Expanding into Space
I am about 6’ 2” in my bare feet, easily 6’ 3” with shoes on, making me about four inches taller than the average American man and ten inches taller than the average American woman. This means I spend much of my time looking down in order to make eye contact with people (and we’ve already seen how important that is to me). Over the decades this has led to my default head position, the position that “feels right” to me, to be tilted down on the top of my spine. Over the past three weeks, time and again, the teachers at AT school have consistently been tilting my head back up. One of them suggested the idea that there is a sort of arrogance to having the head up where it should be. It feels very, very strange to have the head lifted so high, almost as if I am perpetually trying to look over a wall to see what’s on the other side.
Today we worked a little on creating space within the body for the breath to expand into. That, of course, involved keeping the head forward and up, loosening the arms and the legs out of their joints and creating space under the arms. It also involved finding a lift and openness in the chest, the breast bone high and wide, without pushing the lower back or kidneys forward.
Up until recently, I’ve approached working with the body from the inside, locating and sensing the inner structures—joints, connective tissue, organs—kinesthetically and building from there. Lately I’ve started to become acutely aware of the space around me. The head and torso reach forward through space as we lean forward, back through space as we draw ourselves upright. As we slump and crunch, parts of the back body push forward, parts of the front body collapse down. The head is pulled forward in front of the shoulders and sinks towards the chest.
One strategy when opening the chest is to be aware of the space between the chin and the breast bone, the sides of the jaw and the collarbones, and to increase that space, to create room for the chest to expand into as it receives the breath. In the work we did today, all the internal adjustments melted away into sense of expanding up and out into the space around me. It had the feeling of throwing off a great, heavy overcoat at the end of winter and feeling the soft, warm light of spring on the skin. It had the feeling of the body being like a hot air balloon filling up and ready to lift off into the air.