I turned on the radio this morning during breakfast and the announcer said
“Brace yourself for what could be the worst week in American history!”
And I thought, “is bracing myself going to make this week somehow better? I don’t think so! How does this guy know ahead of time that this coming week will be the worst ever? I’m not saying this is not a crisis, but what if next week is worse. Will bracing myself help then either? Not.”
Bracing causes broken bones.
What would happen if I softened myself instead?
After 14 days of fighting what was probably COVID19, I’m feeling a bit… quiet. What I had was mild, according to what I hear, but I was humbled and made vulnerable by the experience. It truly stopped me in my tracks. Am I grateful for the Alexander Technique? Yes! Did I practice Mobilignment™ in the bathtub, and in my bed? Yes! Did those things make a difference? They did to me in the moment. Scientifically I have no idea, and I don’t want to alarm you in any way by making you think that you need what I have in order to be OK. You do not.
I do know that bracing against reality is a total waste of energy. Bracing isn’t going to keep our health care workers safe, or bring the grinding hulk of greed and profiteering going on in our government and healthcare industry to a halt. All it’s going to do is stress out your already challenged delicate tissues even more.
I prefer to Mobilize and Mobilign. There is positive energy in the quiet softness of your mind and body. It is an endless resource that is always there for you. None of us as individuals can beat this thing, and no hero is going to save us with their braced puffed out chest and superhero suit. It’s going to be you, fighting like the dickens to take the best care of yourself that you can, and it’s going to be us, caring for each other, one creative moment at a time. It always was.
Have you signed up for my newsletter? If you have, it gives you a chance to engage with me and ask me questions. I make a video once a month, and this year I’m going to choose topics from the questions my readers send me. February’s question comes from Dana, a ballroom dancer in California:
“Can you please address some ways to mobilize the feet for greater range of movement? What points would be helpful to use to be able to point my toe better? I’d also love to mobilize the ball of foot so I can rise higher on my feet (demi-point).”
The video is one of my longest – 12 minutes long – and even so I only answered the first part of the question. I couldn’t fit all of my thoughts on the topic into it so I’ll say more below for those of you who have the time to read. The question raises three important issues that dancers must deal with:
Issue number 1: Limiting Ideas
You may have an idea about the limitations of your body that is too narrow, based on your past experience. I have never had one single student that didn’t have more mobility than they thought! Mobilignment™, however, proposes that making more effort may not lead to more mobility – it’s the quality and specificity of your effort that will pay off in the end. So keep your dreams alive as you read the next two issues!
Issue number 2: Over-valuation of flexibility
Valuation of flexibility (which is a variation of shape) over mobility can cause imbalance in your movement. They are both important aspects of expressivity for dancers, and there is a lovely tension between them. In many forms of dance, a high arch and a super-pointable toe are highly valued. A pointed foot creates a line that extends the leg out into space. Strong feet allow the dancer to get high up on their toes which can be used to express elation (:-) and make turning and jumping easier and more flashy. Unfortunately dancers tend to over-contract the achilles tendon and calf muscles to point their feet, and achilles tendon injuries at the back of the heal are common. So is arthritis in the big toe from over-working demi-point. Mobilignment™ proposes that we can make a shape without becoming rigid and damaging our tissues.
Issue number 3: It’s OK to have limitations
Is an external aesthetic or idea about shape more important than your body’s limitations? I find that dancers often have much more mobility than they think, especially when they learn how to keep their whole body in their awareness instead of hyper-focus on only one part. That said, we all have genetic gifts and limitations. Some of the greatest dancers in the world have limitations like flat feet, inflexible spines, and other gifts from their ancestors. It’s how they put together their body, their imagination, and the meaning of their dance that creates the magic. Shape is only one tiny part of that. If you want to increase mobility it’s a good thing, but make sure it’s in the service of your overall expressivity, ease, and fluidity. Cause that’s why dancing feels good, and that’s why people love watching you do it!
Next open online class: Sunday, March 29, 11 – 12:30 EST Go here to register.
MOBILIGNMENT TEACHER TRAINING: THE NEXT LEVEL ONE TRAINING WILL BY IN AUGUST 2020. INQUIRE FOR MORE INFORMATION!
Mobilignment™ Trainings are for movement teachers who want to take better care of themselves and teach more effectively. Mobilignment™ gives you ways to access the power of the Alexander Technique simply and quickly for use in the classroom.
The next Mobilignment™ Level 1 Training will be in August 2020. Drop me a line if you are interested.
Here are some of the things that my Mobilignment Level 1 Teachers say about the effects of Mobilignment™ on their teaching:
“My AT teaching has been SO EASY this week after the training!!!”
“My students are much more engaged in their own learning process and actively discovering things for themselves instead of me having to ‘teach’ them.”
“I feel relief at discovering what is holding me back!”
“It’s so important that I, and my students, have time to integrate our emotional responses to change.”
“It’s amazing to see myself clearly without critical judgement!”
In this gravitational universe, one way to define your “highest self” is the part of your whole body that is as high up off of the ground as it can be. It’s already there! You don’t have to do anything except enjoy it, and accept that it’s going to change the next time you move or shift weight.
I have developed a special framework for this kind of awareness in Mobilignment.™ I first experienced it in an Alexander influenced dance class. Mobilignment makes it possible to recognize when we are wasting energy pulling ourselves down – when gravity is already doing it for us. We can choose to “lighten up”, but it’s not about a forced cheerfulness. It’s a whole self kind of thing!
This week I celebrate the bright side of human adaptability. We can adapt in many ways to difficult situations. There’s enough written about that elsewhere, and I am very glad there is. But we also adapt very well to support, grace, and ease, without having to change anything about ourselves. No self improvement is needed.
The Alexander Technique gave me the experience of ease, and enough time to begin adapting to it. I’ve been heading in that direction ever since. If that’s the direction you want, this work is definitely for you. There is a certain rigor to making that choice when you are having a hard time, but all you might need is some guidance and support to get you going.