Lisa Robbin Young

BYOG Day 5 - Take a Breath and Step Back

by Katrina Hawley

[Editor's Note: This is Day Five in the Be Your Own Guru series. Katrina lives in Hadley, MA - just far enough from Boston to not be in Lockdown, but close enough to recognize the danger at her door. She submitted this post before the tragic happenings of the past few days, and it's a fitting reminder that sometimes, the best way to make forward progress is to go backwards.]

We spend so much time in our lives looking forward, moving forward, and dealing with things in front of us. It’s almost as if our bodies are trapped in tunnels - constantly moving forward, unable to shift direction. We forget to check the periphery of our space or of our lives. We lack time for exploration.

And heaven forbid that someone should move backwards…

Literally, and especially figuratively. All of this "forward motion" leaves us without awareness of so many parts of our lives - both in movement and beyond. We stop rotating our spine to see the world around us. We forget to look up. Our breath gets stuck in our sternum, our oxygen levels decline, and our necks tilt forward. Even our spines compress, as a gradual shrinking forces our bodies into the tunnel of forward movement.

CB060669I remember a morning when I came into the studio to move. But it was early, the coffee hadn’t kicked in, and my motivations for coming to the studio were related to the fact that I thought I “should” get a workout in, as opposed to any inner desire to move.

I was moving forward through my day because that’s what I was “supposed” to do.

So, I when I got to the studio, I lazily moved through a couple things, exploring movement with a lackadaisical, yet obstinate approach. I started a movement series on one piece of equipment, but I didn’t finish the entire series because I didn’t want to (that’s the obstinate side, the "five year old" me!).

Then I did a little leg work. I was trying to work as little as possible. I didn’t want to “feel the burn” I started thinking about only my bones, instead of my muscles.

Could I move without any muscular contraction at all? (lackadaisical). Then I stood up and started walking around the studio, aimlessly. For some reason, I started walking backwards.

As I continued, I quite enjoyed how rebellious I felt. I came to the studio to workout and now I was walking backwards, so there! Then I remembered reading something about walking backwards way back when…and, well, something shifted

I became fascinated with the air that I felt flowing past the back of my arms. My eyeballs started shifting all over the place, trying to see behind me. (I had made a mess of the studio and there was a little tripping trepidation). Then I felt a connection happen…I stood taller; I felt my shoulders drop, my neck lengthen and I... grew.

The greatest thing about it was that I didn’t have to tell myself to drop my shoulders and lengthen my neck; instead, my body did it, of its own accord.

The ironic part of this exploration is that nothing new happened.

All of the information my body was giving me was already there, but the situation allowed for an aware body memory to resurface. What began as a lackadaisical, obstinate, distracted workout led to a lengthened spine with freedom for breath in the back of the rib cage.

A dance teacher once said, “If you feel like you are having a bad class, then you are really learning. On the day you are having a good class you are only showing off.” This has stuck with me. My grumpiness this morning led to movement that I don’t do very often. I moved backwards. Maybe next time I’ll move sideways, up, down - or forward, sideways, and up all at the same time!

Exploration is exactly that, and progress is not necessarily manifested in forward movement, forward thinking, or forward anything at all. So let us all take a deep breath and step back.


katrinaKatrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA® - CPT, is a Certified Pilates Teacher by the Pilates Method Alliance. She is also a graduate of the Polestar Pilates Rehabilitation Program. Katrina studied Somatic Movement approaches under Janis Pforsich, Aliza Shapiro, Charlotte Wile, Irene Dowd and Martha Eddy. From 2005-2010 Katrina was on the Board of Directors for the International Somatic Movement Education & Therapy Association (ISMETA) and now continues to be an ISMETA Registered Somatic Movement Educator (RSME). She teaches Laban Movement Analysis and Pilates at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School in the Dance Division. Previously, Katrina was the co-director of HawleyMartin Dance (2001-2006) and she holds her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Temple University. You can also connect with Katrina on twitter and facebook.

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