Reflections on Task 10 and Task 11 – Bodytalk

Dear Marie,

many thanks for the task. Below are my thoughts and further down Task 11.

I did the task with Alice Oswald’s poem A Short Story of Falling. Oswald’s poems are intended to be read aloud and following the previous task, I recorded myself reading the poem and then played it over and over again.

It is evening. The studio is a cleared space in a shabby living room. The mover is a cluttered mind in a shabby body. It will do. The poem suggests falling, mentions and sounds like water, follows the cycle of a drop of rain.

Midway through the poem, the cycle is disrupted by an ‘I’ who speaks a wish to be like water:

‘if only I a passerby could pass

as clear as water through a plume of grass […]

then I might know like water how to balance the weight of hope against the light of patience’

It is this part of the poem that had an effect on me – a sense of warmth in the chest – and it is this part that made me choose the poem.

The recording loops on the computer and I move to the poem again and again. A deeply ingrained mimetic impulse kicks in and my first response is to do the movement suggested by the language. Words like ‘falling’,  ‘pass’ and ‘balance’ are immediately kinetic and it is very easy to move according to the meaning of the word. But the task asks for something different.  I try to work away from this immediate response but without imposing another one. There are moments, so fleeting I can hardly register them, where the word amplifies a sensation that is already in the body: ‘every flower a tiny tributary’ enhances a sense of opening as my sacrum rests on the floor; ‘rises to the light’ increases my awareness of an ever so tiny difference between making and closing space at the bottom of the skull.

I re-read the poem and I find in its tale the same paradox that keeps me in an upright position: ‘Oswald’s poem is ‘the story of the falling rain that rises to the light and falls again’. How can something rise while it falls? But isn’t this what happens in standing? When I stand – the words of the poem dripping on me like rain – I feel the back of my heels falling into the floor and it is from this fall that a greater sense of lift comes into the spine. Does this also make me a drop of rain?

Task 11 – Bodytalk

This task is a continuation of task 9 ‘Do As You Normally Do’, in that it focuses on the habitual patterns the body follows in its daily dealings with the world. So, the task invites you to work in and with those moments where the body becomes ‘absent’ (Drew Leder 1990) to the self.

Begin by picking those movements that feel the most ‘natural’, those movements where bodily sensation completely disappears, either because the attention is on the task the body is engaged in or because the mind is entirely elsewhere.  I find activities in my morning routine, like teeth brushing and making tea are like this, probably because I am still half asleep, but you may find that other moments are a lot more habituated and hence a lot more ‘absent’ for you.

Whilst in the doing of such a task, begin to describe out loud what the body/self is doing using a first pronoun (I, my leg, my arm etc) and present continuous tense. Do this bodytalk every day for a few days for the same routine(s). Try to describe those things that come to your attention most immediately. However, as you do the task each day,  see if other aspects of the movement/doing become present to you. Capture them in language, however roughly or quickly. Once you do the task a few times, see if you remember any of the phrases you said during the bodytalk. Write a poem using these phrases.

Reflections on Task 9 + Task 10 – Words that move you

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 9. Here are my reflections. Below them you can find my Task 10.

Reflections on Task 9 – Do as you normally do

After the first day of practicing I sat down to document the order of Asanas to make sure I’d remember the sequence for the following day. I looked over it swiftly before my practice on Day 2 and after practicing on Day 3 I started to add some thoughts.

When I described the task to my partner Alan, who also practices yoga, he suggested that I could record my sensory experience as I do the practice: what I see, smell and hear, as an alternative to the more subjective somatic approach of interpreting what’s going on in the body. I decided to give this a go and copied and pasted the order of postures in Sanskrit and added the moments of perception next to the Asana as they stood out for me as I practiced:

Day 1

Green mat, ‘What are we doing?’ Alan asks.
3 x Surya Namaskara A synchronised breath.
2 x Surya Namaskara B
Padanghustasana unsynchronised breath.
Trikonasana
Parvritta Trikonasana
Parsvakonasana
Parvritta Parsvakonasana
Padottanasana shuffle back, giggles.
Sirsasana
My foot slips off my leggings Vrkasana
Surya Namaskara A
Ardha Kapotasana
Paschimottanasana
Purvattanasana I look over to Alan
2 x Urdhva Dhanurasana
Salamba Savangasana
Soft rug Savasana

I was interested in trying out the obstruction that Alan had mentioned but then something caught my attention when I was recording my sensory experience in relation to the posture names. The Sanskrit language of yoga speaks to my senses in a completely different way to the language of English. When I read English, I take on board a meaning of a word or entire sentence through a ‘mental’ cognition. My knowledge of Sanskrit is mainly limited to posture (Asana) names. For that reason, the Sanskrit names of postures do not provide me with a sense of ‘mental’ understanding but give me pictures in my mind and often bodily sensations. I read ‘Padanghustasana’ and I feel my head hanging down and my fingers wrapped around my toes and my belly gently touching my thighs. I read ‘Purvattanasana’ and I see the transition from Paschimottanasana and feel my body stiffen and the stretch over my shoulders as it recalls the effort to lift my hips.

