Getting a Grip

Today I attended a webinar of Feldenkrais awareness through movement. There was an interesting exploration anyone can quickly try for themselves. It’s often easier to be aware of the internal body if you close your eyes. 

Clench your fists, and feel what happens to your neck, your chest, your tongue, your breath. Many other parts of the body will become tight as well. What does this have to do with daily life? We often grip things too tightly; our cup of coffee, the guitar, our reins when we ride. Sometimes this is a habit of anxiety as well.

I teach my vocal students that about 90 per cent of vocal problems come from poor use of the breath. After that, it is tightening of the jaw, tongue and throat. The tongue is connected to the hyoid bone, and these connections move all over the body. One tiny contraction affects all of you.

In Ki Aikido, one of the four ki principles is relax completely. This does not mean the kind of slumped on the couch relaxation, but allowing the skeleton to support you, and releasing any unnecessary muscle contraction. You are stronger and more effective in movement when you do this.

In horsemanship, it is often pointed out that the horse feels everything so acutely. You can tighten your pinky toe and it will affect your horse. Our hands are particularly prone to over gripping. As the reins connect to the bit, and directly to the horses tongue, on to the hyoid, and throughout the whole horse, one can easily imagine how hand gripping affects the horse. 

I have been practicing martial arts and Feldenkrais for years now, and I still have habituated movement. I can only imagine how tight and constricted I was before I started these practices!

Another Ki Aikido principle is that the mind leads the body. This makes me ponder how I grip mentally; holding onto certain beliefs, dogmas, or opinions. 

Lately I’ve experimented with talking to people or reading posts of people who have a different paradigm than myself. It’s interesting to notice my mind, and then my body, tighten up as a natural tendency we have of wanting to be right and convince others they are wrong. It has been enlightening to simply listen and be aware of what is happening in the body-mind. It can be a challenge, but I think it will make me more open minded, and thus, freer in my movement. 

Try the clenched fists exploration and notice what you feel!