…not just any horse, the dressage horse. Doesn’t everyone have one?
What do I see when watching this beautiful animal in motion? A noble head held above a responsive, powerful body. A light, precise motion as the feet dance through their intricate stride patterns. At times, it is almost as if it were floating on air…controlled yet effortless efficiency, picture perfect.
It had been a long time since I had run. Limbs felt heavy and laden. But, I had just returned from a four day course with Joanne Elphinston in London and was excited to approach this first run in a philosophical way. It was going to be all about feeling it- cultivating the dialogue between brain and body and exploring the sensory experience of foot to ground, spine floating atop the pelvis, the sense of buoyancy in the body as it moves through space…
Before embarking on a run, find a quiet place to focus on setting up a few simple practises:
The “Listening Foot”
It starts with the foot and the relationship that it has with the ground and there needs to be a springiness to the knees. Gently bouncing up and down and keeping in contact with the floor helps to find that “spring” in the knees. Allow the feet to soften, feel them supporting your weight, notice where in the feet your balance is maintained: centre, front, back. The centre of gravity should be falling through the pelvis and into the centre of each foot. Keep it soft.
Attach your large, imaginary helium balloon to the top of your head – towards the back of the crown. Give it a colour – this is important, so that you may easily visualise it. As you practice your bounce, allow it to float skywards… affording elastic length, decompressing your spine so that it allows space to grow in between each vertebra. Feel light and buoyant, and very springy! Your balloon will sustain your carriage, lifting you up when tiredness creeps in.
Come to standing now, and open the front of the ankles by lifting one heel and balancing on the balls of the feet. As you slowly replace the heel to the ground begin to lift the other. Continue, slowly and with controlled precise movements, pausing to balance in between heel lifts. Aim to retain soft, springy knees. These movements warm up the ankle and knee joints for responding to uneven terrain.
Roll with the terrain
Start with a light jog – float your balloon, and notice your foot contact with the floor – notice how your body responds to the unseen hollows in the thick grass or the hardness of the concrete. It should roll lightly with the terrain, absorbing any spontaneous pertubations. Massage the floor with the foot, from heel to toe. Maintain the spring in the knees, keeping it light.
Relax your shoulders
Breathe naturally and relax the shoulders, letting them land softly onto your trunk. Aim to keep them softly “docked” throughout. If tension should creep in, float your balloon higher and feel the weight of your head lifting from your neck and shoulders. The hands are soft.
Rotation and elastic support
Almost at a trot now, notice your pelvis rotating one way as a foot comes forward and then the other way as the hip extends. Remember that the spine can only be where the pelvis places it. The pelvis is rather like a tray – supporting and carrying the spine. Intentionally place your floating trunk onto your hip joint, feeling the support that it gives. Your centre of gravity needs to fall through your hips, straight to the ground.
There needs to be a delicious counter rotation between the upper and lower body – the shoulders rotate in one direction and the pelvis in the other. This rotation creates elastic support, rather like a coiled spring. When the body rotates around this axis (the lengthened spine), the stored energy/muscle force, is shared across a large surface area, (the thoracolumbar fascia), before being released and funnelled out through the opposite shoulder above and the opposite foot below. This is efficiency at its finest – and makes for a blissful movement experience.
Balance Synchronicity Buoyancy Flow Efficiency Expansiveness Curiosity Bliss…
Run for the love of it!
Please visit http://www.jemsmovement.com/ for more information about Joanne Elphinston and the inspiring work that she does in the cause for beautiful movement for everyone.