This is a common question from students in an Awareness Through Movement class.
Yes and no.
Let’s take the “No” part first:
A common tendency when doing a movement practice at home is to focus primarily on the movements we did in class, recalling and attempting to repeat the exact movements or re-enact the order of the movements in a sequence. Please remember:
- We are not stretching or strengthening muscles.
- We are not trying to “learn” a movement in order to do it exactly the “right” or the “same” way each time.
- Rarely, if ever, are we in two situations that are exactly same, with the same degree of physical coordination and flexibility, mental alertness, and emotional attitude. That’s not how life is.
We want our movements to fit well with our intention in that particular moment.
Instead (and this is the “yes” part):
Focus on how you do the movement and explore variations, pausing between each repetition — no two the same.
Recall one movement aspect from an ATM class and do it slowly several times, noticing different aspects each time:
- What parts of you move, what parts don’t.
- How your weight shifts on the floor. Or does it? Where do you contact the ground more? Less?
- How smoothly do you move. Are there jumpy places in the sequence?
- Are you breathing easily? Or holding your breath?
Now purposely, do something slightly different:
- Let your head and eyes participate. Or stay still. Or move opposite one another.
- Hold your breath as you move. Inhale with the movement. Exhale with it.
- Explore a slightly different path. For instance, if you’re lifting your head with interlaced hands, direct your R elbow toward your L knee, or your L elbow to your R knee instead of each elbow to the corresponding knee.
- Find a way of limiting the movement in the easy-to-move part of yourself (like perhaps your neck) and explore movement somewhere else (like the middle back and ribs).
- See if you could do that movement or something similar in another position: stand instead of sit, lie on your side instead of your back. Notice differences in how you use yourself, how the position affects the experience.
Be curious. Pursue the differences you find or try out other explorations. These are just places to start.
THAT’s what the work is about – paying attention.
Our attention to detailed sensations stimulates our brain and nervous system and enhances learning. It’s brain plasticity in action! Ultimately we are adding to the repertoire of our actions so that our body-mind can find the “right” movement for the situation because it’s in the file-drawer, so to speak.
By the way, you can use this attentive exploration in your daily activities, not just drawing from an ATM lesson.
And guess what? You don’t even always have to get on the floor! Or even actually do the movement!
Try recalling a little snippet of a lesson, a piece that intrigued you, or surprised you, or felt easy. Visualize it. Imagine it. Mentally introduce some variations. Before you fall asleep is a good time to do this.
You can check out an article about visualizing and imagining HERE.
In the meantime, let me know if some of these “practice” ideas help you or if you have further questions.