           

Day 2

I’m blinded by big overhead lights 3 x Surya Namaskara A.
Loud Danish kids’ songs.
2 x Surya Namaskara B I try to hear my breath.
Parents looking at phones or minding smaller children.
Padanghustasana
Trikonasana A small boy. I smile at him.
A gust of air as Lisa runs past me.
Alan’s hands on my shoulders Parvritta Trikonasana
Parsvakonasana
Parvritta Parsvakonasana
Silence for a moment Padottanasana then more loud music echoing with the sound of feet running in the hall. The small boy in my vision again.
Sirsasana the sound of a ball hitting the ground
Vrkasana
Lisa interrupts me with a big gym ball. I help her do backwards walkover over the ball.
Lisa on exercise bike.
Surya Namaskara
Ardha Kapotasana A child is crying.
Paschimottanasana
I ask Alan to take a few photos of me Purvattanasana.
2 x Urdhva Dhanurasana
Salamba Savangasana I look into the bright light again. A ball rolls behind.
I lay down Savasana Something flies over my head. I get up.

The juxtaposition of Sanskrit and English became an oscillation between a bodily and mental experience of the practice, of feeling and experiencing postures in Sanskrit through my body and perceiving the surroundings in English through my senses.

Day 3

I take off my glasses. Blurred room.
3 x Surya Namaskara A
2 x Surya Namaskara B
A sweet smell of ice cream. Lisa shrieks with joy.
Padanghustasana ‘Wheels on the bus go round and round.’
The door goes, my dad enters.
Trikonasana ‘How did it go?’ I ask.
Parvritta Trikonasana His account of events.
Parsvakonasana
I gaze towards my fingertips and just see a blur.
Parvritta Parsvakonasana
Padottanasana My dad: ‘That’s very impressive Marie’.
Sirsasana
Vrkasana Fridge door opens – a bottle is being opened. Footsteps: ‘is it not beer o’clock?’ Laughter. Alan and my dad both cheer.
Ardha Kapotasana
The door to the entrance opens. Sound of shoes clicking on the floor. My mum. ‘Hello’, then to Lisa: ‘Har du haft det godt i børnehaven?’.
Paschimottanasana
Purvattanasana cheerful chatter
Alan’s eyes on me Urdhva Dhanurasana
Salamba Savangasana
My mum’s contour above me. ‘hvad spiser I i aften? Savasana ‘det ved jeg ikke’. Eyes closed. She walks off. Loud TV noise of children’s voices. I get up and walk over to Lisa to help her pour a glass of milk. My dad steps on my mat with his shoes. I pick up the mat.

Task 10 – Words that move you

Your task is going to be to seek out a text or a collection of words that have a similar effect on you as to what I describe in my reflections on Task 9: Find words that for one reason or other make you feel them physically rather than mentally. It might be to do with language or perhaps the text brings back a physical memory, perhaps it’s simply their aesthetic appearance that brings on the bodily sensations. When you have found your words/text reenact the physical sensations that the words/text brought on. What is the relationship between the somatic and mental understanding of the words/text?

Enjoy the task!

Reflections Task 8 & Task 9 – Do As You Normally Do

Dear Marie,

many thanks for Task 8. Below you can find reflections to the task and instructions for Task 9.

I was sceptical to begin with about the whole business of opposing the physical relation to the floor to the meaning of the text. My first response was to work with the ‘To Stand’ text lying on the floor. But then I started thinking about planes and how I could explore surfaces that simply would not allow me to stand. I ended it up working with a tree in my neighbourhood I was a bit familiar with. Once I climbed the tree, I first listened to the ‘To Stand’ text while moving on the tree without standing. I then tried to hang from the branches of the tree for as long as I could while listening to the ‘To Be Supported’ text. 

