In my regular newsletter, I have begun to share some ideas for experiments that you can try at home to improve your body awareness. Because a number of people remarked to me that they found them useful, I have decided to continue sharing these suggestions on a regular basis, and also collect these experiments here.
Now, are you ready to do some experiments inside the laboratory that is you?!
The following ideas grow out of my experience of practicing and teaching Awareness Through Movement – and if you have ever been to one of my classes, I think you will easily recognize the similarities between what we do in class and these suggestions for what you can do on your own.
But there is are two crucial differences – which I’ve already mentioned:
1) you do them at home, and
2) you do them on your own.
Why is this so important?
Because in order to gain substantial and lasting improvements from Awareness Through Movement classes, you need to continue to cultivate what you are learning by developing your movement awareness as a practice.
Below you will find a series of movement experiments that you can try on your own. My hope is that you will try some of these things, but also be creative and make up your own experiments.
But why would you want to do that?
Because these experiments aren’t just silly games. They point the way towards developing the kind of attention and curiosity towards your own movement that can increase your capacity for self-care and self-reliance.
If practicing Awareness Through Movement has caused you start becoming more aware of how you perform routine actions in the course of your day, beginning to develop your own movement experiments can further accelerate this process and give your more insights into how to live life with less restrictions.
If you try out any of these experiments and would like to share your experiences, I’d love to hear from you! – firstname.lastname@example.org
Have fun . . . ! !
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#1: JUNE 4, 2015
DO try this at home . . .
A lot of the people who attend my Awareness Through Movement classes or visit me for private sessions ask me how they can continue to grow their movement awareness on their own. Here are some ideas that you can try on your own.
Do something non-habitual . . .
. . . Use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth or comb your hair. Notice how difficult it is! Can you do it simply and keep your breath even and uninterrupted? Does it seem like this hand “doesn’t know what to do?” Switch to the dominant hand briefly and notice the change in the state of your whole body. Try to notice what you do with this hand that works more easily. What can you learn from this as you try the non-dominant hand again?
Experiment with rhythm . . .
. . . When you are walking, listen to the sound of you feet. Is there more of an accent on one foot? Does it sound like “ONE…two…ONE…two” as you walk? If so, try “one…TWO…one…TWO instead and see how it changes the experience of walking when you shift the accent to the other foot. If you want to take it “one step further”, try walking like this: “ONE…two…three…ONE…two…three” so that the accent shifts each time from one foot to the other. After these experiments, go back to walking normally – does it feel different?
. . . Not enough challenge? Repeat the steps above while walking backwards!
Notice your breath . . .
. . . Throughout your day, periodically bring attention to your breath without trying to change it. Is it different when you are doing different activities? When you interact with different people? When you are in different places? Do you ever notice that you are holding your breath? How does your breath change when you shift the position of your body?
. . . Spend a few minutes re-imagining an every day activity. For example, how many different ways can you open the refrigerator door? Can you do it with your foot? The crook of your elbow? With your shoulder? Your chin? How many things are capable of that you simply don’t allow yourself to try? Be a kid for a while – have fun!
What other routine activities could you transform with your creativity?
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#2: JUNE 16, 2015
How many ways can you walk?!
Here are a series of ways that you can alter your walking.
I suggest you try each technique for 10 or 20 paces while paying close attention to the resulting sensations, followed by at least the same number of paces of your normal walking gait. I also suggest that you perform each sequence of walking experiments with only one foot while the other foot walks normally.
Use the periods of normal walking to see if you perceive differences in the quality of how each leg carries you – the side where you do the experiments and the side where you don’t (especially compare the sensations on each side in the soles of your feet, your ankles, knees, and hip joints).
If you feel very “lopsided” after some time, you can then repeat the same experiments with the other foot to “even yourself out” – or you can maintain the experience of having very different sensations on the two sides of your body (as we sometimes do in Awareness Through Movement classes) in order to give your nervous system the opportunity to compare two different kinds of self-organization. Don’t worry, you won’t stay that way forever!
