By Carolyn Palmer, GCFP CM, Ph.D., for SenseAbility May 2022
Hands and feet are wonderfully sensitive, and they do so much! Here are some ideas for sensation and movement explorations focused on hands or feet. You can do these on yourself, or on someone else (who will thank you for how good it feels!). Work on one hand or foot at a time, and take your time to enjoy the effects.
Principles for any sensory and movement exploration:
- Go small and slow; it’s not stretching or strengthening, though it will help with those.
- Theme and variations: choose a theme, then try doing it in three different ways.
- Do a few repetitions, pause to rest, resume with variations, compare how they feel.
- Allow breath to continue throughout. How does breathing in/out go with movements?
- Do these also in imagination; recommended when there’s pain or lack of function.
- Do these in any position: e.g., sitting, lying in bed, riding in a car.
- Do these as often as it occurs to you; even brief explorations make a difference!
Prep: Map yourself with these wake-up practices
- Tap along length of limb; use weight of your arm so hand lands firmly on limb.
- Squeeze large muscles, as if to feel bone beneath; wrap hand(s) around.
- Press the joint against a firm surface or between hands.
- Lengthen, shorten, widen a limb or fingers or toes.
Explore: Try a few of these movements on one hand/foot, then rest and notice any differences!
- Trace bones of the hand or foot; squeeze each entire finger or toe one at a time; gently squeeze each bone between finger/toe joints.
- How does that hand or foot feel now? When you’re curious, try it with the other one!
- Remind arm, wrist, hands, fingers (or ankle, foot, etc.) of their movements.
- Flex; extend; widen; fist; reach; grasp; point; spiral
- Cardinal directions: move in one direction a few times; move in opposite directions; move back and forth between these poles; add new direction(s); notice easiest paths.
- Clocks: e.g., think of shoulder, or wrist, as centered on a clock face, to make small movements at first from 12-6 and 3-9 across the clock face, and eventually around the perimeter of the clock such as 12-1-2-3-4 and return, etc., until you feel comfortable doing the whole clock circuit, then reverse direction. Make it smaller and smoother.
- Initiate movement from different places: elbow, shoulder, ribs, sternum, pelvis, feet.
- Slide hand along self or surface: leg, other arm, neck/head, bed, table, wall, etc.
- Cardinal directions; diagonals; trace around clock; sweep in arcs
- Palm down; palm up
- Palm to L or R so that edge of hand slides on surface
- How does that hand or foot feel now? When you’re curious, explore the other one!
Carolyn Palmer, Ph.D., is a Developmental Psychologist at Vassar College, and a Feldenkrais Method and Child’Space ® movement teacher. She studies lifespan action development, embodied learning and teaching practices, and contemplative practices. Carolyn offers lessons, classes, and workshops on using movement to enhance attention, learning, comfort, parenting, and teaching. During her recent recovery, she has been grateful for guidance provided by Feldenkrais and Somatic Experiencing teacher Dan Rindler, and by her wise colleagues, Feldenkrais Teachers of the Hudson Valley.