Movements of Life

The series of movements were arrived at in a special way. After I had learnt to allow spontaneous movement and my body and mind felt expressive in it, I found the spontaneous movements would respond to a question. For example if I had a dream that puzzled me, I could ask what a particular figure in it represented, and my body would respond spontaneously in a descriptive mime. Because the information the mime presented often added to what I knew consciously, I felt the ‘answer’ that arose through movement was expressing unconscious insights.

One day I was experimenting with this question and response, and asked what would be a helpful way to bring the body and mind to harmony. I was astonished as an extremely long and detailed response flowed spontaneously from me. Movement after movement arose apparently from my unconscious, along with an understanding of how the movements influenced basic biological and psychological processes such as introversion and extroversion of energy and awareness. As I used these movements, I realised they are not simply exercises to make the body active and stimulated. For instance if I cannot breathe properly I am not functioning well. If my hips are locked in tension and my pelvis cannot express tender sexual feelings, or if my abdomen is tight and my internal organs cannot digest food properly, then the basic urges of life are being interfered with. The exercises loosen the body in a way to allow a more fuller expression of these basic life-movements – such as the expansion and contraction of the chest in relationship to the spine; the swinging pelvis expressing sexuality and its connection with the chest, neck and head. Tensions restricting the way life-processes expresses in movements such as breathing lie at the root of much physical and psychological illness.

The following movements are those I learnt that day. If you enjoy them and have time, by all means do the movements consecutively. They are excellent for health in themselves, but they are not spontaneous movement. They are given to warm your body and help mobilisation and internal balancing.

Use these movements at least three times over a period of a week or so, before going on to the next phase. Practice each movement for between one minute to three minutes, depending on your energy and time. Try doing them with music sometime to see if it aids the good feelings they can produce. Later suggestions for types of music are given in detail. At this point something fairly flowing without too much drama in it.

These are only warm-up movements, they are not inner-directed movement. Inner-directed movement, once learnt, can be used easily and for a few minutes. There is not a long list of ‘movements’ to use in the proper practice, although there are a variety of ways you can use it.

It is helpful to ‘meditate’ on some of the movements after performing them. This means that you try to recreate the feelings, or sensation of the movement again without allowing your body to make the movement. The idea is to exercise your inner awareness and feelings of energy movement. So in the third of the movements, the pelvic swing, you would create the feeling of the hips pushing forward and up, followed by the pulling back and down of the pelvis. This meditation exercise is important as it enables you to gain some control of your inner feelings. Often such feelings are stimulated by external events or unconscious worries. Your meditation is harmonising and balancing these feelings.

These movements take time, so if you are not able to do them all in sequence, do those you can within the time available and work through the other movements during future sessions. You need a reasonable space – something at least the size of a single blanket, so you can feel free to move without bumping into things.

Squatting and Rising

This first movement you start from a standing position. With feet slightly apart you take an in-breath, and as you reach the high point of inhalation you take head and arms backwards to really open up the chest. From that standing position with head back you then begin to breath out and bend the knees so that you can drop quickly into a squat. As you do so let the arms move forward and up so the hands come palms together near to the face. Meanwhile you drop into a squatting position expelling your breath fast as you go down. You rest there for a moment and then the movement carries on by breathing in and rising back up to the first position again. So you slowly stand as you breath in, then when standing expand the rib cage again by opening the arms slightly backwards and apart, and taking the head slightly back.

When you get used to the movement, going down into the squat position should be done fairly fast with the out-breath quite strong so there is an audible blowing of air out of the lungs. It can be done gently, but if possible, do it strongly as the body drops. Let the hips go down as far as you comfortably can, and let the head collapse down too so the body is relaxed. Some people need to put their heels on books to make squatting comfortable, so do that if necessary. The hands come forward in a scything movement until they meet just above the dropped head. If you cannot squat so low, use a stool or chair to sit on as you go down, so you only drop a short way.

At least two feeling states are involved in this movement. One is the standing erect and ‘open’ feeling. The other is the down, closed and relaxed feeling. When you feel fluid in the movement see if you can enhance these feeling changes as you move between the opposites of up and down. While down feel the relaxed letting-go feeling. While up feel the active, energetic feeling.

