How Does the Movement Sound?

by / Monday, 05 January 2015 / Published in Feldenkrais Practitioners

What better way to sound in the New Year than with a post on sound?

 First off, all the best for this year to my friends and colleagues, I wish you all health and prosperity!

Many years ago, while attending an Aikido class and the instructor asked us if we could “hear” the quality of the movement? How does the Movement sound? At the time, most of the students thought he was a bit off his rocker, but then he powerfully demonstrated what he meant. He told us to attack him and started twirling around something like a Dervish while humming a constant tone. None of us could touch him, not even a gigantic 4th degree black belt. It felt like he had created some kind of force field around himself that left us flailing and powerless. This was an older man who had an injured leg mind you. I went home perplexed and intrigued.


dance of dervish



A few days later, out of desperate frustration while teaching a rolling ATM, I asked my students to hum when rolling to sit. For some reason, I couldn’t communicate the idea that the rolling could become softer, more reversible and smoother that day, so I had them hum. By humming, they could hear when they were stopping and holding their breath. Suddenly they began to roll more smoothly and became engaged in finding an easier way to sit. I felt that I had partially understood what the Aikido master meant by asking us, “How does the movement sound?”

Since then, I incorporate humming in my ATM classes from time to time. Hearing the sound of your own voice while moving gives you direct and immediate feedback on how you’re breathing. Dr. Feldenkrais often mentioned that stopping and holding your breath is a sign of poor organization.

Humming softly while moving can help you hear, and feel how you’re breathing.

  • Try this while moving from a sitting position to standing and back again. When you get more comfortable with that, hum while rolling on the floor.
  • Need even more of a challenge? Begin moving your chest and abdomen with the “see-saw breathing” movements and see if you can hum a constant tone.

For your students, there might be some inhibition from humming in public. Many people become self conscious when asked to produce a sound that could be associated with singing. The way I get around this is to first explain why I’m asking them to hum and begin humming loudly so they feel that they can be more anonymous. My experience has shown that most find it interesting and begin to enjoy the benefits from moving more smoothly.

When giving an FI, if you find that your student is having a hard time following a movement that you’re suggesting, or you don’t feel comfortable with your self organization, imagine humming a soft tone. I have actually tried humming and have been amazed at how the quality of movement can change so quickly. Of course you may not want to do this lest your student think you’ve become a bit off your rocker, so you can imagine and ask yourself, “How does my movement sound?” By doing this, you will have additional sensory input to feel your self organization while working. Sometimes I imagine that my movement and touch produces a sound, and ask myself what the quality of sound would be like if that were indeed true. Again, this provides me with another way of monitoring my movement and organisation so that I can be clearer with less effort.

Just to be sure, humming is singing with your mouth CLOSED. ;-)

Just to be sure, humming is singing with your mouth CLOSED. 😉

I’m curious if any of you have experience with using sound while teaching? If not, give it a try and let me know how it went. We’ll all be thankful for comments. Until then, Sound well!


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