Maintain Your Own Alignment
I have created this movement sequence based on my experience with Aikido, Qi Gong, bodywork stretching, and over twenty years of being a bodywork practitioner. I am sharing this information in order to assist you on your journey towards health, and your ability to be fully alive and present. My intention is to help you physically experience such ideas as grounding, centering, organizing, opening, expanding and creating space in yourself, not to mention improve your strength and range of motion! The world in which we were raised promoted left-brain thinking: doing very well academically, becoming skilled working with data and deadlines. Now it is time to pause, take a breath, and see what we have created. Often we pause to notice that we have become very skilled, even masterful, at mind-oriented living, but have left our bodies and spirits behind.
Some simple guidelines for this movement meditation:
Please use common sense, and consult your healthcare practitioner, if you have any concerns about starting to move your body, or using the movements presented in this video. The movements are not intended to replace care from a qualified healthcare professional.
Pace: please feel free to go more slowly than I do on the video. Pause playback as often as you wish, to repeat segments, or add your own improvisation.
Less is more, especially when working with an area that has been in pain or tight. Do not move into pain, stop at the boundary before pain. This way your body will begin to trust you, and open itself. You will find that your range of motion increases with each repetition, and each day, if you move regularly and treat your body with care and respect.
Due to heritage or body history, our bodies have formed differently. If you find any movement painful, or very difficult, please adapt what I do in the video to fit your situation.
When you are looking to transform an area (as opposed to warming it up) use a position either for two seconds, with many repetitions, or over forty seconds. When you are opening up a part of your body - soft tissue, muscle, fascia, tendon, etc - your body will begin to trust you, and open up and change, if you use gentle repetitive motions, or longer holding.
As you do the movements in this sequence, when you are ready, become aware of your breathing. Your breath is a powerful tool that you can use when moving. As you focus on the movement and your breathing, the mind quiets. Try inhaling while moving one direction, exhaling the other.
You may find yourself in a meditative state, moving mindfully, not thinking for several minutes at a time. This is such a valuable way to recalibrate your autonomic nervous system.
I have found some version of these movements helpful for every body: old, young, athletic, sedentary, recovering, hearty, male, female, pregnant, menopausal, large, small, omnivore, vegetarian, overweight, thriving, fluid, cranky or creaky.
Sound: Once you have heard and understood my instructions, please turn down the sound on the DVD. Feel free to play your own music, use a sound machine, or enjoy the silence.
Time and Discipline: There is a difference between the ideas of "the time I have" and "the time I create." If you find that you never have time to pay attention to your body, create the time.
Make a decision to practice at a rate that feels doable: once a day, or five times a week... If you have other self-care routines, The Sequence can be also be used less frequently. You will receive the benefits of regular practices only if you take the time to do them!
As you learn to do the Sequence for yourself, you can adapt it to the time available. If you have less time, choose to do fewer repetitions of a movement. Other days take the time to do the entire sequence in an expanded way.
Treat yourself as if you have rechargeable batteries in your body. How often do your batteries get depleted? What does it take for you to recharge? Please use this Sequence as one way to recharge yourself.
Once you make the decision to create a practice for yourself, your internal magnetics begin to shift, which can change everything in your life.
"The pleasure of self-discipline", and "the self-discipline of pleasure:" these have been themes of mine for years. You will benefit most if you would also explore maintaining your alignment in a disciplined way, using this Sequence on a regular basis.
Space: These are movements that you can practice anywhere. Wherever you go, there you are: your body comes with you. For example, if you are waiting in line, you can subtly move through some of the head and neck movements. If you are watching your children at a playground, you can explore some of these movements. If you are waiting for something at work... you understand what I mean.
On the other hand, you can also set the scene for maintaining the temple of your body/your Self: devote a clean and clear space and time to this practice, and cleanse and clear your mind while moving. If you create a space at home, indoors or out, your Self will benefit from the respect that you show it. If that space is beautiful, and you feel pride and contentment, even joy, when you enter it, your health will benefit. There's a vibrational, or energetic, benefit that you will receive when you claim your own space and time, and use it regularly.
I have found that I need a space of at least four feet by six feet to practice comfortably (turning sideways for some movements if there is limited space).
Stance and Alignment: Due to heritage or body history, our bodies have formed differently. I am describing general guidelines here. If you find they don't apply to you, or are painful, please adapt what I am saying to fit your situation.
