Photo by Federico Bottos on Unsplash
unpolished thoughts 12/9/2019
There are three planes of movement, and then there is the question of depth.
As you work with movement, investigating your possibilities in one joint after another, there is a factor that is easy to forget, but it has a direct bearing on everything you do. It’s your perception.
You are acting, but how do you perceive your action? Where exactly are you in space? What is there with you in the space that surrounds you?
It’s the difference between twirling around yourself at home in your room or at the top of a mountain. It doesn’t look the same and it doesn’t feel the same. It isn’t the same movement in two different locations. It’s two entirely different movements.
You may already be aware that one of your hip joints moves more freely than the other. You might also know that you have a dominant hand. If you have studied your movement carefully, you might recognize already that your head tilts more easily to one side than the other. These patterns may be the result of old injuries or long-held habits or both.
You may have the sense that these patterns are subject to your influence or you might feel that they are so deeply entrenched that they simply constitute part of “the way things are.”
But how aware are you of your perceptual habits? Do you know the balance of what you perceive and what you don’t?
It’s pretty difficult to know what you don’t know, but it’s a safe bet that it dwarfs what you do know. As you move through the world, pointing your eyes in one direction and the other, you are like someone investigating in their basement with a flashlight. Your area of focus is actually only a tiny point. By default, you are perpetually ignoring most of the world.
So what can you do about it?
One thing you can do is experiment with your perception.
Do you actually know how you use your eyes? Do you see more of the world with your left eye or your right eye? Do you see more of world above you or below you? Do you have any awareness of the world behind you?
When you investigate the movement of your joints, a basic question might be: how well do you move that joint in the cardinal directions (left, right, forward, back, up and down)?
To take that one step further, how easily can you make circular movements in the three geometrical planes (the sagittal plane, eg., the circle your foot makes on a bicycle pedal, transverse plane, eg., the movement of your hand as you turn a steering wheel, and the coronal plane, eg., the movement of your hand as you stir a pot)?
But in your perception, there is also the question of depth.
How well do you see things up close? Or far away? How well do you hear at different depths?
If you don’t get outdoors that much, you most likely have a bias for perceiving what is close to you, but of course, that’s hardly the full range of experience. That’s one of the many reasons why the top of a mountain or an ocean beach feel completely different than your bedroom.
You needed that fresh air, but your eyes also needed that chance to stretch.
When you’re doing your daily stretches indoors, it’s easy to forget about depth – but it’s still there. The difference you feel in your two hip joints might not just be about how the top of your leg fits into the bottom of your pelvis. It might also have something to do with your how you perceive the world to your left and to your right – and how much depth you perceive on each side.
If you take a moment soften your eyes and look straight forward, you might notice that your peripheral vision seems to extend further to one side than the other. You might also feel like you are more aware of the area above or below your line of sight.
So how would things be different if you perception was more balanced?
If you’d like to get some idea about this, pause for a moment and lie on your back on with your eyes closed. Move your eyes many times to look at the bridge of your nose. Then move your eyes out into infinity, like you were looking beyond the stars. Slowly alternate between these two movements for a minute or two without interrupting your breathing.
Pay attention to any sensations you notice in your body as you do this. Does it seem easier to breathe when you look at your nose or when you look beyond the stars? Notice if there are different sensations in any of your joints.
Now spend another minute lying face down on your belly and do the same thing.
Now go back to your stretches, but do them two different ways: with your eyes fixed on your nose or stretching out to infinity.
Do you feel a difference in your joints? In the length of your spine? Which ways feels better?
This is what it means to get to know yourself – in depth – as a three-dimensional creature.