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Integrated Movement: Who is that body walking down the street?

February 6, 2011

As a Movement Analyst, I often find myself witnessing the movement of others in their daily lives. I always enjoyed people watching in busy public places and would find myself captivated at the wide variety of movement that was visible to me.

One summer day, I observed a woman working in her fresh fruit and vegetable stand. She was about middle age and was dressed in flowing cotton garments reflecting the heat of the day. She moved from crate to crate, straightening out the stray lettuce leaves, broken carrots and wayward potatoes. Her upper body was moving with a degree of quickness but her touch was delicate and direct as she organized the produce. I could see her chest and belly expand fully and freely as she took in breath to her support her movements. Her arms and hands were working in synchrony with her torso and her lower body provided stability through the groundedness of her sandal-clad feet. As more customers entered the stall, she was able to shift focus with her gaze and gestures and take in more of the entire scene. Her whole body appeared to open, like she had many eyes in all her body parts. I noticed her to be fully present and ready for what ever was needed in that moment. I reflected that she was a good example of being embodied in her work environment, taking care of herself while relating successfully to people and objects around her.

When I trained to become a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA), I learned about the qualities of movement through Laban Movement Analysis (LMA). LMA is a body of work that was birthed out of the dedication and genius of the late Rudolf Laban. Laban was a dancer, choreographer, educator and a pioneer in observation and notation of how people move in their everyday lives. He studied the natural rhythms and harmonies in the environment and applied this to people’s daily movements. His legacies continue on in the dance world, somatic practices, movies and theater, industrial settings and many other places.

What do you notice when you observe someone in your yoga class, at work or walking down the street? Do you get a sense of someone moving with a measure of ease and grace, all their body parts integrated, connected and working together? Or do you witness individuals who are laboring in their actions, appearing injured or uncoordinated?

The way we move our bodies is a creative representation of who we are. Our unique and deeply personal synthesis of gestures, gait, posture and overall body actions comprises our specific movement palette. The palette is like a movement signature. No one will have your exact movement signature, but families and people in similar communities can share common recognizable aspects of the movement palette. Comedians and impersonators are key examples of people observing certain aspects of our culture and an individual’s movement palette. They recreate the salient aspects so that you know immediately whom they are impersonating. I experienced this myself at a party when my friends re-created my usual dance moves!

Young children are investigating and expanding their movement palette every time they enter a playground. They engage with each other, fully embodied and seemingly unrestricted in their physical expressiveness. At play, these children are practicing the mastery of their physical bodies, pushing and testing their limits as they scamper one or two rungs higher on the climbing apparatus. They tend to go all out in full force, without fear of being judged for how they are moving. This is a magical time of learning whereby the influences of parents, caregivers, friends and cultural norms are patterned into the body. As the children mature, these patterns become part of their movement signature.

When we investigate our movement signature with a trained and compassionate observer such as a CMA, we discover the ability to explore different aspects of our movement signature and to practice new ways of being fully embodied. Many of us have some disconnection from our body parts, often unconsciously and with varying degrees of severity. When we become rigid and by-pass the body’s warning signals, we are more susceptible to injury and disease. We also ask what may be holding us back from fully expressing ourselves in our day to day activities.

Becoming aware of our body in motion is the first step. We look at what inspires us to move from the inside and how that inner desire manifests in our outer movements. We can begin to transform and expand our movement palette by simply learning how to re-pattern and connect all our body parts to our core.

“Change is fundamental. The essence of movement is change. As we move, we are constantly changing.” Peggy Hackney

When we re-pattern the body and integrate our every day movements, everything changes. Our physical, emotional and spiritual selves transform into something more authentic, something more truly You.

So next time you are walking down the street noticing others, pause to ask yourself, “who is that body?” and bring the gift of your awareness and curiosity back to yourself.

Moving with you in vitality,


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