Lesson of the Month #13 (revised 11/99)

For safety and best results, read instructions before doing lessons!

Standing, Centering

This is about alignment in gravity. How do we carry ourselves over our feet, in dynamic alignment with gravity, with minimal effort and maximum comfort?

Works with:
This really works with the entire body, building ourselves in gravity from the ground upward. In particular, though, the lesson works with flexibility and softness in the ankles, mobility and stability of the pelvis, supple alignment of the spine, and easy carriage of the head.

1. Begin by standing. Just stand. What is that like for you? What do you do with your arms? What parts of you feel relaxed, and which parts are tense? Do you feel balanced? Supported? How's your emotional state?...what kinds of feelings, moods, or attitudes go with this way of standing? Remember what this feels like, and notice what feels different at the end of the lesson.

2. Notice your feet...notice any tension in your feet...now place your feet parallel to each other, about shoulder width apart...imagine your body is a tall stack of blocks, hinged at your ankles, blocks for feet, lower and upper legs, pelvis, chest, shoulders, neck and head...Repeat many times a little movement of rocking your weight a little forward, toward your toes, and back, toward your heels...how evenly is the weight distributed between the feet?...how smoothly can you make the pressure of your weight move forward and back across the soles..?... the top of your head traces an arc in space, as does every other part of you above your feet...repeat it many times, just a small, quiet movement, and then rest.

3. Continue as in #3, and this time as you rock, bring awareness to your ankle bones, which protrude on either side of each ankle...which are easier to feel, insides or outsides..?...Notice that the ankle bones slide a little forward and back with the rocking...do it many times...then bring your awareness to your knees, and feel your knees, front, back, and sides, moving back and forth in space as you rock...feel the front, back, and sides of the knees moving in space...somehow your front gets longer as you lean back, and syour back gets longer as you lean forward...stop the movement and rest.

4. Continue the rocking movement, now bringing your awareness to your pelvis moving in space...feel its width and depth, a volume moving forward and back...place one hand on your pubic bone, and one hand near your tailbone, and continue, feeling the space between your hands moving in space...your head traces a similar, but larger arc in space at the same time... like a stack of boxes piled on one another, the parts of your body seek ways to support each other while you move...gradually make the movement a little larger...at some point it feels natural to lift your heels on the floor and come up onto the balls of your feet, feeling taller...and then rock back down...when your balance is right, coming up onto your toes takes virtually no effort...and let it go and rest.

5. Same movement, but now move your hands up near your heart, one in front, and one in back, and continue rocking forward and back...Can you do it so you feel taller as you lean either forward or back?...do it a number of times...as the movement gets larger repeat the movement of coming up onto your toes...you effortlessly lift your heart toward the heavens...and then rock your heels back down...and let your arms hang down and rest for a moment...then, shift your awareness to your head moving in space...feel your hairline above your forehead moving...imagine you have one horn curving up from there, and imagine the point moving in space...repeat it many times, and then come to rest. Close your eyes and notice if anything has changed in your standing.

6. Open your eyes, and move your feet fairly close together. Now rock a little from side to side, feeling the weight shift across your feet...how smoothly can you slide the weight from mostly on one foot to mostly on the other?...the top of your head traces an arc in space from right to left...Sequentially, with many repetitions at each point, bring awareness to your knees moving...your pelvis moving, with weight shifting first through one hip joint, and then the other...imagine your pubic bone carrying your weight right and left...your heart moves over one foot and then the other...your head moves over one foot and then the other...and let it go and rest. Walk around softly and see what is changing.

7. Same as #6, rocking a little side to side...and gently begin to change the movement so your body turns a little left as you shift left, and right as you shift right...let your head and eyes go along...our weight rolls onto the outside edge of the right foot and inside edge of the left foot as you turn right, and onto the outside edge of the left foot and inside edge of the right foot as you turn left...let your ankles be flexible...let your arms move freely, and look over the shoulder you turn toward...do it a number of times...and then change it, so you bend your knees on each side, and straighten in the middle...you begin the movement of turning back to the center by pushing the foot on the side you are facing into the floor... you straighten through the middle, and then bend the knees again at the other side...go back and forth like that many times...and let it go and rest.

8. Same as #7, moving from side to side, but now hold your forearms parallel to the floor, elbows bent, as if holding ski poles...bend the knees a little at the sides, then straighten the legs and turn to the other side, and bend the knees there...you feel the groundedness of the foot add strength to the lifting and turning movement...repeat it many times...then take your hands from your ribs, and hold them out in front of your body as if you were holding a big balloon, and explore the movement like this, lifting the balloon in front of your face in the middle, lowering it to your waist as you turn to each side and bend the knees....and stop and rest.

9. Same as #8, but now bend your knees in the middle, and straighten at the sides...you shift your weight right and left while you turn your body right and left...what do your head and eyes do...? explore the possibilities of having your head and eyes go with your shoulders and hips several times...and then opposite a few times...then hold your head and eyes in the middle, looking forward while you turn the body from side to side and bend the knees as before...then, again holding an imaginary balloon, lift the balloon up to each side, and lower it in the middle...as you turn and lift to each side, you could let the opposite heel lift from the floor...and gradually let go of the balloon idea, and reach up and to the right with the left hand as you turn right, and up and to the left with the right hand as you turn left...finally, again do it as in #8, with the knees bending at the sides again, and the head turning opposite the movement...and let it go and rest.

10. Place your left foot a small step forward, and leave it there...and rock your weight a little forward to stand on the left foot, and back to stand on the right...do it many times, feeling how your weight shifts across each foot and from one foot to the other...avoid bending forward as you move forward, but rather lift your left hand forward and up each time, following it with your head and eyes, as if starting to reach up to, say, hail a cab, or wave...let it go and rest.

11. Repeat #10 on the other side.

12. Stand with feet parallel six inches or so apart...rock a little forward and back several times, feeling how smoothly your weight moves now...and right to left. several times...and clockwise in a circle...and counterclockwise in a circle...your ankles, knees, hips, chest, and head all trace out similar circles...and rest.

13. Step the left foot forward as in #10, and move forward and back...right and left...clockwise in a circle...counterclockwise in a circle...rest.

13. Step the right foot forward and repeat #13 on this side...

14. Just stand as in the beginning of the lesson. Notice different qulities to your standing. Walk around and feel the differences over the next few days.