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Being curious - the art of mindful movement, part 1

I'm managing a back injury at the moment and as a consequence am having to think about how I move, stand, sit, lie. It's rather an eye opener and a valuable learning experience.

For the most part we go about out everyday lives without having to think about what we are actually physically doing - how we move, breathe and so on. And that's a good thing right? Just imagine how it would be if we had to consciously make every movement, take every breath. So yes, on the one hand, it definitely is good that we don't need to think about all of this, on top of everything else :-). But on the other hand this lack of consciousness means we don't notice if we're moving inefficiently, creating bad habits for our bodies - until we experience pain which tells us something's wrong.

And this happens in our yoga practice too. Maybe you have a favourite sequence and like to flow between the postures, but how often do you slow it down and really pay attention to how you are moving? In class a cue to move will send you into your posture but are you feeling what is happening in your body, focusing on how you get into the posture rather than the end shape?

Our bodies are clever, if we are tired, muscles are overworked or we have pain then other parts of the body will compensate for this, moving when they don't need to and allowing those tired, overworked or painful parts to have a rest. Over time this can develop into habit and potentially cause or increase pain.

Be curious

Here's a simple thing to try before you even move - notice how you stand. We do this umpteen times a day - talking to someone, standing in a queue, waiting for the kettle to boil.

How wide apart are your feet and where do they point - forward, out, in? What happens when you move your feet? Try different widths and foot position, notice how your feeling of connection with the earth changes. Try moving your pelvis in these different positions and notice how that feels.

Is your weight balanced equally through both legs and feet or do you stand with one hip dropped? What happens if you shift your weight and level your pelvis. How does this feel through your whole body, does anything change?

Does your weight feel more in your toes or your heels, or is it balanced through your feet? Shift your weight backwards and forwards and find your place of balance, imagine you're rooting down into the earth through your whole foot.

If we stand out of alignment then this impacts our knees, pelvis, spine, neck, our whole body. Standing in alignment our legs can support the weight of our upper body, we can move more efficiently and we feel balanced and grounded.

Mindful movement

Now, be curious about your own patterns of movement. Start with walking. Like me you probably learnt to do this a looooong time ago :-) so it's not something you think about.

Take a walk around and let your body move naturally, without thinking about what you're doing.

Now do the same but be curious and notice how you move. How do your feet move away from the ground? How do your legs move - from the hips or the knees? Is there a difference in the range or quality of the movement between left and right legs?

When we walk our leg and hip muscles should move our legs forward in the pelvis to create the step (rather than swing the hips from side to side or drag ourselves from the feet). Our feet and knees provide the spring and propulsion to move us forward. It's all in the legs and feet.

Try this at home or when you are out walking. If you get chance it's really nice to walk barefoot, although we've probably missed the best weather for that now!

We'll be exploring this in class over the coming weeks and I hope to write more about being curious here in my Blog so watch this space for more.


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