Engaging in outdoor practice is a fantastic opportunity to extend our experiences, as well as our practice. From promoting a more positive mindset and wellbeing, to allowing us to (re)connect to and with Nature more successfully, it is a rewarding experience. This week, we explore the notion of oppositional forces within outdoor movement practice.
Oppositions in Movement
Whenever we engage in any type of practice, the support of the ground is a commonality. However, when working outdoors, the support of the Earth itself becomes even more important. Not only does it provide physical support, but it also offers greater opportunities to extend the practice further by grounding and connecting us to the Earth.
As we engage in outdoor practice, even in physically still practice such as meditation or breath work, we are able to more fully explore the dual or opposite tensions of push and pull which are always present and at work. In so doing, we can activate the body and engage in deeper levels of psychophysical work.
The pull of gravity, which draws us down towards the earth, grounds us and provides a constant support or base from which to begin work. If working barefoot, this can be further enhanced and we have the opportunity to more fully explore the notion of becoming grounded or rooting through the feet to provide greater stability.
Simultaneously, there exists and opposing pull upwards towards the sky. Initially, we may begin exploring this upward pull using the common visualisation of being drawn upwards by an invisible string emerging from the top of the head and extending upwards. This upward pull helps to create length in the neck and consequently, opens the body and creates space.
However, as we explore further with movement, we can extend this tension duality to other areas of the body. For instance, we may be rooted down through the left knee, whilst the right fingertips are drawn upwards, reaching towards the sky.
It is this dance of oppositions, of exploration of tension within the body which can activate movement. Cultivating these oppositional tensions is also what can lead to a greater sense of presence and the creation of internal movement in an outwardly still pose. Thus, stillness becomes alive and active.
The Benefits of Outdoor Practice
Engaging in these practices and explorations outdoors is especially beneficial as it breaks down the barriers we may experience when practising indoors. Without physical walls or barriers, we are free to extend our movement further and to seek to experiment and experience oppositional forces at work more extensively.
Additionally, outdoor movement work also encourages us to consider not only the natural environment or landscape we move in, but also ourselves and our bodies, both as place and space. Through movement, we can explore the notions of place and space, how we experience both of these notions and how we can use movement practices to better embody and inhabit these.
For example, how can we use movement to embody a place? How can we use movement to express space, rather than simply occupying it? Can we use movement to explore our sense of self not only in space, but as space?
By slowing down our practice, we offer ourselves the possibility to explore these questions more deeply and meaningfully. It also provides us with the opportunity to work carefully and at a detailed level on the notion of oppositional forces. The added benefit of doing so outdoors is that we are, at all times, working in response to and in relationship with the natural environment, thereby engaging in constant dialogue with Nature itself.
Throughout September we have encouraged you to explore the outdoors and to begin to explore movement in nature. Whether you engage in an embodied practice or are simply looking to pause and take some time to reflect and breathe outside, we invite you to continue to make time, whenever you can, to engage with your natural, outdoor environments and landscapes.
This week, we invite you to find an outdoor space in your local area which you find most appealing. Take some time to simply explore breathing and being in your chosen place. Take a few moments to deepen the breath and then begin to explore the dual forces simultaneously rooting you to the earth and pulling you upwards towards the open sky.
If you engage in a practice, dedicate one session to simply slowing down and really taking the time to explore the oppositions within each movement. If you are new to such practices or looking for a new experience, use one of Anna’s Movement Inspirations as a point of departure.
Simply spending 10 minutes regularly engaging in such practice can improve your wellbeing, help you to find balance and equip you with tools to better cope with challenging or stressful situations.