Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The seize & freeze

I like to walk along the edge of sidewalks or on concrete bumpers in parking lots whenever I get the chance. Its just one more opportunity to play with balance and motion.  I suspect a lot of my readers play like this too - aikido and judo people tend to be like that.

Have you ever noticed, while walking on a balance beam or playing on a rocker board or balance trainer, there are times that your body completely seizes up to avoid falling.  You're moving along fine and suddenly something disrupts your balance (usually you misplace a foot) and your arms fly out to the side and you lean and freeze.  It is as if your brain figures if you continue moving then your position can only get worse, so you lock up to try to avoid the degradation. I have started calling this phenomenon,  "the seize&freeze."

Yogis, have you ever felt that same fear reaction during a balance pose in yoga?  I get that feel in triangle pose and in half-moon all the time, when I get my hips rotating properly then I tend to fall over backward.

Have you ever noticed that when your postural muscles seize and freeze, there is no avoiding falling?  The seize and freeze is like a denial of the inevitability of a predicament. Just like in my previous post when I talked about hospital patients who seize and freeze, locking up their torso in a fear/pain reaction, making it impossible to stand up.

Denial does not sound very much like yoga, does it? And denial does not sound very healthy in the martial context of aikido or judo either.

The seize and freeze is counter to the ideals of yoga, aikido, and judo because it is mindless and automatic instead of being voluntary and controlled. Feldenkrais talks in his books a good bit about the undesirability of mindless, automatic fear reactions.

What if we were to learn to safely and gently fall/roll out of those broken postures instead of doing the seize and freeze?  That way, all the places on the far side of the point of no return become part of the spectrum of that particular posture.

If we can eliminate the fear of falling out of a yoga pose (or any posture), then we can eliminate the seize and freeze fear reaction and make the ukemi just part of the exploration of that pose. This way, the pose becomes a whole range of postures and motions in and around and before and after the actual textbook photograph.  That should make your yoga more joyful and more flowing.

Interestingly, the same thing happens when walking along the edge of a curb.  If you get out of whack and can just take one more step instead of going into seize and freeze, more often than not, your balance will right itself - gently and without making a fuss, just walk out of the unbalance instead of submitting to the seize and freeze.

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