Recently I was taking my daily walk on what turned out to be quite a windy day, with the wind sometimes gusting very strongly – enough to take me off balance or push me along if I wasn’t careful. I noticed that in response to a strong gust, my habitual reaction was to brace against it. However, that wasn’t working too well for me. Not only did that cause lots of undesirable tension throughout my body, but it also wasn’t very effective in helping me “stand my ground,” so to speak, against the wind.
So, being a practitioner of the Alexander Technique, I decided to see how actively using some Alexander-style thinking could help me in this situation.
As I experimented with various ways of thinking and directing my body, I found the most useful in this situation was to be aware of my center of gravity and to direct it in movement in the way developed by Alexander Technique teacher, Robert Rickover in his method, Up With GravitySM.
Basically, I imagined a line going right through my center of gravity, which is more or less a couple of inches below the navel, somewhere right in the middle. In my case I imagined the line going through the middle from side to side, but you can also imagine it going through front to back, or in various other ways. I then “directed” that line into movement. So instead of either thinking about walking, or about pushing into the wind, I simply thought about moving the line forward in the direction I wanted to go. What was particularly noticeable was that when I was caught off-guard by a sudden gust, if I was mentally aware of and directing my center of gravity, I just didn’t get pushed around or blown off balance. I remained centered and sturdy, while also calm and easeful. It required much less effort on my part to move in and against the wind while thinking in this way.
This reminded me of a little experiment that Robert describes in the very first Up With GravitySM lesson on his website. Robert has kindly given me permission to reprint it here:
Here’s an experiment you can perform with a partner that illustrates the power of simply being in touch with your center of gravity. Stand near your partner and, with advance warning, give him or her a little push forward or sideways in their shoulder area. Be sure it’s just a little push, enough to slightly and temporarily disrupt their equilibrium. Notice how far they move and how easily they recover their upright position.
Now, show them where their center of gravity is located [about two inches below the navel right in the middle of you] and ask them to simply be conscious of it. Then give the same little push and see what happens. You might want to have them do the same to you.
What did you notice? Most people are far more stable when their attention is lightly placed on their center of gravity. Notice that this increased stability requires no physical work whatsoever – no stiffening, holding, or tensing – just an awareness of where your center of gravity is located.
You can check out the whole lesson at UpWithGravity.net, and you can listen to a very short interview (just over five minutes) in which I talk about my experiences using Up With GravitySM ideas while walking in the wind here:
I hope you will try out the experiment for yourself, and I’d love to hear how you get on with it. Did you know beforehand where your center of gravity is located? What is the difference when you are conscious of it? Please leave your comments in the space below.
And, of course, if you happen to find yourself walking on a windy day, remember your center of gravity! It will help you stay balanced and sturdy without adding tension.