tilting both legs to the right. How does this configuration affect the range of the movement? Again, notice how far this movement travels up your spine.
7. Rest on your stomach. Then with your head turned to the right, tilt your legs easily to the right and leave them tilted. Slowly lift your head and turn it in a wide arc and place it back down on your hands facing to the left. Think about looking at the horizon as you turn. Do your legs tilt a little further to the right when you turn your head to the left? Turn your head back to the right in an arc and continue gently turning your head left and right like this. Notice if your legs eventually tilt the same amount whether your head is turned to the left or to the right. With your head turned to the right, bring the legs upright and then tilt them to the right again and notice how it feels now.
Roll over onto your back and rest for a few minutes. Check if your contact with the floor has changed.
8. Roll back onto your stomach with your head turned to the left, resting on the back of your hands as before. This time, bend your knees and bring your knees and legs together. Imagine that your legs are tied together at the ankles and the knees. Start tilting your legs gently to the right and back again. This time the left knee will detach from the floor. After you have done this a number of times, stop and place your head on the floor, still turned to the left. Interlace your fingers and place your hands over your left ear. Tilt your legs, with the legs still "tied together", to the right again. Pay particular attention to what happens to the vertebrae of the upper part of your back and your neck.
9. Rest on your stomach for a few moments and then turn your head to the right, placing your head on the back of your hands, and continue tilting both legs to the right with them "tied together". Do this very gently and carefully. Then try it with your hands interlaced and placed over the right ear. How does this movement travel up your spine?
10. After a brief rest, return to placing your forehead on the back of your hands as you did at the beginning of the lesson. Tilt your legs to the right a few times, with the knees spread and the left foot sliding down along your right ankle and shin. Has the movement changed from the first time you tried it? Do your legs tilt further and more easily and does more of your spine participate in the movement?
11. Rest on your back and notice how you are lying against the floor now. Turn your head gently from side to side and notice if more of your spine is taking part in this movement.
12. Repeat step 3 through 11 tilting your legs to the left, reversing all the "left" and " right" instructions.
13. Slowly roll to your side and sit up and, from there, move to a standing position. Notice how you are standing now and how tall you feel. Does the front part of your chest feel any larger or more forward? Turn your head from side to side and notice what this feels like now.