I tend to teach in cycles, and this week the cycle worked its way round to one of my favorite things to teach: spirals. We often forget that we’re capable of spiraling movements. If we forget about something, we tend not to use it, and if we don’t use it, over time we lose that ability.
Our bodies have very few straight lines and right angles. Everything wraps around something else, snugly rests into something else, or slides and glides over something else. Our bodies are full of depressions and protrusions and spirals. The big spirals in the movement vocabulary of yoga are the twisted poses, but there are smaller spirals in many of the other poses, and remembering that your body always has the capability to spiral can make a huge difference to the way you move in any situation.
The Forgotten Directions
Because our eyes and joints are oriented to have a clear front—our eyes face forward; our hips, knees, and ankles are arranged to make it easiest for us to walk forward; our shoulders are arranged so we can reach forward to manipulate our environment—we tend to forget about all the other directions we have around us. And because our visual sense is so dominant, commanding more of our brains that any of the other five senses, we forget about the other ways we can be aware of those other directions. Narrow focus to the exclusion of all other awareness can have a side effect of creating more tension and limiting adaptability and choice, but out of sight doesn’t have to be out of mind. This week I offer you a Practice Pause and a Practice Challenge to keep your mind alert and your body nimble.
Practice Pause and Challenge: All The Things You Cannot See
This practice pause is designed to help you develop the non-visual ways you can be aware of your environment.
- Sit somewhere comfortable for a moment and allow your neck to be free and your whole body to soften and expand. Check in with what it feels like to be here, now.
- Observe what you can see in front of you. Notice all the different objects you can see and their position relative to each other and the room around you. Notice the wall in front of you and the parts of the ceiling, floor and walls to either side of you that are in your field of vision. Build up a detailed picture.
- Close your eyes and hold that picture in your awareness, not just the visual detail, but also the sense of where everything is. Stay like this for a moment or two.
- With your eyes closed turn around in your seat to face the other way. Keep a sense of that mental picture of what is now behind you. Stay like this for a few moments.
- Open your eyes, maintaining that sense of what’s behind you as you look at what’s now in front of you. Stay like this for a moment or two.
- Repeat the process facing this way, and turning back to face your original orientation.
- Spend a few moments contemplating how it feels to face in your original direction having been through the practice.
And your practice challenge for this week is to remember to notice the parts of the room you’re in that you can’t see. This will be particularly helpful if you spend a lot of time working at a computer.
I you try the practices, let me know how they went, either via email or before/after one of my classes this week!