Natural movement is a matter of survival for animals. We rely heavily on natural movement to go about our daily lives–whether it is to reach up to place a suitcase in an overhead compartment on an airplane, take a walk, run for a bus, or bend down to retrieve an object. However, few of us, other than dancers and athletes, execute our movements thoughtfully, with more than a nod to whichever function we need to perform at any given moment.
A movement practice called NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action) offers one way of viewing the interaction between our bodies and minds. (Also, certain yoga practices focus on a concise set of alignment principles that aid mindfulness.) Caroline Kohles, a NIA black belt and educator trainer, explained a simple wrist movement that you can try, to experience what it is like to move naturally, yet integrating mind and body.
Now, try the wrist exercise:
1) Rotate your open hand and wrist in a circular pattern.
(Don’t focus on anything in particular–simply move your hand in a circular pattern.)
2) This time, move your hand and wrist in a circular pattern but focus on the palm of your hand.
(The resulting movement should be more controlled and perhaps graceful. In the first part of the exercise, most people simply rotate their hands very freely, almost throwing them around. When asked to focus on the palm, one becomes more mindful, integrating thought and action.)
Just as in this exercise, one can execute an action, whether it is a dance movement, a fitness movement, a yoga pose, drawing a line, positioning a graphic element in a design, or lifting a heavy object without focusing conscientiously on the action, without being mindful. Or one can execute a movement (for example, swinging one’s arm, sweeping one’s leg, drawing a line, or squatting) with attentiveness, with an awareness of where an arm or leg is in space, of how the mass interacts with the void, and how it is moving or where a line or shape is in pictorial space.
See, for example:
People are built to move; most of our movements aren’t deliberated. However, when we pay attention to what we are doing, how we are moving, in any given moment, the movement itself can generate a higher level of awareness and intention. Caroline Kohles advises, “Energy follows attention.”