Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Tuning in

We often tend to think only about the big, conscious movements we wish to make: hitting a ball, jumping over a puddle, running to catch a bus. However our bodies are continuously in motion as the postural muscles make tiny adjustments in response to messages from our nervous system that uses sensors in our muscles, tendons and joints to monitor where we are in space; this is often referred to as proprioception. Ideally we use as little energy as possible for movement, aiming for efficiency and ease, but often tension gets in the way both of this continual unconscious adjustment and of our more conscious movement. 

A habit I have cultivated is to explore gently how I am holding myself. I often begin with my feet; letting my foot sink into the ground, then feeling the weight shift across the foot as I shift my weight. Seated, it is interesting to explore how much you can release your leg as you keep the whole foot in contact with the ground. Encourage your ankle to move to transfer pressure across the foot as you shift your weight - the whole foot still in contact with the ground - from the inside edge to the outer edge whilst your upper leg remains still and relaxed. You can use your hands to feel the bones moving in your lower leg as this movement happens. People often find it difficult at first to initiate this movement but be patient and remain relaxed, and the movement will come.

Standing, allow your feet to sink and relax into the ground then slowly shift your weight backwards, forwards, side to side, noticing how this feels. Imagine a helium balloon is drawing you up from the crown of your head so that you are standing relaxed and upright over your feet (I also like to imagine my spine expanding upwards), then rotate your upper body - whilst keeping your feet where they are - to look behind you, then come back to face the front before you turn the other way; can you feel your weight shifting over your feet, following your movement even whilst they stay flat on the ground? 
Can you use your feet to help this turn, whilst keeping them on the ground? 
Do you feel you are keeping over your feet as you turn your upper body? 
How relaxed are your feet, can you feel them spreading out? 
Can you feel the movement travelling up through your body - how far? Does it change as you make alterations to how you are moving? 
You can transfer this awareness of your feet to when you are walking, just taking notice of what you feel. 

I also like to relax my shoulders by turning my hands in and out whilst my arms hang by my sides. Sometimes I turn the hands in the same direction, so one palm faces back and the other forwards; sometimes I turn them both out and then inwards. I notice how this feels through the rest of my body and ask if there is any tension that I can release, and if that changes what I am feeling. I play with allowing the hands to lead the movement and see how that feels, then see what happens when I initiate the movement from the shoulder girdle, for instance from the shoulder blades. This can be done whilst standing, lying down or walking.

All of this exploration benefits from being done very slowly and meditatively, allowing the nervous system to process and make adjustments. I find it relaxing and balancing, and hope that you will too.