What I experienced often amounted to  a sense of cognitive dissonance: the words alien – but spoken in my voice  – simply did not match my pro-prioceptive reality. Yet, there were quick moments where a phrase or two would fit with my physical sensation perfectly. Amid the midst of dissonance, those flashes of resonance, well… stood out. In those moments, the physical reality deepened and there was almost a relief that the dissonance between physical sense and textual significance had finally stopped. (Quick search on the internet tells me that our tendency is to reduce cognitive dissonance, either by altering our beliefs or by  tailoring reality to our needs. I wonder whether any  word, apart from the exact opposite of what I was sensing,  would have had the same effect of relief. Whether, in other words, I was prone to interpret my physical reality through the text, as long as the two were not entirely contradicting). 

Images by visual anthropologist Vanja Celebicic.

 stand behind

understand

standing into falling

TO BE SUPPORTED

Asthechairimmediatelyaftersupportsmyweightmyheadisheldupbythecolumnofmy

spineandtheblissfulSavasanapositionreverberatesinsidemeSun

Task 9 -Do As You Normally Do

This is inspired by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), who apparently, from middle age onwards, stuck to the exact same routine on a daily basis. I think he did this so that he did not have to think about all the little choices we have to make throughout the day, and thus he could spend his time philosophising. Or maybe he did it so that he could observe the differences that appear once as much as possible of everything else remains the same.

Think what makes up your yoga routine: the postures, order, duration, pauses, use of props etc. You may not have one single routine that you follow every day, but the task is that you create one out of those things you tend to practise the most. Once you put the routine together, do it every day, preferably at the same time and the same place. Do the same routine even if your body asks for a different one. Try to find and stay in that space between what the routine prescribes and what your body needs. In other words, use the same routine as a form a background that is as flat and homogeneous as possible, so that you can get a better sense of the different body and self you encounter every day. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Reflections Task 7 + Task 8 – read, record, dance, write

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 7, that really made my brain curl into funny shapes as a constraint satisfaction on writing. It was fun but not sure how successful I was sticking to your instructions! See my response to the task below and following that Task 8.

 

TO STAND

Stand up, stand in, stand for, stand towards, stand over

Stand down, stand out, stand behind, stand away, understand

Standing is always in relation

Standing as waiting, standing before i move, 

standing into falling…

‘I see it, I want it
I stunt, yeah, yellow bone it
I dream it, I work hard
I grind ’til I own it’*

Just standing can be seen as passive

TO BE SUPPORTED

The mat was laid on, rested on by my body. Before getting to this passive state a long and active cycle took my body there. When yoga is done a sense of relief follows. As the chair immediately after supports my weight, my head is held up by the column of my spine and the blissful Savasana position reverberates inside me. Sun shine is mastered by the universe, leaving me feeling warm and light. The recuperating, recovering, readjusting rest, rolls me into the Friday feeling and it is said that this will mean the weekend is on the way.

*Quote and frame grabs from Beyonce’s video ‘Formation

Task 8 – Read, record, dance, write

Read out and record the two reflections I have made for the previous post: Task 7 To Stand and Be Supported. For the first ‘To Stand’ text make use of the spaciousness between words (in the way i wrote them) and read out accordingly. For the second ‘Be supported’ text ignore any full stops, commas and grammar when you read it out.

Make a gap between the two texts or record them separately.

Then find a space where you can move and use the two recordings as a soundtrack to improvise to. Your obstruction for the dance is as follows:

For the To stand recording you cannot stand

For the Be supported you cannot be supported

What is the relationship between the experience of the words when you look at the text and record? How does this relate to hearing the sound of the text and how it feels to move with them?

Enjoy the task!

Reflections Task 6 & Task 7 – To Stand and to Be Supported

Dear Marie,

many thanks for task 6. Below you can find reflections on Task 6 and instructions for Task 7.

The task made me think a lot about the routes I am taking and my attitude to them. I realise that a route is a means to get from A to B and time is of essence. The route, however pleasant, needs to be completed in the least time possible. The key constraint that has to be satisfied then is time and every possible change in the route I could think of entailed making the route taking more time. The task also made me think about Mithila Folk Painting. The practice originates from Bihar, India, but when I was in South India I remember seeing women, at the break of dawn, drawing with chalk intricate shapes in the front of their house. As I understand it, the shapes were drawn as an offering and a means to ward off evil. I thought about these women and whether time was also of essence to them, in the same way it is for me.

So, this the constraint I came up with:

On a short and very familiar route, I put the timer on my phone to ring every 3 min. The moment the timer goes off, I have to stop and draw something on the exact place I stopped. The first thing I draw is a fish, as done in Mithila Folk Art, but at subsequent stops I play with the texture of the paving stones. At the last stop, I am facing a weak sun, that is just breaking from the clouds. I wonder if my drawing is an offering to this timid autumn shining.

