Unlocking the Bodymind

We are all familiar with the term ‘having the knees locked,’ and it is more or less known how soldiers who lock their knees while standing at attention will collapse after a short while. I have never heard of this phenomenon’s being investigated, but now propose to study this with a view toward finding the energetic principle behind it. In my bodywork practice I have learned to recognize patterns of the tissue that result from locking the knees, which I have verified by asking hundreds of clients. Using these data, I have been able to track the effects of this posture throughout the bodymind. Depending on the type of person, the arrangement of the hips, and other factors, it is possible to accurately assess and predict complications due to this locking. Bony structures, soft tissue, and organs are effected, as well as thinking and feeling. Quite a bit of fallout from one little habit!

Recently I attended a seminar on sacred dance and recognized a number of other ‘locking’ points, so I began to consider the overall effect of ‘locking.’ By studying various personality styles, health patterns, and attitudes, it was easy to see that this locking has a strong effect on the quality of life of each individual. These patterns are deeply ingrained in each of us and very difficult to change, but the sooner one begins, the sooner one will have success. Otherwise we will remain locked up for the rest of our life.

Start with an experiment for yourself. Stand with one knee locked, then the other. Notice which feels more ‘normal.’ See if the force of gravity flowing through the leg that is usually locked creates any differences in your body. Don’t worry if you can’t sense anything at the beginning; it takes some time to develop this ability. Make efforts to change whichever knee is locked in everyday life, looking for differences not only in body sensations, telltale pains, and overall energy but also in emotional disposition and mental attitudes.

Now look at the sacroiliac joints. By gently tilting the pelvis forward or back, depending on your body type, you can notice an ‘opening’ (for lack of a better word) that connects the legs to the torso. This position will seem a bit strange, because it requires attention to maintain it. Do not tilt to an extreme position, just slightly away from where you are normally. Practice this tilt while sitting, standing, and lying down. For some people, like myself, there is a forward pattern in standing and a backward pattern in sitting. You can also add a slight twist to the right and then the left, again noticing which direction seems normal, using your attention to twist to the other side.

The next locking position is what Ida Rolf called the ‘lumbo-dorsal hinge.’ It is located at or near the twelfth thoracic vertebra. This very important place is especially compromised in modern man, particularly by our poor emotional response and hunching over computers all the time (like I am now). Unlocking this ‘joint’ can be accomplished by slowly lifting the sternum, as if being pulled up by a string. Just doing this will evoke a deep breath, which indicates how healing it can be. In all these exercises, do not force things; make the movement as small as possible. In this way the change in energy flow can be more easily realized.

In moving through these exercises, you may have sensed that the movements are becoming increasingly subtle as we get further from the ground, yet the energy flow–or gravity, if you like–is becoming easier to sense. Our next stop is the shoulder girdle. This is a very interesting situation. As obvious as it is anatomically, most people do not notice that the only bony connection of the arms to the torso occurs at the sternum. With the shoulders the movement is a gentle spreading of the collarbone (clavicles) away from the sternum. As you do this, notice when the arms ‘get heavy.’ Do not try to pull the shoulders back; this will cause increased tension, rendering the exercise useless. This exercise is particularly useful for those in the ‘helping’ professions, who reach out with their hands constantly. With practice, you can learn to reach out while staying open at the base of the throat.

The base of the skull (really the top two vertebra) is our next challenge. This is a tricky area, because there are many different postures and the neck is so central to personality. I suggest you check this area out with someone who is knowledgeable in this arena. Remember that having curve in the neck is necessary to avoid injury, because it absorbs shocks. Start by trying neck rolls to get a sense of areas that are stuck. Many people are locked in the back, but it is not safe to give a general direction in this case; many people I have worked with have been given wrong advice and now have problems. The key really is a more subtle movement and keeping a curve. When you can feel energy moving through, you have a good indication.

There is also a locking point at the top of the head, but we will have to speak of that at some other time.

I will conclude with the ankle, completing the cycle. The ankles generally (although there are exceptions) lock (or collapse) inwardly, or pronate. Pronation can develop into some fairly serious compensatory patterns, as many bodyworkers know. To unlock this pattern, I have found walking to work best, using attention to focus on the third toe. If you can sense the bone all the way back to the ankle (make sure your foot points forward), you will notice that the arch has been restored. The foot becomes like a suction cup as it hits the ground, and walking becomes much more stable and takes much less energy. Indeed, one begins to feel as if he or she were caressing the ground, and there is a sense of what is under the surface. This is the energy flow from the earth to the heavens, and vice versa.

Clearly this will be an ongoing exercise, but you will notice results immediately. The worries of the day will fade as you discover a new world within yourself, so practice it daily to get the required momentum going. Ida Rolf (and other great bodywork teachers) emphasized that the force of gravity flowing through us will lift us up when we are properly aligned. I have found this to be very true. Many teachings also speak of the human being as an apparatus for transmitting forces between the cosmos and our planet; you can begin to verify this by tasting the flow in yourself. In this the world becomes a better place.

KSR 8/20/00