By Diana Bailey
A Simple Coordination Exercise to Enhance Postural Balance
People fall forward into space primarily because forward is the direction of habit. Studio experience reveals that most of us have very little idea how to communicate with muscles to change our own habits of motion. Posture, balance, and coordination all suffer from inefficient, repetitive usage and poor alignment. The result is often painful, and even damaging to the places that allow movement: the joints. Knee, hip, back, and shoulder surgeries have become common at a much earlier life stage.
Walking postural alignment can be more easily understood and naturally improved if the focus is to reverse the motion. When forwards equals backwards, you own it.
Try this simple exercise:
• Walk five steps forward and five steps backward.
• Repeat it for about 3 minutes.
The only goal, especially in the beginning, is to do it until there is no perceptible shift forward or backward in the spine or the head when the direction changes. Walking backwards helps the body to remember hip extension, and spinal length; that means people can easily and accurately stand up taller when they walk backward. Over time, this exercise calls attention, via cueing from the teacher or a partner, to the depth and ease of the breath, the placement of the feet, the swing (or immobility) of the arms, the movement of the shoulder blades, and finally, the carriage of the head.
How does it accomplish all that? The exercise invites the brain to compare sensations to direct the learning. This is the simple rule of the mind to foster the connection necessary for the development of coordination. The part of the brain that develops physical dexterity does not learn from words alone. It learns from comparing sensation and accurate directions (brain bridges) about the sensations, rather than external judgments or corrections that often fail to center attention on the feel of the body in motion.
The role of the teacher is to engage and inspire the student to investigate this aspect of equal and opposite as it applies to their body. This develops remarkably precise individual self-correction by connecting personal awareness to physical sensation. Demonstration to inspire or create a working example is useful so long as the mindset remains on individual improvements and abilities.
Effective teaching of balance and coordination shapes the thoughts to focus inside, and learn from what is felt. The application to life is graceful self-carriage evidenced by the ability to accurately respond in the transition from one physical challenge to another.