Later in the day I do the same route with the 5 year old. I show her the drawings and tell her that she can add to them and/or do other ones. The constraint this time is this: we do not leave the place until the 5 year old suggests so.

More than the self-consciousness of stopping chalk-in-hand on a really busy road, the suspension of cajoling/instructions/threats to ‘let’s go’, ‘move on’, ‘come on’ leaves both of us confused. The 5 year old looks at me and waits for the usual phrase. I have to stop my self every other second from actually saying those all too familiar phrases (at one point the words come out out of sheer habit before I can stop myself).

Eventually, we move on.

When I do yoga, the move from one position to the next feels as familiar as the route I took earlier in the day.  If anything, yoga is about taking time and making it one’s own. But is time of essence here to? Or is every stop, every position an offering? 

Task 7 To Stand and to Be Supported

Do a set of standing postures, Tadasana, Vrksasana, Trikonasana, Virabahdrasana I and II, all of these poses can work quite well.

Immediately after write a piece of text on standing. What it means to you to stand? What does standing mean? How is the word ‘to stand’ used in language?

Then do a set of recuperative poses, preferably with support, such as Badokonasana, Supta Virasana, Savasana. Write a piece of text about when and what makes you feel supported. See if you can use passive voice.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Reflections Task 5 + Task 6 –Constraint Satisfaction

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 5. There was so much in this task and I wish I had been able to spend more time on it, but I had such a busy week arriving in Denmark. Perhaps a Task to revisit?

Reflections on Task 5

I carried out this task on my bike in the town of Horsens, Denmark, where I have relocated. My reflections are a transcription of the audio recording I made on my phone, while carrying out Task 5 –A Word for a Place. I then go on to add some reflections on the yoga posture instructions that followed.

Appendix

‘I’m taking a right turn onto Christian M. Østergaardsvej. I knew straight away that this was the area I wanted to explore when I read your instructions to do this Task in a place that is not familiar. I was born in Horsens and lived here till I was 18 and I have now moved back. There are roads and areas of this town I have never visited because they’re not in the trajectory of movements between my childhood home and school or my gymnasium (Sixth Form) or shops or the train station. So, although this area -where I am now standing- is only 10 minutes cycle from where I grew up it feels like a kind of a… an…

… APPENDIX

That’s a good word. I like it. It’s quite a visceral word. As I’m standing at the side of the road looking towards what seems like a blind area, the word ‘Appendix’ describes this feeling of an unknown place. This place is attached to something else that is familiar but it doesn’t have a purpose or even a function for me. Not yet, anyway.

And there’s something else…

I haven’t got an inner map of this area. It’s a strange feeling. I know most other parts of this town so well and the psychogeography of it; I know where streets are in relation to each other, I recognise potholes and road signs and where the hill gets a little bit steeper and even shops and houses that haven’t changed for the past 16 years. But I haven’t got a sense of this neighbourhood. I’m standing at the cross roads between a very familiar street and an area that is completely unknown to me. I have no idea what to expect. I know it’s a residential area and that a new college was built here recently. That’s all. I feel a bit unsettled, perhaps also because of my own prejudice that this neighbourhood is a slightly rough part of town. Will I lose track of where I am? Will my presence be questioned?’

(15 minutes later) 

Cycling

‘I am now on streets that I don’t recognise: Hybenvej, Pilevej and Bakkesvinget. I get really confused about the ‘left/right side of the road’ driving. I was walking for a while but then as soon as I got on my bike my brain couldn’t decide whether to be on the right or the left side of the road. My body is drawn towards the middle and I end up veering on my bike towards the centre. I know I need to be on the right side but because the streets are unfamiliar I’m confused. It’s almost a cross-wiring of my spatial brain.

I recognise this feeling. Because my movements around the city of Leeds are very much experienced from a cycling perspective, being on two wheels in Horsens, taps into my default relationship with the road, which in Leeds, obviously, is on the left-hand side.’

(15 minutes later)

Losing track of APPENDIX

‘I realise I have completely lost track of the word for the place. It is at least five minutes since I was tracing the ‘N’ in APPENDIX. I set off on this task with the intention of spelling out each letter. Now I have lost my whereabouts in between identical apartment blocks and paths, hedges and trees. I’m confused about keeping left or right…  this definitely doesn’t feel like anything that I know.

