“I am free to let my knees gently fold”
‘People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures’, said FM Alexander.
Information and knowledge are useful. Putting these into action is even more useful. Committing to doing this action one, three, or ten times a day – then you’ll really start to notice the benefits.
As many of you know, one of Alexander’s major discoveries about us mammals is that the relationship between the head and spine govern the coordination of the rest of us. Yes – all of us! Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – we don’t separate – its all one thing – our Self.
Litter picking as a form of mindfulness and being stretchy and bendy
“I am free to let my knees gently fold”
One thing I’m very conscious about as I go about my daily walk, is the amount of litter on the ground.
Observation is my super power.
I notice A Lot Of Things.
So I can’t help but notice drinks cans, crisp packets, cigarette packets, but mostly – do you know what I find most of all?
Little black rubbish bags with squidgy things in them, or empty little black rubbish bags ground into the dirt.
The other day I went out and within an hour I had collected over 30 such bags!!
So dear dog walkers, when you bend to do your yoga poses of Picking Up After Your Dog, please take care of The Other Bag, also known as The Spare Bag as it seems a lot of these get left behind, never to be used again.
I am truly puzzled to understand how people, having bent down to tidy up after their dog, don’t then take the bag with them to a bin, or back home. I guess we can all get distracted sometimes, yet the numbers of such squidgy bags really astonishes me.
Am I digressing? Not really. I’m interested in staying present with the task in hand. I’m interested in how we can look after our whole-self whilst we do a specific job, how we can use our joints as they are meant to be used. And I’m interested to note that if we mis-manage ourselves which primarily includes our attention and awareness, then we will affect the way we function and move.
This was one of Alexander’s discoveries – that the way we use ourselves, affects the way we function.
If we don’t let our knees gently fold when we bend down to the ground, to pick something up, or do up a shoe lace, then we may be mis-using the knee joint, hip and ankle joints. If we hold our breath when getting down to the floor, or back up again – we are mis-using our breathing mechanism and starving ourselves of vital oxygen for the journey. I know its not far, but still, if we stop breathing whenever we bend down, sit down, stand up, reach up, pick something up, do the washing up, concentrate, try, make the beds or do the vacuuming – that is a lot of breath-holding and stopping ourselves getting the air we need.
Being mindful of how you are ‘not stopping’ your knees from bending is a skill to muster and delight in. Are you already attending to this? Do you know if you let your knees fold when you do the washing up or load the dishwasher?
Thinking back to when I was a young child, and how easily and naturally I would fold into a squat if I wanted to get closer to the ground, somewhere along the line I have learned Not to Squat. I have inadvertently learned to stiffen my legs. I have learned to brace my legs. I have learned to round my back. I have learned to grip with my toes. I have learned to hold my breath…
I can’t remember signing up for this class. I don’t remember anyone suggesting these would be good things to practice. Did you get taught to do these things?
We learn by imitation. We copy those around us.
So if we grew up with people, who grew up with people, who grew up with people who hold their breath when concentrating – the chances are we will too. If our family members brace their legs and even grunt when rounding their back to almost bend far enough to pick something up from the floor – then do a last minute breath-holding dive… the chances are, we will too.
None of this is about blame or criticism.
It is about observing some truth about ourselves, and how habits can be formed. And of course, how they can be transformed!!
We can easily acquire habits patterns of movement, without knowing it, without meaning to, without wanting to – and yet moving in these ways day after day, we literally shape our bodies.
When I look at certain old people, I can almost imagine some of the patterns of movement they have become experts in over the years. I can imagine the hours they spent at a particular task for work, family or a hobby. Our habits create our personality.
When I am older I want to have supple legs, easy joints which bend and fold gently. I’ve been practising this for some time, and hope to pave the way to a better future for myself and you all. One bend at a time.
Next time you need to reach down to pick something up – some litter in the park, a bag off the floor, a shoe for your foot – stop and think which way you’d like to point – towards bracing or towards gently folding? Towards fluidity and breath flowing ….?
I help people retrain themselves. I am a Teacher. Do you want to learn to look after your knees better? Do you want to take care of your breathing?
Alexander has a particular set of instructions about these movements – which don’t interfere with the natural course of movement. We can learn to firstly stop the interference. We can learn to point in the overall direction for all of us. We can learn the right sequence and order to move more fluidly. We can learn to make conscious choices about all these very mundane movements – for our good health.
Life is made up of thousands of little choices – if we skid past them and decide not to bother now, we miss a chance to re-direct ourselves towards the kind of future we want for ourselves. Don’t look too far ahead, just look to doing this movement well, the longer term future will follow.
Habits can be changed, and first we start with changing our thinking. First through education and understanding, then through a guided practice to a better overall systemic thinking, then practising the principles, not the movements.