If you are still curious, you can try the experiments with both feet simultaneously, or combine two different walking styles with the two different feet to make more complex patterns.
If any of these experiments cause you pain or discomfort – END THE EXPERIMENT! You won’t learn anything if you don’t feel comfortable and safe!
Rotation of the leg . . .
– Step with the toes turned to the outside (“bow-legged”).
– Step with the heel turned to the outside (“pigeon-toed”).
– Alternate taking one step with the toes to the outside, one step with the heel to the outside.
Support from different places on the sole of the foot . . .
– Step so that only the outside edge of the foot touches the ground.
– Step so that only the inside edge of the foot touches the ground.
– Alternate stepping so only the outside edge touches the ground, then only the inside edge of the foot touches the ground.
– Walk on tip toes.
– Walk on the heel (i.e., front of the foot stays lifted of the ground).
– Alternate stepping once on tip toes, once on the heel.
Trajectories of the leg through space . . .
– “High step” or march, i.e., lift the knee to waist height as you walk.
– “High step” and flex the ankle each time you lift the foot from the ground (i.e., bend in the ankle joint so that the toes move towards the shin).
– “High step” and extend the ankle each time you lift the foot from the ground (i.e., open the ankle joint so that the toes point towards the ground.
– Alternate between “high stepping” once with the ankle flexed, once with the ankle extended.
– Try the above experiments including flexing and extending the ankle (and alternating between these two options) – except – instead of “high stepping”, swing your foot backwards each time so your knee points down to the ground and the foot approaches the back of your pelvis.
– Each time you lift your foot, swing it in an arc to the outside before bringing it down again.
– Each time you lift your foot, swing it foot in an arc to the inside before bringing it down again (be careful to swing it in front of the other leg so you don’t get tripped up!).
– With one step, make an arc to the outside, with the next step make an arc to the inside.
– Each time you lift the foot, rotate in your hip joint so that your knee points to the outside and the sole of the foot points to the inside.
– Each time you lift the foot, rotate in your hip joint so that your knee points to the inside and the sole of the foot points to the outside.
– Alternate between these two options
Invent your own! . . .
– What other simple variations could you make on taking a step?
– What simple movements of your arms shoulders or your head could you coordinate with each step?
– Could you do any of these experiments while walking backwards? While side-stepping?
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#3: JULY 5, 2015
Re-imagine how you write!
1. Get a piece of paper and sit in front of a table or desk. Write 2 or 3 sentences.
Notice which part of your pelvis is carrying most of your weight on the chair. Notice which shoulder is further forward, and the general shape of your posture as you write.
2. Note how you oriented the paper in front of you. Shift the angle of the paper so that it is no longer parallel to the arm on the side where you are writing, but more parallel to the other arm. With the paper in this position, copy again what you wrote above.
3. Turn the paper so that the long side is in front of you (the beginnings of the lines you have already written will be directly in front of you, then extend further forward away from you). With the paper in this position, copy again what you wrote above.
4. Orient the paper so that what you have already written is upside down. In this position, copy again what you wrote above (so that it will appear in the same orientation as the other text).
5. Face the paper the way you normally would. Close your eyes. Copy again what you wrote above.
6. Open your eyes. Put the pen in your other hand. Copy what you wrote above.
7. Keeping the pen in the hand you used in the previous step, turn the paper so that the previous text is upside down. In this position, copy again what you wrote above (so that it will appear in the same orientation as the other text).
8. Turn the paper so that the text appears in the normal orientation again. Keeping the pen in the hand you used for the previous two steps, close your eyes, then copy again what you wrote above.
9. Move your chair very far away from the desk or table, so you can just barely reach the paper by leaning forward. Copy again what you wrote above, using the hand you normally write with.
10. Move the chair closer to the desk to a place that feels comfortable. Copy again what you wrote above.
11. Compare the first and last lines that you wrote. Do you notice any differences in your handwriting? How did you feel as you wrote the last lines. Was it it easier than when you started?
If you try out any of these experiments and would like to share your experiences, I’d love to hear from you!