(12 minutes later)

I have reached a woodland area and I have a view of the inlet from the fjord. It’s amazing how the relationship between water and land anchors me in a place. I see a path that I recognise, running along the water, but I have no idea whether following this path would take me closer to or further away from home. It is very disorientating. I think I will take a right between the trees and see where it takes me…

(8 minutes later)

Ha… I have come full circle and the path has taken me back to the top of the road where I started the journey. Funny how this new information is instantaneously updated in the map in my brain. And what felt like an unfamiliar neighbourhood –an appendix, something dispensable– has become an integrated part of the town. I will enjoy the final leg of the journey and see if perhaps I can trace the ‘X’ as I make my way back to the start.’

Further reflections from second part of Task 5 –A Word for a Place

It is several days after my exploration on bike that I get a chance to do the second part of Task 5. I lie down for a prolonged Savasana and undo the cycle trip with some yoga postures. I carry these additional tasks out after transcribing the audio recording, so I still feel the residue and imprints of the first exploration.

As I lay down for Savasana I feel a heaviness in my body that I haven’t experienced for a long time in this posture. An image of anchoring comes to mind, like the anchoring experience I had when catching sight of the fjord inlet on my journey. From that image, I spontaneously start to trace my awareness through my body as if I’m mapping a landscape. I follow the curves of the spine and move my awareness into my legs and take a trip through my body to uncover areas that seem like blind spots.

I move into yogasana and follow an instinct to do some challenging balance postures: Ardha Chandrasana and some variations, where I twist the spine and catch my foot. I’m (re)discovering ways of moving in my practice and when different limbs, that haven’t connected for a while, join up, new pathways are created. My body is put back together.

Exploring a new environment and creating pathways is done through the action of physically mapping the terrain with my feet (and bike wheels!). It is while treading this new ground that my prejudice that the neighbourhood I visited is rough and unsafe, is put to shame. I think of the Situationists: This is psychogeography and politics at the same time.

 

Task 6 –Constraint Satisfaction

I wanted to dwell a little further on your task, so Task 6 reels of your Task 5. It has made me think of an article about Constraint Satisfaction by Stephen M. Kosslyn from 2011 from the book This Will Make Your Smarter. The next task is inspired by this article and a blog entry I wrote on it in 2012.

Here is Task 6:

Think of your route to work or perhaps another familiar journey you do most days of the week. Now come up with 3-4 ‘constraints’ that will change how you carry out this journey, and for the next week add these obstructions to your trip.

Here are some suggestions for constraints that you could use:

  • If you usually drive or take the bus, walk your journey.
  • When you pass a bus stop, cross the road and walk on the opposite pavement.
  • Make eye contact with as many people for the duration of the journey as possible.

You can take my suggestions or if you think of some constraints that would be fun, doable -but a bit challenging- that might work better for you, you should use those. You can do all of your chosen constraints on the same journey, one after the other, or perhaps dedicate one to each day.

Doing Task 5 made me think of how exploring a new environment tested my patterns of movement. What happens when you place obstacles on a familiar journey?

After your final exploration, lie down in Savasana and notice the sensations that emerge. What kind of pathways are you noticing in your body?

Then do a few yoga postures with ‘pathways’ as your anchor point.

How do you feel about your route?

Enjoy the task!

Reflections on Task 4 – Pen & Scissors and Task 5 – A Word for a Place

Dear Marie,

Many thanks for Task 4. Here are my reflections. Below the images you can find Task 5.

Out of the studio, right into the corridor, down the stairs, left through the doors, across the car park, into the cab, the dance continues. Even though my body becomes immobile into the seat of the car, the beat of the drums still lingers. The speed of the car matches the inner rhythm. I dance vicariously.

Not this time. This time the cab is late, and the rhythm that is already working inside me becomes frustrated as I scan the empty road and pace up and down. Once inside the car, I am overwhelmed by a sensation similar to the one  I have whilst executing a fast sequence: will I make it? Will I make it on time? In both cases, time feels too fast, while I become despairingly slow.

Reflections on the class can only be written a long time after it and as I ponder on the hasty car trip, I think that to dance is to tame time.

With the collages I tried to capture some of the shapes that the bodies make in the space, fleetingly as they move from one position to the next. I got inspired by Nathan Walker’s talk at the University of Leeds on his recent book Condensations, where he talked about the way the arrangements of the words on the page of his book responded and reflected the landscape from which those words originally emerged and/or were written for.

There is nothing of the fleetingness of the dance in these collages, just words glued on paper. As I cut my reflections late into the night, I think that the breaking up of sentences, the shaking up of the words, their re-positioning is not dissimilar to dance, and yoga: how it can take the body apart and put it back together again. And in this taking apart and putting back together, meanings and experiences become re-arranged, weights shift, and new relations emerge. Yoga and dance as a practice of collage of the self?

