Some Principles of Easeful, Embodied Movement
Here is a brief introduction to principles and tools we use to find the sense of easeful and embodied uplift and full body support in the embodied movement explorations I teach.
1. Releasing Tension
A common belief in popular exercise culture is that we need to work, to do something with substantial effort to maintain good posture. Another is that having have strong abdominal muscles, a strong “core” will help us do so too. Strong muscles and some effort are healthy and helpful. However, we often use too much effort and hold too much tension in parts of the body that don’t need to work to hold us up or help us do a particular movement. Working hard and holding unnecessary tension both in body and in our nervous system can make it harder to feel strong and free in our movement, not easier.
Letting go of tension and allowing ourselves to release to the support of the ground and chair underneath us allows us to move more efficiently. When we are ready to engage our muscles and move, the work can be more easily distributed throughout the body. Relaxing down helps us prepare for more coordinated activation of muscles and breath in the body and an embodied feeling of movement.
2. Partnering with Gravity and Ground
If we are going to allow ourselves to release and relax down, we need somewhere to release into. This something is gravity, the ground, the chair on which we sit.
We don’t have to push or pull down our shoulders because if we allow them to just let go, gravity will bring them down. When we allow our feet to reach or push into the ground and our bottom to sink and spread on the chair, we allow ourselves to be supported by ground. The sense of resting or leaning on the floor means that we don’t have to work so hard to lift up our spine. The reach of the feet and sitting bones down into the floor and chair seat activates the muscles and fascia in legs and torso just enough. We can access a feeling of full-body support and a sense of lightness and lift of the torso.
We tend to think of standing up as fighting gravity. And in some ways and we do resist gravity to remain upright. However, as an animal on Earth, we are creatures of gravity. The density of our bones depends upon feeling the stress of gravity. When we walk, run, jump, or get up from the chair, we need gravity and ground. We depend upon ground reaction force. What do we have to do first to get yourself off the ground? We squat, sinking down toward the floor. Then we push off the floor into the air. When we walk, our back foot pushes off the ground to lift the leg and bring it forward. When we get off the chair, we need to push our feet into the floor. Gravity and ground are our partners in helping us stay upright and moving forward.
3. Partnering with Space
In sensing our length from head to tailbone and sitting bones and sensing our breadth underneath us on the chair, from shoulder to shoulder, we are sensing and expanding the space within us. We are sensing and expanding ourselves into the space around us. When we imagine ourselves as expansive, even as our feet reach the ground or our bottom meets the chair seat, our full body and breath can activate proportionally to lift us up. Sensing how the sides of our body touch the space to our sides and the space touches us can help us feel expansive and lifted. If are sensing this expansion in a soft way, without too much effort, we maintain easier breathing and less tension in the body and nervous system.
4. Partnering with our Breath
Coordinating our movement and breath contributes to the feeling of embodied movement. We can release unnecessary tension and move through space with greater support when our breathing is relaxed and our breathing muscles are coordinated in their movement (diaphragm, abdominals, pelvic floor, intercostals.) When we inhale, we expand volumetrically. When we exhale, we want a feeling of inward and upward lift in pelvic floor, abs and ribcage. When we exhale to stand from the chair and to sit down again, we have activated these muscles and they give us additional support in the movement and help keep our spine lifted.
5. Sensing and Awareness
We can’t make a change if we don’t have awareness that there is a thought or movement we could change or might want to change. To have the choice to make changes from our habitual movement patterns, we first need to have awareness of what we are doing our feeling now. To develop that awareness, we begin to pay attention to sensations in our body as we move and breathe. When we do something one way and then another, we try to notice distinctions in the sensation. As we develop this awareness, we open ourselves up to new possibilities thinking and doing.