Finding circles and spirals in our walk

Becoming aware of the circles and spirals that happen in our body as we walk.

This challenge builds on our last challenge, Sinking into our Standing leg.  We will use that same exercise, but apply it to every step we take as we walk.  Walking down the street, the hallway, the grocery store, give this a try, but try not to think about it too much. Do this once at home, with focus, then do it whenever you walk somewhere, even if it is just for a few steps. Our goal is to become aware of the circles and spirals that our body creates internally as we walk. Ultimately we want to relax into a healthy balanced walk and remain aware of how our body is moving and how it feels.

Birth of Venus.

We have been using Michelangelo’s David for this example in our classes here in Asheville for over a year, it’s a nice change to use Botticelli’s Venus, as Michelle and Murat Erdemsel do in their alignment classes.  Where David is very stationary, Venus looks like she is almost moving. Notice how Venus looks like she is about to take a step. She is settled into the ground from her shoulder all the way down through her left leg. Her hips are closed as the knee of her free leg moves closely past her center.

Start by reviewing the previous challenge, Sinking into our Standing leg.  Then try walking while sinking into each new weight-bearing leg.  Sink, press, or settle into your new standing leg from the top down, from your shoulder, as you transition onto each new foot.  Try using different visualizations and see what works best for you.  Sink, press, settle, or even compress the weight bearing side of your body. Don’t try too hard. You might at first exaggerate it in order to understand it, but then ease off and relax into it. Pay attention to the different ways each visualization makes your body feel. One of them may work better for you than the others.

Pay attention to how stable you feel, and what the ground feels like as you press into it with your whole body. The weight bearing side of your body should be slightly shorter, but not scrunched, while the relaxed side of your body will be elongated. Now begin to walk, settling into the ground on one side, and relaxing on the other. Let your shoulder drop into your weight-bearing leg with each step. Relax, let your body spiral naturally with each step.

Bring your awareness to your spine.  It is twisting, moving from one S curve to another. You may also notice at this point that your shoulders are drawing circles as they sink into each step, then rise as they relax, while your contrabody spiral is twisting your body with every step. If you are really compressing your whole body into each step, this walk will feel and look like a confident swagger.

This is about bringing awareness to your unconscious movement.

Bring your attention down to your hips as you walk. If you are truly relaxing your free hip and leg, you will find that your hips are also drawing circles as you walk.  Try bringing your awareness to just one hip for a few steps, and then switch to the other.  It may be difficult to follow all the way around.  Some parts of the circle are much easier to find. Don’t worry if it is not obvious, this is about bringing awareness to your unconscious movement. It takes practice! Once you are aware of your movements, then you can examine them, change them and use them to your advantage.

Get the feel of this entire movement as an idea, and as a feeling.

As you walk, change your awareness from one hip to the other, then to each shoulder in turn. Then let it all go and be aware of all of it at once, the circles and spirals, the ground, your relaxed leg, all moving together. Get the feel of this entire movement as an idea, and as a feeling.  Later on, or the next day, try getting back into this walk by thinking about that idea and feeling. This gives you one thing to think of instead a dozen.  Focus your awareness to each part of the movement, and then let it go and experience it as a whole again. Relax, walk, enjoy.

Play with the amount of compression and settling you give with each step, notice the differences in how it feels.  Relax into it and let become natural and light, so you can feel it, and anyone watching would only see that you have a beautiful, relaxed walk.  Notice how small all the circles become.  Your shoulders and hips are still circling, and your body is still spiraling but much smaller.  Even here in this subtle movement, if you bring your awareness to it, you will find that you feel much more stable and relaxed in your walking movement.

Additional exercises.

  • Bring your attention to the circles in one of your shoulders, slow down almost to a stop.
  1.  Reverse direction, then again,  change the location of the reversal each time.  Change shoulders and do it all again.
  2. As your shoulder goes around, become aware of how all of the other movement is connected to it, almost like a wind-up toy.
  • Bring your attention to your spine.  Notice how the tilt in your shoulders and also in your hips are connected to it.
  • Do all of this while walking backward.

Practicing this may change your everyday walk and posture for the better.

At the very least, it will improve your ability to focus on and be aware of your body’s movement, which will be a great asset when working on your dance or any other movement oriented activity.  In tango, the ability to relax into this movement will improve your stability and communication with your partner. You are communicating with your partner with your entire body, and this movement, as a whole, is what communicates your intentions. Doing this movement clearly, subtly, fast or slow, is one of the keys to dancing well.

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