Task 5 – A Word for a Place is inspired by Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, but I wonder if there is a whiff of the Situationists here too. I think it is a good one to do when one visits a new place, but perhaps it is also appropriate for a familiar one. I always had a sense that this is a task for a city, but maybe it can work just as well in the countryside.

Think of a word that captures the sense you have of the place (if the place is an unfamiliar one) and/or what the place means to you (if it is one you know well).

Following the paths, roads and grids that already exist in this place, write the word by walking.  You can trace possible routes on a map, so you can see in advance how you might create the letters. Or you can trace your route on the map afterwards and see whether you managed to write the letters you thought you were writing. (You can also follow your changing position on the map of your phone as you walk but this will not record a  permanent trail).

You can walk the word as many times as you wish and the walk can encompass as much of the actual area as you want/or are able cover. For example, you may wish to cover with one word the entire city or just one neighbourhood. You can take pictures along the way and/or audio-record sounds, memories, impressions.

Straight after you finish the walk, lie down in Savasana and note the sensations that emerge. What kind of imprints did the walk leave on the body and mind, if any?

Then do a sequence of yoga postures of your own choice that undo the imprints of the walk. Take the body apart and put it back together again.

In your reflections, you can comment on the whole task and/or use the material you  have created during the actual doing. I hope you will enjoy it.

Reflections for Task 3 + Task 4 – pen and scissors

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 3. It was enjoyable to expand a bit on Task 1. Here are my Task 3 reflections.

08.46 am – first try with ‘Standing on paper’

I feel the weight in my heals and it falls more prominently on my right foot. It feels more like tension rather than a softening. My body recognises that, standing with my eyes closed and my arms hanging down by my side, is really just an upright version of Savasana. I imagine the imprint my body makes on the surrounding air and the room I’m in. How much can I let go of the body in this upright position without collapsing on the floor? If Savasana is one of the most difficult postures to do how difficult is standing with your eyes closed?

2.10 pm – second try with ‘Standing on paper’

I look at the flaming red feet I have drawn on the paper and I’m reminded of the importance of feet as my contact point with the earth. The earth that is ‘fully alive’ and that in its vitality supports my forward propulsion as I push my feet into the ground when I walk. The outline of the foot has become blurred as the vax from the crayon has spread across the drawing. I like the idea that perhaps my feet can become wider and spill outside the given outline of my foot to give me a sense of trust that the earth is supporting me. Perhaps I don’t even end where the outline suggests?

5.14 pm – third try with ‘Standing on paper’

I step onto the paper for the third time completely intuitively without wondering where my feet should be placed. I draw the first outline, then want to move, and make a new set of outlines. I repeat this a few times eventually stepping of the paper. Intrigued by the multiple footprints I grab a green crayon and start drawing on the outlines. It quickly becomes clear that I have lost track of the footprints. One line continues into another and soon I find myself circling the crayon around, following whatever trail it passes. The task you gave me, to pay attention to weight and mark the imprint in the outline, has been replaced by the movement of the crayon across the paper and the emphasis of the imprints’ relationship to each other.

I move back from the drawing and notice a reverse choreography emerging in the imprints. It appears as if the final green print steps into the second red print, that finally settles into the first brown/black print.

 

Task 4 – pen and scissors

What you will need to carry out task:

A couple of blank pieces of paper

Scissors

A pen/pencil

Glue (optional)

My task for you for next week is linked to the dance class you take Tuesday evenings at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, so I hope you get a chance to go this week. If not, you should be able to carry this task out in a different context. I will leave this to you.

After your dance class (or as soon after as possible) sit down for 10 minutes (you can set a timer!) and do continuous writing, noting ideas, sensations, experiences, thoughts that come up from the class. It can be full sentences, words, images, accounts of exercises, whatever comes to mind; most importantly don’t think too much about it and try not to stop writing during those 10 minutes.

This next bit can be done at a later stage:

Cut up the paper so the words and sentences are divided into separate slips of paper. Then mix them together. Take a fresh piece of paper and now randomly pick the words and sentences and place them (or glue them) onto the paper to form a new piece of writing. You can use as many of your cut up words and sentences as you like.

What comes out of this? How did you experience the process?

The reflection may simply be the new piece of writing and/or additional reflections on it.

Hope it makes sense. Enjoy the task!

Reflections on Task 2 & Task 3 -Standing on Paper

Dear Marie,

Here are my reflections on Task 2. Below them you can find Task 3.

