“My feet can follow by head”
‘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 thinking-in-activity 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.
One foot on tip toe.
(Turns out its quite hard to photograph yourself on tiptoes!)
“My feet can follow by head”
Do you sometimes need to reach up high to something and stand on your tip toes?
Does this make you wobble, lean and feel like a strain in your calves?
I love to observe movement, in all its glorious mundaneness. I think this is my super-power. I am really curious how I, and you and others, organise our movements. What do we do, what don’t we need to do, which bit leads, do other bits follow in sequence – or are the brakes on and the movement only gets so far before it is blocked…
In my kitchen it has a sloping ceiling with a skylight and cupboards up the wall on the taller side. These cupboards are two normal cupboards stacked on top of each other. This is brilliant for me, as I am above average height. As a compromise the designer made them all relatively lower to the counter top (note: not much room for books or appliances in this gap!)
The point is, that when I need that next box of teabags, or to refill my jumbo oats container – I need to reach up high to the second row of cupboards to gain access to these dry goods. I tend to do this in the way I do most things – with my head leading the way for my torso to follow, then my feet get their turn and follow as far as they need to until I can reach the desired box.
I thought this was the usual thing. Is this you too?
If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about stand up now please and reach up and see what you notice about yourself. Which part of you leads the movement, do you stretch and strain, hold your breath, push up with your feet, raise the shoulder area before your hand. Do you float up and lean forwards? Is it easy or effortful? What do you do?
Please go and try this for yourself and take note of what you are doing.
It is fine – go and come back with your findings…
…. take your time, I can wait ….
Hello again. How did you get on? What did you notice?
It isn’t always easy to tell at first. You may notice how you did the movement in a broad way – “I reached up and got the box and brought it down”.
Great, and I want to know HOW you did this.
“I moved my right hand, went up on tiptoes and picked up the box and brought it down.”
Great! And HOW did you do that?
“I don’t know? What do you mean?”
I might ask about some or all of these:
How did you organise yourself? How did your eyes move and which part of your hand moved first. Did your hands and eyes work together? Did you push up with your feet? (Probably and yet, no so helpful). Did you lead with your head so that your whole body could follow? Did you stay central over your feet as if rising up in a lift or did you lean forwards? Did your head keep going up until your feet lengthened and only the ball of the foot was on the ground? Did you use the least amount of effort and muscular work in your whole arm limb, torso and legs to pick up the box of teabags?
There are a lot of things to be aware of, a lot of details which are available broadly speaking and to bring to our attention in more detail one or two bite sized mouthfuls at a time.
And how did you organise yourself to return to the ground?
Did you think about staying your full height and width before you moved?
Did you let your heels float down to the ground?
Many of us won’t give as much thought to our movements as I do, until something starts to hurt. I guess it is human nature. Perhaps we were subliminally taught as we grew up, not to mind so much How we did anything, but to get the right answer and get the job done ‘quickly’ so we could relax or do something ‘more interesting’.
What if, picking up the next box of tea bags from the top shelf of a cupboard is as good as it gets? What if this is Life? What if Life is made up of all sorts of mundane movements? What if these mundane movements and moments could become more shiny and valuable as each moment is full of care and possibility? We are either living well and fully in this present moment, or we are distracted, disconnected and living for the next great highlight. (Ok some people live more for yesteryear too.)
I do love a good highlights – but my bar is set quite low so I get great pleasure in a simple everyday movement done well.
Are you interested in exploring how to stop your calves aching, learning how not to be so wobbly on your feet and how to stay breathable without needing to lean on the cupboards (and incrementally drag them off the wall)? If so then, please re-read this email, have a go at honing your self-observation skills and start exploring your coordination and activity plans.