Theme Coordinating Flexors and Extensors

Description of this theme

In “coordinating flexors and extensors” lessons, you cross one leg over the other and tilt to the side. Lessons typically include some shoulder variations generated by hugging yourself and rocking chest, or forming a triangle of your arms with palm together towards the ceiling, and tilting this triangle; other variations include see-saw breathing, head differentiation; there are also undifferentiated versions (knees and arms tilt to same side; eyes follow knees).

A significant series on this theme (SF? Amherst?) has you tilt the crossed legs and the arm triangle to the same side–as though holding a pane of glass–and developing until you can go to the floor and return, with reversibility.

Coordinating Flexor and Extensor lessons on Feldy Notebook:


Add your thoughts and observations–ideas behind the lesson, history of Moshe’s development; Moshe’s discussions of this theme; your personal insights in experiencing, teaching or using ideas from the lessons in FI

In Awareness Through Movement, Moshe says of this lesson:

  • “Here you will learn to increase the contraction of the erector muscles of the back, and that prolonged contraction of the flexor muscles of the abdomen increases the tonus of the extensors of the back. You will be able to lengthen the muscles that twist the body. Lengthening the extensors of the nape by activating their antagonists in the front of the neck improves the balance of the head in the erect standing position. You will also learn improved differentiation of head and trunk movement.” (p. 109)
  • Some initial student interpretations:
    • Students sometimes expect, given other exercises they have done, that the point is to stretch the hip abductors on the side you are tilting away from. The point, rather, is to minimize the play between the pelvis and the femur (by tying the legs up like this).
    • Students will bring the leg that remains standing towards the centre to keep balance. The lesson is more precise if the standing leg stays where it starts when the other leg is crossed over it.
  • Consider the Amherst/SF (?) “pane of glass” version: you are tilting your arms and your legs at the same time to the same side. This is very precarious: you will fall! So you clench your abdominals in response. But the one and only thing you can do to do it reversibly and not fall, is to lengthen the side to which you roll, particularly the abdominals, with some sidebending. So the lesson puts you in the situation that invokes the flexor response, but requires you to abandon that response and develop a more functional alternative.
  • If this is the basic logic of the lesson, then consider another question: when you tilt your knees (e.g.) R, with the R leg crossed over the L, does the L side shorten or lengthen, L hip move up shoulder-wards (even while twisting away) or down and away? R side lengthens, L side shortens: this is what makes for reversible rolling to the side.
    • This is clearer if the standing leg has been kept in place and not moved to the middle.
    • More precisely, I think, the R side-mostly-flexors lengthen, and the L side-mostly-extensors shorten.
    • It is in the slow, controlled and precise interplay of the L back and R front (and vice versa) that the “flexors and extensors” are “coordinated.”
    • This involves a significant contribution from side-bending, which many of the arm variations and lifting or sliding head variations emphasize. (As well as the contributions those variations make to twisting.)
    • This is not to say that there isn’t also ways to/a function for taking the top hip down and away as you twist (as you do with knees bent, feet standing, lower one knee to the inside and down towards the floor, arching that side of the back strongly while the other remains standing).
  • Personal note: Okay, some years ago I noticed that there could be a lot of side bending in this lesson. You could do so much side bending you almost don’t twist at all. Now, while doing away with twisting is not the point, it is also not the point to do away with the side-bending. I spent some years thinking this was supposed to be lengthening on one side, shortening on another, without sidebending, and if you have a way to do that, well, good on you! It’s not really logical and in fact I was finding it still and increasingly uncomfortable on the standing leg. Funny how we get an idea in our heads that stands between us and the lesson… –  LynetteReid May 9, 2012
  • In many versions (e.g. Classic coordination of flexor and extensor muscles MG77) you really develop the amazing capacity of the shoulder girdle for independence from the ribcage–you can lift the shoulder that the weight is shifted to, just as much as the shoulder freed from the floor–the shoulder girdle has such potential for independence.


Mia Segal using and discussing the ATM in an FI context


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