At the beginning I felt I needed a lot more instructions/clarifications with this one.

After I have observed my breathing cross legged, do I just sit around, continuing being aware of my breath (for whole five minutes!)?

What on earth is the discriminating mind?

Can I have a book under my head? (And if I do, am I practising yoga or Alexander Technique? Or perhaps the basic position of Alexander Technique is nothing other than Savasana with a book under one’s head?)

I tried to keep the instructions in my mind and follow them, but I forget them along the way. I do the whole thing with my eyes closed and when I finally open my eyes, I realise I am facing in a completely different direction than I thought/felt.

I do let my weight go and I do feel the claim gravity is making on me after a very long day. Giving in feels heavy and thick, a big wave of tiredness coming to finally settle on the floor. The moment I allow gravity to claim me, that moment weight passes through me: it leaves my body and comes to rest on the floor.

Thoughts come and go, including thoughts about how to make this reflection interesting. I let these thoughts go too.

I think I am observing the breath. I realise afterwards that I simply tried to do a very poor version of a pranayama exercise, where the inhalation becomes longer and the exhalation remains the same. I tried to deepen the breath, and the moment I started interfering all flow and synchronicity was lost. I accept that I still find exercises with the breath very difficult, and I decide next time to simply let the breath be.

Why is Savasana the most difficult posture? (Iyengar says the same too).

Where does the difficulty lie? In becoming able not to do? To abdicate from the head, as my teacher used to say?

To inhabit what is otherwise called the corpse posture? I remember Dorinda Hulton talking about Savasana in relation to King Lear’s line when he re-enters holding Cordelia’s body: ‘I know when one is dead, and when one lives; She’s dead as earth’. Dead as earth. Dorinda observed that the earth is fully alive, there is nothing dead about it. Maybe something similar is happening with Savasana? Maybe our conviction that we know when one is dead and when one lives become a little bit unsettled?

Task 3 – Standing on Paper

Stand on a piece of paper with your feet hip width apart. Draw or get somebody to draw the outline of your feet.(You still face a tree, if you so wish).

Then go through the instructions of Task 1. Allow the neck to flow down and create space between the base of the skull and the top of the neck. Feel the scull floating up and the whole head moving forward and up. Let the shoulders melt away from the ears, and the shoulder-blades moving away from each other so space is created in the dorsal spine.

Allow the lower back to widen and lengthen and imagine drops of honey dripping from your coccyx perpendicular to the floor.

Let the soles of the feet spread and open on the floor. Let the Achilles tendon lengthen and feel the back of the heel going into the floor. Feel the cushion between the base of the big toe and the second toe going down into the floor. Feel the outer edge of the whole foot also flowing down towards the floor. Let the metatarsals turn from the little toe to the big toe, and down to that point between the big toe and the second toe. See what happens to the arches when all above points are active.

You can spend as long as you like playing with these instructions. Once you feel you have explored and/or established these points observe where your weight is and the contact between the different parts of the foot (the front/the back/the inner/the outer or any other point that may come to your awareness) and the floor.

Step off the paper and fill in the outline with the different weight imprints.

You can do this task as many times as you wish, but it would be good to try and do it at least twice and preferably at different times of the day, so you can compare between different imprints.

Once you are done you can also look at the imprints in relation to a pair of shoes that are worn out and carry a mark of your weight placement.

Hope you enjoy!

 

Refections for Task 1 + new Task 2

Dear Maria,

So here are my reflections on task 1. It ended up being a longer response than I intended. Below the reflections you will find task 2!

Task 1 reflections:

I stand with my feet on the wooden floor of my living room, take in the view in front of my floor to ceiling window from my flat on the fifth floor, and follow the instructions you have given me: Find space between top of the spine and base of the skull, check. This automatically lifts my skull up and I can feel the shoulder blades release and relax my shoulders. I trace sensations down my spine and reach my coccyx. I follow the ‘honey-drip-line’ down to the floor feeling the back of my calves lengthen as I gently lift up through my legs. My awareness has reached my feet. I observe their connection with the floor and allow them to become wide for a while and at some point, my weight starts to shift from left to right to left to right. For a long time, I simply observe the different sensations of my feet spreading out on the floor, notice the metatarsals of my right foot are tighter and won’t soften down when I shift my weight to the right. It’s a wonderful sensation of tuning in to this subtle awareness and practice not judging or trying to change but simply letting my body find its own way, by giving it time. I envy the tree across the road that stands tall and secure with its big trunk rooted firmly into the ground. The outer branches and leaves sway and bend in the wind, creating a dance that follow the laws of nature, without wondering whether it’s doing it right or not. I guess it doesn’t get to sit down and drink a nice cup of coffee in a minute. There are some perks to being a human being! And then my head drops forward, my spine curves, and as I roll towards the floor my breath suddenly comes in. How could I have forgotten my breath? I let out a sigh and the breath brings movement to the torso, I roll back up and my arms float up into a little dance with my feet still in the same position.

