After all the feasting and celebrating that comes with the holidays surrounding the Winter Solstice, we all tend to make a resolution to ‘get in shape’ with the new year. Many head to the Gym for a new routine and are surprised that within 3 months they have fallen right back into their same old patterns asking why can’t I stay with a program?
Our bodies are the home to our souls. As we age, it is crucial to keep where we live in good condition. It is important to recognize that true health and fitness lies in the ability to recognize and accept our own genetic make-up, to be with who we are today, and to work with our range of abilities and realistic possibilities. It must also be pleasurable.
Becoming aware of our abilities and possibilities for movement and enjoying what we do, is key to a successful fitness program. Embracing who and where we are is important so we can embody your ongoing journey to greater health. Physical health supports mental and emotional health. Being present to our Physical sensations as we move – eliminates the need for ‘counting’ repetitions, which often puts us on automatic pilot, taking our body out for a walk which can lead to injury due to unawareness.
Space: the Hidden Aspect of Movement
Our three dimensions are the Vertical (our up downness: our length, which relates to the force of Gravity), the Horizontal (our side sidedness, our width), and the Sagittal, our front and backness, our depth). Moving bony landmarks with clear spatial intent creates a dynamic relationship with Space.
If I only move dimensionally, I have limited rotation. I tend to poke or spoke my limbs through space or I may use a flattened arc like action. My range of movement is not so exciting. Climbing stairs, walking, running, jumping up and down.
When we expand our dimensions into planes, we expand our movement possibility from 1 to 2 spatial pulls. Each of the three Planes shares a spatial pull with one another. What I find cool, is that the dimension that is not shared by a plane, is its axis of rotation. So the three spatial elements are always present.
Planes are flat surfaces that have unequal spatial pulls. The name of the plane tells you what the strongest spatial pull is. So the Vertical plane has up/down as its primary pull, and side/side is its secondary pull. I can laterally flex my spine, creating a feeling of concavity on one side of my body and convexity to the other side of my body. I can add and abduct my limbs in this plane. So I can do jumping jacks, or can make my torso move like wind shield wipers bending from side to side. Since the sagittal dimension is my axis of rotation I can do a modified cartwheel. HAVE A GO.
The Horizontal plane has side/side as its primary pull and forward/backward as its secondary pull. The vertical acts as the axis of rotation so I can twist or twirl around this axis. This is known as the table plane. I can rub the table in one circular action, outwardly, or I can clean the table with inward circular actions. When I twist around the vertical I create a spiral feeling in my torso. I get a sensation of concavity to the side and in front of me, and convexity to the side and back of me. I can spin like a top with my arms out to the side, or pirouette with my leg moving in and outwards. We play like super heroes flying through the air. Anything we do that is predominantly side-to-side with a little forward and backward to it, i.e. the butterfly exercise on the Pectoral machines in gyms, utilizes the horizontal plane. HAVE A GO.
The Sagittal plane has forward and backward as its dominant force, and up and down as its secondary force. So going down a slide has the sensation of sagittal to it you are moving forward but going downwards. Nautilus Rowing machines that have you pulling down and back, use the sagittal. Most Pilates. exercises take place in the sagittal plane. I flex and extend my spine. When I flex my spine I am concave in the front of my body, when I extend my spine I am convex in the front and concave in the back. It is known as the wheel plane because the axis of rotation is the horizontal so I somersault in the sagittal. HAVE A GO
Now if I only move planally, I can get pretty bored too. I have more rotation but I am still moving in 2 dimensions. It is functionally important and good for getting tasks done, but if I am only moving in 2 dimensions, I have a robotic, or puppet-like quality. It is when I move between the planes that I experience the shift through my full three dimensionality. My sensorial self is challenged and interested and my brain can get excited.
Sudoku for your Body
In the following movement explorations, I invite you to play with spatial forces by riding through each of the planes, from the horizontal, to the vertical, to the sagittal and back to the horizontal. This is geometry of movement so your brain gets a happy workout too. Can you experience the concavity and convexity of your torso as you arrive at a destination? What is the feeling in your body as you move between the planes?
This exploration can be done standing or sitting (I have even done it in my mind as a meditation). Start by enclosing your right arm to the left back corner of the horizontal plane. After you have explored the sequence a few times, try it on the other side by taking your left arm across your body to your right back corner. Your spine will spiral, laterally flex, flex and extend through out this sequence, as my sister is fond of saying, “Motion is Lotion”. This is indeed a full body moisturizing exploration, you can be as big or as small as you wish. Find each sensation before doing all three sequences.
1) Horizontal plane to the Vertical plane – Flattening
The Horizontal and Vertical plane share a side/side spatial pull, they do not share a forward backward feel. What is the feeling process as you ascend from right side back, to high and right?
As you are move through the Sagittal plane towards the Vertical plane, you are losing a sensation of the front to back. You are ascending and spreading towards the Vertical plane creating a sensation of Flattening out. HAVE A GO.
2) The Vertical and Sagittal plane share an up/down spatial pull – Steepening
Moving from Vertical plane descending forward to the Sagittal plane, you lose the side/side feeling, What is the feeling process? Do you get a sense of making a steep fall forwards? HAVE A GO.
3) Moving from Sagittal to Horizontal the shared spatial pull is forward/backward – Suspending
As you are retreating through the vertical plane what is the feeling process? Do you get a sense of losing the up/down and of hovering – suspended over the earth with no gravity to hold you? HAVE A GO.
1) Ascending and spreading to feel yourself Flattening
2) Descending and advancing to feel yourself Steepening
3) Enclosing and retreating to feel yourself Suspending.
Because you are moving from the horizontal plane, to the vertical plane, to the sagittal plane, this is called a 3 ring exploration scale in Rudolf Laban’s theory of Space Harmony. As you move in between each of the planes, can you relate the sensations to other known movement experiences?
This 3 ring can be started with your right arm spreading and advancing into the horizontal plane, You can explore descending and enclosing to flatten out to your left, advancing and ascending as you steepen forwards and then spreading and retreating to suspend to the right side.
Research has shown that boredom is a key factor in not maintaining a gym membership. Most machines involve 2 dimensional planal activity and this repetitive motion may lead to strains in joint and muscles. It is the monotony of repetition, the counting and measuring of steps that often begin to feel like punishment also to resentment. Left hemispheric moving is rarely pleasurable. Space harmony addresses body and mind activity and so it truly is an activity for your whole self. Noticing the shape changes within as we ride space, and focusing on the how of moving creates a sense of presence to ourselves, our moving, and our space. We awaken our world around us and see it to be interesting and enjoyable. This is a somatic approach and this is something for our soul.
I will share more of these Space Harmony scales with you in the future.