As in flexibility
And that means You. How many of you immediately dismissed this blog post, thinking “this isn’t for me. I’m about as flexible as an uncooked piece of spaghetti”? Its for you. Flexibility, according to the OED, is “the quality of bending easily without breaking.” We can all do at least a little of that. You could think of it as the beginning of movement. An interplay between the structure of your bones and the pliability of soft tissue. Playing with the skill of flexibility allows you to own your ability to move. There is power in this.
We need flexibility for our other presence skills. Practicing flexibility can be a way to get to know our body as a way to support ourselves, as an ally. Cause its our movements that can get us here and there, change location, optimize safety in a room, in relation to others, choosing closeness, contact. Flexibility includes movement and stability, and we are flexible, or not, with our emotions and mind.
In the words of my teacher, Merete, “flexibility is basically about owning your ability to move and feeling the cooperation in your body’s moving apparatus…Flexibility is a foundation for other skills such as the ability to move and position yourself by choosing where in a room or a contact situation you want to stand…Flexibility is also being flexible emotionally and cognitively. All these adjustment skills depend on flexibility being available in the body.”
This one is easy. You could put music on if you want something to help you focus, but make the sure the music doesn’t take over or influence too much your movement. You want to stay mindful. Start with the extremities – the finger, toe, ankle and wrist joints. Articulate each of them, really feel their range. Start slow so you can pay attention to the differences between the joints, then gradually find all the other places in your body where the joints move. Pause. Notice how your body and nervous system responds to this kind of movement, this flexibility. Notice temperature, where your energy moves, where it doesn’t, where your awareness goes. Move again, the chest and upper back, the lumbar spine, the rib cage, hips, sacrum, tail bone. Be curious. What moves with what? Explore ranges of motion in different directions, make shapes, surprise yourself. How does movement change when you imagine oiling all these joints? Pause again and notice. What is your energy like? Move again, go faster and make bigger movements, go slower and smaller. Notice how your system responds differently. Do you get excited, anxious, does your heart rate speed up?… Do you get quiet, meditative, sleepy, sad?… Find a range of movement or a particular movement that feels good, that feels just right. Pause again. How is your energy now?
Play with stability and movement. Sit on the floor if you can, and let yourself fall backward, to the sides, then find vertical again. You can fall all the way down to the floor or not. Play with the dose and find one that allows you to safely fall and come back up. Play with stability and movement while standing too. Fall off balance and let momentum take you into movement, then find balance. Play here, too, with speed, going faster and slower. Notice how rebalancing is a reflex. How this facilitates our arriving at our center.
(This is another in a series intended to share skills for cultivating presence in the body and mind. Do this one first, then read ground & hold. Capacity-builders for regulation of the nervous system as trauma unwinds in the body, these skills are amazing resources for moving in and around this stimulating world. They come to me from my Relational Trauma Therapy teacher, Merete Holm Brantbjerg, Danish psychotherapist and one of the developers of the body-oriented psychotherapy, Bodynamic Analysis.)