Afterthoughts

As I begin the first task of our collaboration I realise how much I have pre-empted my response to it. Before beginning the task, I have already half written my reflections to you. I have done this task many times before: standing with my feet on the ground, paying attention to sensations of weight, of contact surfaces with the floor and of the skull rising up from the spine. This is in no way a criticism of the task, on the contrary, it makes it more interesting to encounter my own expectations to how I will carry out the instructions. The use of vocabulary is deeply embedded in my own teaching and perhaps for that reason I find it difficult to distract myself from the familiarity with the exercise.

I decide to embrace the comfort of the exercise but then something happens. As I carry out the task a few times, my experience of embodying the task, blends with other thinking processes that are present to me. I am currently thinking about how we as bodies and entities define the edges of our form. Is it the skin that defines the edge of me and the bark that defines the edge of the tree? I have a brief moment –as I stand in front of the window looking out on the giant tree across the street– where the tree and I only exist in the space-time between us. It is only a momentary sensation but I realise, that the metaphor of the tree and I as one and the same –standing, grounded into the earth, moving up and out of the top of our ‘branches’– means that we only exist in our relation to each other. I have been doing this exercise of standing and noticing weight etc. many times, but never has it occurred to me that the tree and I each take form in the interaction with the other.

Task 2

Please read the following instructions in the image below. The task comes from the book The Place of Dance by Andrea Olsen, on the chapter Dance and Yoga, page 219.

Enjoy…

Reference

Olsen, A. with McHose, C. (2014) The Place of Dance. Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press

Task 1

Dear Marie,

this is your task:

Find a place where you can stand in front of a tree in a distance that allows you to hold the entire tree in your visual field. (A window on the first or second floor of a building would work well). 

You can stand either with the feet hip width apart or feet together. 

Go through the following thoughts/actions: 

Allow the space where the base of the neck meets the base of the skull to open. Allow the neck to flow down and imagine the skull is floating up. 

Allow the shoulders to melt away from the neck and imagine the neck free and the head going forwards and up. 

Imagine that drops of honey drip from your coccyx. Let these drops drip perpendicularly down to the floor. 

Keep the legs straight but make sure that your knees are not locked back.

Let the Achilles tendon lengthen and feel the back outer edge of the soles of the feet moving down to the floor. 

Let the entire sole of the feet spread onto the floor. Observe where the weight tends to go and how it might oscillate.  

Do all of the above keeping the tree in your visual field. Once you go through them, keep these actions/sensations going and bring your attention to the tree, how it is rooted down and how it shoots up. 

Leave the spot and the position when you feel ready to. 

 Hope you enjoy it! 

 All best, 

Maria 

 

 

Two Trainers Prepare

TDPT Blog community, Hello!

Marie Hallager Andersen and I are embarking on a year-long project exploring the space between creative expression and our respective yoga practices (I have been working with Iyengar and Marie has been working with Ashtanga Yoga ).

Our intention is to use this project as a preparation towards integrating different styles of yoga and other art forms in an interdisciplinary pedagogy. We wish to inhabit the edges of our respective disciplines of dance and theatre by using yoga as a shared point of reference and by employing tools from artistic areas we are less familiar with. We will do this by employing a task-based methodology and by sharing the process on this Blog.

The title of the posts plays with the well-known title of Stanislavski’s book An Actor Prepares. Unlike Stanislavski’s book though, we wish to both bring attention to the preparation of the trainer, rather than the performer, as well as emphasise the inter-subjective nature of the current project: we will prepare together on our own. (We are also aware of the images of athletic footwear invoked by the word trainer, but we do not wish to play with this, at least not now).

Furthermore and by making our process of preparation public, we wish to de-mystify the idea of the trainer as an expert and develop, do, and reflect upon a series of tasks the potential of which we do not know in advance.

So, this is how this is going to work: Each Monday one of us will give the other a task that will be shared on the Blog. The Monday after the person who received the task will publish her reflections on the given task and give a new task to the other. The next week we will alternate. You can find the rules we have set up for developing and doing the tasks below.

We invite you to follow us on this journey, do the tasks with us, and/or comment on our process.

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