When you begin, stand with your toes forward, feet about hip width apart, each kneecap forward approximately over your second toe. Start by noticing the feet and legs. This will draw your attention into your body, away from recurring thoughts and your to-do list, beginning the process of "grounding." Feel the width and length of your feet. How much of your foot can you feel? Soften your knees, so you are not standing with your thighs locked tight. Soften your glutes (buttocks). Notice the bowl of your pelvis, is it tipped forward or back? Many people have it tipped forward, shortening the low back. If it is tipped forward, as in spilling out the contents, imagine attaching two small helium balloons, right and left, to the inside of the front of the pelvic bowl, bringing it up slightly, and into balance front to back. This is meant to be done subtly, not with great muscular strain. Subtly lift your breast bone/sternum with another small helium balloon.
Notice your spine, how it comes up the center of your body, arising out of your pelvic bowl. Your skull is right at the top. Soften the place where your spine meets your skull. Imagine another small helium balloon attached to the center of the top of your head. This pulls you up slightly, elongating your spine. Notice how tall you can possibly be, without straining. Feel that you can be aware of this lightness that pulls your whole body up, and yet at the same time soften your shoulders. Let your shoulders, arms and hands relax, or be heavy. I wonder if you can be this tall, and maintain awareness of your feet, being grounded.
Notice that the points I am mentioning have to do with a slight lift, elongation, ease and softening, or mindfulness, but not straining at all. This is a much different postural awareness than ones with which you might have been raised, where "good posture" may have been incredibly rigid.
Shock and Trauma: If you have experienced shocks, traumas, injuries, or accidents - then you may be experiencing any variety of symptoms. In my understanding, this is caused by the resulting nervous system dysregulation. You may be able to ameliorate or even erase your symptoms with attention to rebalancing your nervous system. You can do this through a steady course of such practices as slow, regulating movement, bodywork and various trauma therapies with a well-trained practitioner...
If you find that your body will not unlock with regular attention, such as the movements presented in this DVD, you may want to visit a practitioner with experience working with trauma. Therapies such as Somatic Experiencing (practiced by a variety of healthcare professionals -- bodyworkers, acupuncturists, psychotherapists, etc), Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, and Birth Process work are an antidote to shock and trauma left in the nervous system due to accidents, injuries and illnesses.
Please be sure to trust the therapist you are seeing. You want to find someone who is skilled, well-trained, present, sensitive... as well as who does their own personal growth work. Optimally you would want to work with someone who feels good to you energetically, so that through energetic resonance and entrainment, you can begin to heal by simply being in their presence.
Working with Children: If you are a parent, and interested in sharing these movements with your child or children, my opinion is that the very first way would be through modeling. Work with your own body and central nervous system speed and compression first. As an adult, you are modeling for your child how to Be in the world, which includes how to Be in a body. Especially during pregnancy and the first three years, the child's deepest default settings are programmed into their nervous systems. This is strongly influenced by their primary caregivers' level of stress, and ability to be present and embodied. Once you practice these movements regularly, you may find your children exploring their range of motion, and copying movements you have made. This is how young children process life - through mimicking what we do.
Conclusion: I love that you are interested in finding more freedom in your Self, in your body, and are using this Alignment Sequence to assist you on that journey. I hope that it will be useful!
I am grateful to the following people for having influenced the development of how I work in my bodywork practice, how I parent, and also live my life:
-- Somatic Experiencing instructors and practitioners: Peter Levine, Kathy Kain, Steven Terrell (Touch Skills Training), Berns Galloway, Larry Heller (also for the Neuro-Affective Regulation Model), Maggie Kline, Nancy Napier, Raja Selvam, Diane Poole Heller, Alaine Duncan;
-- Jill and David Biller: Massage as a Medical Intervention and Active Isolated Stretching;
-- the teachers at Potomac Massage Training Institute in the mid-1990's;
-- Kate Jordan: Pregnancy for the Childbearing Year; Maria Matthias: Infant Massage;
-- Aleksandrs Pāriņš, Olģerts Kutcers, Juris Klaviņš, Daumants Kalniņš, Janīna Kursīte: traditional Latvian silversmithing, folklore and cosmology;
-- Monica Corrado: Nourishing Traditional food and cooking;
-- Julie Henderson: Zapchen Somatics;
-- Mitsugi Saotome sensei and morning class teachers at Aikido Schools of Ueshiba;
-- Jeff Primack, Qi Gong; Chan Zhang: Dance of the Rising Phoenix Qi Gong;
-- Helen Viksnins, for insightful technical support;
-- my family, for unconditional love and encouragement;
-- staff and participants at the annual 3X3 Catskills Latvian camp;
-- and the teachers at the local Waldorf/Steiner schools.
-- I also thank the students with whom I have practiced this movement sequence, and the clients with whom I have been privileged to work. Thank you for encouraging me to create this project, so you would have this tool to use at home.