This is a book about body awareness. It explores the subject by presenting tidbits from a range of movement and posture systems.
The book is divided into three parts. The first is a brief overview of the subject of bodily awareness. This section discusses what it means to be aware of the body, how body and mind / emotion are connected, and it sets up the need for the practices described throughout the rest of the book. The second part deals with a series of solitary activities that one can do to improve one’s quality of posture and movement. It forms the bulk of the book. The nine chapters of this portion of the book can themselves be divided in two. Three of them deal in aspects of bodily awareness: breathing / voice-work, grounding, and sensation. These sections borrow and adapt from established systems in a generic sense (e.g. the section on grounding uses a number of techniques drawn from yoga.) The other six chapters each deal with a system of bodywork, including: self-massage, African dance, Tai Chi, Eutony, Kum Nye, and running.
I’ll describe two of these specifically because they aren’t household names. I suspect most readers can imagine what the following look like: self-massage, African dance (even if it’s from a Paul Simon video), Tai Chi (from old folks in the park), and running. However, it’s probably reasonable to assume that some readers will have no idea what Eutony or Kum Nye are. Eutony is a system developed by a Danish teacher, Gerda Alexander, during the 20th century to use explorative movement to work toward more efficient movement. As far as I can discern, the founder is no relation to F. Matthias Alexander who developed–the more famous–Alexander Technique (AT is mostly well-known among actors, actresses, and would-be entertainers.) However, Eutony might be put in the class of techniques like the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais that were developed last century and work toward improved use of the human body. However, the approach seems much different from Feldenkrais, which is highly structured, while Eutony is apparently not.
Kum Nye isn’t well-known either, but not because it’s a johnny-come-lately, rather because it’s ancient and obscure. Kum Nye is a Tibetan system of yoga. A lot of the techniques shown seem to be designed to help one gain the suppleness needed for extended sitting in meditation, but there are also “flying” techniques and other standing techniques that will help loosen one up, perhaps to free one up for more meditation.
The third part is shorter: three chapters presenting systems of partner-work. The first chapter is on Aikidō. For those unfamiliar, this is a Japanese martial art founded by Morihei Ueshiba that emphasizes harmony and flow. The chapter features a few basic drills from that martial art. The next chapter is on relating to others in a general sort of way, e.g. body language, emotion, etc. The last chapter is about massage.
Graphics are utilized heavily throughout the book. These include color photographs and drawings. Given what the book tries to do–showing these various approaches to movement–the graphics are essential. In the unlikely event that there are any prudes who read my reviews, you may want to make a note that there is a fair amount of nudity throughout the book. It’s not gratuitous or raunchy, but if you’re one of those people freaked out by nudity, this is probably not the book for you (nor the subject to be studying, for that matter.)
The book’s strengths are its valuable subject, its organization, and its use of graphics. Its weakness is in the number of approaches that it examines. There are too many for one to get any great insight into any particular system, but it’s too few if the goal is to give the reader a menu of movement and bodywork systems from which to find on right for them. I guess I wasn’t really clear what the objective was. If it is to show the reader a variety of paths so they can find the one best for them, the menu is too small. However, if it’s to show the reader one path consisting of all these elements, then it’s muddled. Among Western health and fitness purveyors there’s a tendency to think that if you take anything that’s good and ram it together with anything else that’s good, you’ll get something great. This is clearly not true; sometimes you get a pudding sandwich. This book feels a lot like a pudding sandwich.
If you are looking for a limited survey of movement and body awareness systems, and are okay with the list mentioned, you should check this book out. It also has some good general information about body awareness, though it’s a bit pedestrian for experienced practitioners.
Before the retreat ceremony at the Wagah crossing, there are patriotic festivities including a women-only session of dancing in the street. Why women only? I’d like to say that it’s just so that the message that Indian women are liberated is loud and clear–so that Pakistan will take note of it. However, I suspect that it also has to do with the large number of young Indian men who are… [how can I put this delicately] too horny to be trusted amid a crowd of gyrating females. [Of course, arguably, there’s probably a circularity problem. Being segregated perpetuates the issue.]
At any rate, like Kevin Bacon, they are attempting to dislodge the stick of ignorance. [See what I did there.]
There aren’t many activities in which one can capture an entire story in a single still photo as well as one can with Indian dance. There’s so much expressiveness in the form. There’s an entire art to the eyes, let alone fine control of the rest of the body.
FYI: LSNED = Learn Something New EveryDay
My wife, some friends, and I went to a dance performance at the KalaRasa Art House in Jayanagar last night. The dance was performed by a duo (made trio for the evening) called The SaraLuna Project, who demonstrated three dance forms with Gypsy roots: Kalbeliya Dance of Rajasthan, Egypt’s Belly Dance, and the Spanish Flamenco. I had no idea that these dance forms were connected (hence the Learn-Something-New-EveryDay [LSNED] segment,) and that they are but three styles along the long trail of Gypsy migration–though I have seen other Gypsy dance forms in Hungary.
This promises to be the first installment of a series that will cover other dance forms in this long and rich cultural heritage. The dance was sensational and it was a learning experience (complete with slides and graphics) as well as an entertaining evening. So if you’re in Bangalore and enjoy dance you should follow The SaraLuna Project.
We happened upon a dance performance going on in Freedom Park last night.