In this blog post I discuss the rigid movement patterns I saw walking down the street and I share with you how you can expand yours through 5Rhythms®.
Last week I was walking along Queens Road at lunchtime with the sea of people making their way back to work, and I was noticing people’s patterns of movement… I’m a movement analyst, I can’t help it!
Some were walking slowly focusing on their handheld devices, others were slowed down by bags of shopping, laptops …… but what really struck me were the people not carrying anything who had their elbows and shoulders fixed in positions of carrying, typing or doing something.
Familiar patterns are imprinted and leave their shape on us even when we’re not doing them. We can become narrow and constricted by them.
That evening I picked up Professor Amy Cuddy’s book ‘Presence’. I’ve been resisting reading it because I’m not the biggest fan of her TED talk, (the second most watched one in TED history) but a friend had strongly recommended her research, so I dipped in.
Here’s a few interesting facts I’d like to share with you:
In collaboration with another university, Cuddy’s team digitally collected and analyzed the biomechanics of people walking, and then asked a group of people to rate how powerful or powerless these walkers appeared. The strength or lack of power was rated on the perceptions of happiness, sadness, relaxation and anxiety. Powerless walking was more restricted, with very little arm movement, a virtually stationary head and a shorter stride. Imagine the shape of a pin. Whereas powerful people resembled the shape of a wall. They were considered more expansive, had more movement and a longer stride.
When we narrow ourselves it constrains our posture, (elbows touching the torso, chest caved inward, rounded shoulders, head lowered), this affects our capacity to breathe the pitch of our voice (neck muscles, including the larynx tighten), in fact the whole body is affected. When we widen we have more physical ease, our breathing is more relaxed and our speech slows and our pitch deepens.
Like it or not, Cuddy’s research shows people perceive how powerful/powerless they think we are by what they see. As prejudiced as this is, movement language registers on a conscious/unconscious level with the person seeing it. I was intrigued by Cuddy’s interpretation of power: she considers it more about having presence. And presence comes from our believing and trusting in ourselves in a real and honest way, so when life sends along a challenge, presence gives us the power to rise and meet it.
So what’s all this got to do with 5Rhythms?
5Rhythms® is a physical practice where we are present to our movement patterns, give attention to our breath and meet ourselves as we step into our ‘power’.
Here’s what happens in each rhythm:
Flow… we’re allowing ourselves to be fluid, discovering if we are holding tension and practicing our ability to give it up.
Staccato… we’re learning how much tension is enough—enough to express ourselves clearly and to define our actions so we don’t add too much and become rigid.
Chaos… we’re figuring out how to move with our own inner chaos and regain balance when we’re thrown off by chaos around us… crucially, we’re releasing what constrains us: perspectives, judgements, emotions, to make space for what comes next…
Lyrical… our opportunity to re-invent, transform, create new patterns… blossom. This is where we can expand ourselves… where we can find our joy, our passion…
Moving Stillness… we’re finding balance and harmony, so even if life hasn’t changed too much on the outside, our inner world is not diminished by it.
Practicing 5Rhythms® regularly gives us the chance to keep dancing towards the greater presence Cuddy describes, moving in a non-judgemental space.
Acclaimed choreographer and dancer Agnes de Mille said, “To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth, and it is yours for the taking.”