The Ball, the Bowl, and the Slinky How the head, pelvis, and spine work together to move us powerfully through life

In News by Ira Feinstein

by Barbara Young, GCFP

My journey exploring the connection between my head, pelvis, and spine—or the ball, the bowl, and the slinky as I like to imagine them–began with my own personal journey in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, spending time with an indigenous tribe. As our bus rumbled down the Avenue of the Volcanoes toward the edge of the rainforest, where a small plane would fly us deeper into the jungle, our group leader stood and turned towards us.

“You are leaving the world of the analytical, the critical, and the judgmental,” he said, “A world where one lives in their head. You are entering the world of the observational, of attention and awareness, a world where one lives through the heart.”

In the Amazon, there is no space for judgmental, critical, striving, goal-oriented living. In the Amazon, there are no roads, no grocery stores, no Home Depot, or Costco. Survival here depends on the acute ability to be supremely attentive and aware of everything around you—the habits and movements of animals, the qualities of plants, how to silently glide through the jungle. The hunt for food is a slow, patient process of attending with great awareness to small, subtle nuances. Being completely present to the moment with relaxed awareness is essential.

Entering an Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) or a Functional Integration® lesson is very much like entering the rainforest where we must leave behind criticism, judgment, and scrutiny and instead immerse ourselves in the kinesthetic presence of sensation as we slow down, attending to the small minutia and subtly of movement, all with wide-open awareness. Uncovering the path to these essential principals and elements is often very personal. Two separate occasions in my training created paradigm shifts in my understanding, making it clear to me how critical these principals and elements of the Feldenkrais Method® were to find our own personal rhythm.

Early in my training, I had the opportunity to observe my classmates doing an ATM lesson. I looked over a sea of bodies stunned by what I saw—a cacophony of movement. Like an out of tune orchestra warming up, arms, legs, and torsos straining and struggling. It was startling and painful to watch. During my last year of training, observing another ATM lesson was a completely different experience. With utter grace, beauty and harmony, the melody of the lesson was expressed through each individual student in their own unique way. I noticed how each had discovered, over the course of 3-1/2 years, how to listen to and utilize their own structure and musculature, and coordinate that with their nervous system.

The Feldenkrais Method honors the uniqueness of an individual. Yet underneath the surface, we all have a similar skeletal framework and the same musculature and brain structure. Learning how to organize the size, weight, and shape of our bones and joints requires integration and listening to ourselves. Composing movement of any kind is much like composing a symphony. A composer considers all of the instruments, sound quality, and range and weaves numerous and diverse instruments into a beautiful, intentional and cohesive whole.

As a Feldenkrais® practitioner, learning to deeply listen and feel gave me an appreciation for optimum movement. In my practice, people seek me out—often after exhausting conventional providers and trying many modalities—because they have lost their own sense of attuning to the self and feeling their own resonant rhythm. They hurt. Things are not working right and life may have become limited. They want improvement and hope for change.

They often have a long list of diagnoses. But diagnoses are simply names for what hurts, and traditional medicine looks to fix what hurts. What sets the Feldenkrais Method apart from other modalities is its method of considering the individual not as separate parts but as a beautiful whole—an ecosystem. As we come to an understanding of our ecosystem, we learn to identify the underlying causes of symptoms, where and how things stop working.

One key to reintegration is discovering the “Golden Thread” to our central core—the Ball (the head), the Bowl (the pelvis) and the Slinky (the spine). As I envision it, this Golden Thread weaves its strand through all aspects of the experience of being alive, being uniquely ourselves, being human. Following it means taking a deep dive, uncovering essential qualities, principles, and elements as you move toward the center of your core of understanding, the core of yourself. Most importantly, it reveals why it all matters.

What makes this possible is the very specific shape and function of these bones of the head, pelvis, and spine, as they move together, giving us a sense of balance, ease, and grace. From our first days as infants, we begin coordinating this relationship of our central core, developing a richer and more complex symphony of movement as we learn to sit, crawl, stand and walk—a relationship that is vital to maintain throughout our lifetime.

The Ball, the Bowl, and the Slinky workshop I’m teaching at the upcoming Feldenkrais Conference in Washington, DC reclaims the essential relationship of our core and follows the Golden Thread taking you on a journey deep into the interior. The interior of the Method. The interior of you.

We will follow the thread as it weaves through the qualities that are essential for Feldenkrais lessons and the elements that create who we are. The thread takes us deep into our core: the head, the pelvis, and the spine, where we learn why this structure is important in everything we do, how the relationship develops, and its role in balance and our life.

Come join the journey.

Join Barbara on Thursday, September 27 in Washington, DC for her workshop,”The Ball, the Bowl, the Slinky: How the Head, Pelvis, and Spine Work Together to Move Us Powerfully through Life.”


A physical therapist for 37 years and Guild Certified Feldenkrais PractitionerCM for 16 years, Barbara Young brings her expertise in movement, dance, and meditation to helping individuals, from children to high-level performers, with musculoskeletal and neurological issues. Her approach is grounded in her acute kinesthetic understanding and informed by her study of early development as the foundation through which we grow to become thriving adults.