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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