Sore feet brought me to a breakthrough in how I move. As someone said, “like a different woman.”
The epiphany began with a realization that something I was doing was probably connected with my painful foot.
I discovered that every time I think of rising on my toes, a sheath of tension slides instantly over my body. I stiffen in anticipation of pain on my injured foot. My feet tighten and my toes curl as they grip the floor. Then they push; commence to rise. Continuing to rise, they push even harder, gripping, pushing for the maximum height, holding for balance while I (try) and smile up on top.
Rising on toes, suddenly feeling my neck stiffen. I sense my back tightening and holding on. The feeling continues pulling down my spine. I hold out against pain in my feet, willing myself to stay longer and longer up on my toes.
It is not even dancing, this is an exercise: stay up, up, UP on toes, lower my arms while remaining high, then raise the arms and only then, only at last, lower.
Without realizing it, I’ve been training myself to use tension to move. After awhile that particular level of tension has come to be my “right sense” of the way it “should” feel to rise up on my toes. I know I’m doing it right if it feels this way.
Now I’m faced with a critical need to change my pattern, but it is deeply ingrained!
In the last week or two, I discovered this same sheath of tension gripping my entire body in Waltz. Actually it’s also in Foxtrot and probably safe to say, in everything I do. The same pattern shows up everywhere, to varying degrees.
I’m aware of it and I know it’s something unhelpful but it keeps coming in.
It’s so ingrained, just with the thought of moving triggers it. I’m just standing there, tensing up.
It is so much a part of me it feels like who I am.
I move the way I move because that is how I am. We “feel like ourselves” because we move and look and do things the way that has become characteristic for ourselves.
And given the way I tighten up in order to rise, the way my neck tenses and my feet tense up and push, I think it’s fair to say, I tense, therefore I am.
That is so important, I’m going to say it again:
I tense, therefore I am.
There’s a certain level of tension that I’ve come to associate with moving and rising on my feet. It’s “normal” for me, although clearly, my feet are complaining.
Even though it’s clear this is connected with working my poor feet too hard, even though I don’t want to do it, it is trained into me by years and years of being a good girl, doing exercises and drills so I can be a good dancer.
Moving this way feels normal to me. It may not be efficient and certainly since I’m hurting my foot, it’s far from optimal, but it does feel usual.
As an AT teacher I know that’s what we do; we move the way we get used to moving, by habit. This habit is biting me back, limiting my progress, limiting my movement.
Worse, it even feels right. It feels like who I am.
Intellectually, I know that if the way I move feels normal but causes injury, it must be wrong. If my feet hurt I cannot dance, but that level of tension feels like me.
All I want is happy feet and to dance well. I want to look beautiful on the floor and move well. I don’t really care if it’s a bit of work, I want to look good and move better on the floor.
But I want to dance and I am willing to change to do it.
It will probably be weird, against what feels normal and that is counter intuitive.
Until it’s the new habit, and then moving better will feel normal because I’m used to it. In fact it will probably feel fabulous because I’ll move more efficiently, my body will be freer and I’ll achieve higher results.
How can I undo this unhappy pattern as fast and as easily as possible?
My teacher gave me input but I am the one who has to implement it and that means changing how I move.
I challenged myself to apply Alexander’s discoveries about changing habits to my own self in Dance. It’s easier with a teacher, but I am the AT teacher dancing by my side. I will have to to guide myself. My feet need this Now.
I’m supercharging my attention on my body as an AT teacher and dancer, together.
- Determination and willpower.
- Determination to stop doing what’s wrong and to persist in coaxing my body past fear and into freedom, moving differently.
- Willing myself to do the right thing even if it feels wrong.
And not tensing up in the process.
A dance friend told me that just the thought of performance causes tension in her body. My thoughts of rising up on toes cause my body to tense up.
Habits of mind cause body reactions.
That’s where AT is my powerful ally. Today in my car, driving home, I realized that when I release my neck in the AT way, my mind relaxes, too.
Control of the mind through the body and the body via the mind.
I experimented on myself. Releasing my neck in an AT way, which of course allowed my head to float slightly upward and my neck to lengthen. My neck extended and my head was poised rather than back weighted. I felt my whole system relax yet I was upright. Mind quiet. Feet under me. Balanced. Relaxed.
Turning down the dial on tension
Adjusting my senses to enjoy a body that moves with ease,
Powerful and smooth.
Breathing, calming myself, releasing my neck and also, my feet.
Releasing my hips, knees and ankles and at the same time my body poised upwards, more and more, over and over. It was like a little bit scary at first, but then it felt like flying. Moment by moment, working but not tight. Animal and aware.
Dancing again, partially to test myself: Is this repeatable?
Foxtrot. Waltz. Moving freely and without pain. Feet? I noticed them as I moved across the floor. No pain. And the real test, a few hours later, they still don’t hurt; there’s no delayed reaction.
Something is working.
There was a magical sense of flow, I noticed my knees and ankles releasing, my hips felt like….like nothing…there was just me, noticing myself moving as a whole.
Something shifted and movement flowed.
I can feel it even now, hours later. Noticing how my now-quiet mind was also better able to control my body yet let it move freely across the floor. I have a road ahead of me and I can’t wait to dance again.
I dance therefore I am.
I am, therefore I dance.
I love teaching these skills to dancers. Making sure they have adequate freedom in the body to move effectively. Longer necks and beautiful poise of the head. Posture that goes upward even as legs release. Releasing tension to move efficiently and look beautiful. Finding their spine. Finding hips. Moving the head through space. Fluidity in movement. Solving dance problems by unlocking stuck places in the body. Releasing body tension to expand into dynamic, elegant lines. Calming the nervous system. All my passion.
Please click here to join the blog and get advance notice of events. The first class in January will be free – stay tuned!