By Cheryl Whitelaw, Kind Power Coach and Facilitator
When was the last time you really felt off-balance? In the Canadian winter, this feeling can happen often – the sudden slip on an icy sidewalk when your legs vanish from underneath you. In other climates, this could be more familiar in stepping on a surface that looked solid, but moves beneath you – a loose stone, a soft surface that shifts. Your own sense of support, of safety can go pouf – vanishing in an instant.
As humans, we are built as inherently unstable beings. Standing upright, we have weight and height extending upright from our middle, the center of balance in our hips and pelvis. Watch any baby learning to stand and walk. We all went through a lengthy apprenticeship to learn how to stand and move, to learn to make this dynamic stability work for us. In this apprenticeship, we learned how to fall, practicing that over and over.
Our mind and body are inseparable. In his book, Awareness through Movement, Moshe Feldenkrais says, “We act in accordance with our self-image”. One way to understand this statement is that our brains create an operations manual for our movement. Balance is a physical and mental experience. What happens to most of us is that we learn how to fear falling. From our fear, we create a fearful body.
A friend recently posted a video of her beautiful baby girl, showing her moving from sitting to standing to walking. She repeatedly fell as she stepped on a pillow, a blanket. And repeatedly stood up and moved around. In the 4 minute video, she did not get hurt once. I watched and thought, “That’s what falling without fear looks like.” She didn’t brace herself, she stayed limber and soft. When she fell, she fell. She didn’t resist the fall.
One of the ways we age is by conditioning our movement to prevent a disturbance in our balance. We brace ourselves. We grip onto what feels stable, literally gripping the ground with our toes. We make ourselves rigid. We learn to fear and fight the fall.
I was walking recently with a friend on an icy trail in the Edmonton river valley, down a small incline. Despite my grippy hiking boots and careful treading, I was going, going, gone – legs well ahead of my torso down the slope. I had just come back from a workshop on Dynamic Stability and the Art of Falling. The slip happened so fast, I could not consciously deal with it – so I can’t pretend that the knowledge I had from the workshop informed my reaction. But a curious thing didn’t happen. I didn’t fall. I didn’t brace against the movement – I followed my legs and got my torso back over my legs – a fast, fluid righting of myself – almost like a ripple through my body. I realized that even better than the knowledge I brought about falling, I had learned to go with my fall.
Learning about balance means learning to be dynamically stable. That’s one of the things I love to do with my clients – use somatic coaching to activate this body intelligence in action. It is helpful to know about falling but it is even more helpful to know how to fall. A cool life secret is that knowing how to fall in your body changes your capacity to balance and support yourself in work and in life.
Interested in learning more? Book a somatic coaching session with me https://www.kindpower.ca/book/.