This week I attending The London Embodiment Circle, a group of different practitioners who work with the body through yoga, dance, martial arts, therapy and many other disciplines.
After an opening check in and meditation warm up, we progressed to the main session which this month was on an embodied approach to conscious movement.
Irene Cena led the session; she is a registered Body-Mind Centering® practitioner and Somatic movement educator.
“Organs, they keep us alive, they are our interface with the outer world, as we breath eat, digest, escrete. Can you feel your heart, your gut, your kidneys? What are they telling you? Do you feel their support?
The state of our organs affects our posture and movement. Ease and balance in our organs supports our vitality and comfort.
In this class we will learn to feel our organs and relate to them, through guided movement, breathing, partnering exercises and voice.
This work is based in Body-Mind Centering®, a somatic approach to movement.”Irene Cena
Irene started the session by asking what we thought about “organs”. Answers included medical anatomy, physical illness and Greek humors. Irene shared this quote from Bonnie, the founder of the Body-Mind Centering ® approach.
“I see the body as being like sand. It’s difficult to study the wind, but if you watch the way sand patterns form and disappear and re-emerge, then you can follow the pattern of the wind or, in this case, the mind.”Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, ‘Sensing, feeling and action: the experiencial Anatomy of Body-Mind Centering ® ‘, Contact Editions, Northampton,MA, second edition 2008. Page 11
Experience of movement
Growth of embryo
Irene spoke about how we start life as embryos with a ball in front of us and a ball behind us. That front ball eventually becomes our whole digestive system from mouth to rear and the back ball develops into our nerves and spine. She invited us to imagine we were holding a large ball in front of us which contained all of our organs and that there was another ball behind us offering support. How could we move with these two balls.
Irene invited us focus on our abdomen as we did some free movements. Could we transition between stretching it and compressing it with the movement? Could we notice how that felt for our organs. Could we change the speed of the motion? Could we experiment with how it felt to rock or shake or glide or roll.
Irene gave us each a water balloon, which was inflated to roughly the size of a human organ, and invited us to imagine it was one of our organs; feeling the weight, noticing how the shape changed when it was handled or positioned it in different orientations. We brought our “organs” together and noticed how they changed when stacked on top of one another and how they rolled over each other.
Transforming this exploration back into our bodies, we were invited to use our bodies as a group to explore how the organs fill up available space and move around each other with some give and some resistance but moving freely.
We considered that sometimes organs can get stuck together or have restricted movement and we experimented with how this affected our group movement. Spending long periods of time stationary at a desk is not good for our organs health and flexibility; the water balloon at the bottom of the stack can get quite deformed and stagnant.
Working in threes, we then helped each other to expand our abdomens, one person stood and breathed with some fluid movements and the other two offered therapeutic touch to encourage the rib cage to expand and contract on one side. After a few minutes the trio stopped so the person could briefly compare the body sensation of each side before then moving to the other side to even things out.
As the body so the mind
I really liked the way that this approach invited us to focus on something external to represent our organs (the imaginary ball and the actual water balloons) before progressing to a physical exploration of our own bodies and then the way our bodies can connect with others.
The progression from abstract to personal to relational reminded me of a quote from Ann Halprin:
‘Movement then becomes the metaphor for our way of living our life stories’Halprin, D. (2002). The Expressive Body in Life, Art and Therapy Working with Movement, Metaphor and Meaning. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd. Page 18
Irene spoke about stuck bodies becoming stagnant but I think often it is not just our limbs which can freeze up or become stiff, it is also our relationships with others. When relating to others do we feel pressurised and squashed at the bottom, pushed into things which are uncomfortable and restricting? Or perhaps we feel encouraged to expand and take up our own space with the support of others?
Our limbs need lots of movement for optimum health, but our relationships can also benefit from movement: being playful, creative and finding the balance between resistance and flow.
Body-Mind Centering® is a registered trademark of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, used with permission.