  1. In this first movement you start from a standing position, with feet slightly apart.
  2. Take an in-breath, and as you reach the high point of inhalation take head and arms slightly backwards to widen the chest.
  3. From the standing position you then begin to breathe out and bend the knees so that you can drop into a squat. Let your arms move forward and up so the hands come palms together near to the face and expel your breath while dropping into the squatting position .
  4. At this point you should be squatting with head relaxed forward. Rest there for a moment and then carry the movement on by breathing in and rising back to the first position again. This means you have slowly stood as you breathed-in, and expanded the rib cage again by opening the arms slightly backwards and apart, letting the head drop slightly back.
  5. Repeat the cycle of Squatting and rising in your own time.
  6. Now ‘meditate’ the movement for about a minute. This means standing or sitting with eyes closed and imagining doing the movement, but hardly moving your body. Try to reproduce the feelings of the movement. Feel the relaxed, down condition, then move into the up, dynamic feeling. This is an important exercise in becoming aware of the subtle feelings connected with movement, and learning to mobilise them.

Circling the Hips

Suggestions  To get the movement satisfyingly mobile, it is helpful to imagine yourself standing in the middle of a large barrel. The aim is then to run your hips around the inside of the barrel, touching it all the way around. This helps to get the full circling of the pelvis. So, as the hips are circling back the trunk is bent slightly forward, but still with the head high. The hips should go well out to the side, and as they swing to the front they should be far forward enough to cause the trunk to be inclined slightly backwards. If you cannot manage this at first, simply do what you can.

The knees and ankles should be kept relaxed, as should the hips themselves, so they adapt to the circling. The breathing should then also find its own rhythm. Generally it is out as the hips swing forward, and in as they swing backwards. This is because the chest is slightly compressed as the hips are forward if the head is floating erect.

1                    Begin from a standing position as the first, but feet slightly farther apart, about shoulder width.

2                    Keeping your head and shoulders more or less floating in the same position, circle the hips horizontally. The pelvis is taken gradually into a wide circle.

3                    At half time rotate the hips in the opposite direction for the rest of the time.

4                    Meditate the movement for about one minute. You can stand or sit to do this.

Pelvic Swing

Suggestions  If you imagine a vertical circle – seen from one side of your body – and move the hips around it fluidly while letting the legs and trunk follow, that is the movement. Although simple this is an important movement as far as becoming aware of the subtler side of your own being is concerned.

The movement is similar to the backward and forward movement of sexual intercourse, except that it is circular and involves bending and straightening the legs. But it does still involve the pelvis swinging backwards and forwards. Do the movement until you can feel your body loosening and flowing more easily. Then, do the movement slowly, being aware of the different feelings of the pelvis being forward and backward. These feelings are quite subtle, but are strong enough to be easily noticed if the movement is done with awareness of the change.

1                    Standing with your feet about a foot apart move your pelvis backwards – as if starting to sit down – to begin a circle. This half sitting position brings the head and trunk forward and bends the knees slightly .

2                    Start to push the hips well forward. As you do so the knees are straightened again, and this completes the full circle with the hips in a way that describes or ‘draws’ a vertical circle.

3                    Do the movement in a way that keeps the hips swinging in the circle in a continuous flow.

4                    Meditate the movement while sitting or standing.

Roller Skating

Suggestions  If possible let most of the movement occur from below the navel. You can keep your eyes looking ahead, your arms swinging in time with the hips as well to let the body move fully. But it is the lower back that is being worked here. The movement massages the lower internal organs as well, so you may get the stitch until you adapt to the exercise. Do the movement fairly vigorously. If you do get the stitch, don’t stop altogether, just slow down. The movement will then massage the area of discomfort.

1                    Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder width, with trunk bent forward and knees bent also. Your back should be reasonably straight although at an incline.

2                    Now swing the hips from side to side, making the lowest part of the spine alternate to the left and right.

3                    When finished meditate the movement.

Swinging the Trunk

Suggestions – Be careful to check how slippery your feet are on the floor surface. If you cannot easily maintain a feet wide position, it may help to stand with bare feet. The movement is an active one, with a light pause as you reach top and bottom. Some people like to allow their arms to extend in a wide arc as they come up. It feels more balanced. Also, as you come to the upright position with the in-breath, let the head drop back slightly, and arms extend sideways and back to increase the chest stretch. This balances the deep exhalation accomplished by dropping the trunk forward.

This is a very pleasing movement, and because it connects with the breath cycle, develops a particular rhythm. If you can manage it without becoming giddy, let the exhaling of breath as you go down be quite energetic.

1                    Stand with the feet about twice shoulder width.

2                    Let your head and trunk drop forward, and the arms hang relaxed, allowing the spine to be gently stretched.

3                    When you feel your spine has adapted to the position, from an out-breath swing your head and trunk to the left, allowing it to roll over and up to the standing position as you breathe in.

4                    Drop the trunk downwards in the mid-line again, breathing out – do it fairly fast – then roll head and trunk to the right as you come up and breathe-in again.

5                    Continue the cycle with a slight pause at the high and low of each swing.

6                    When finished meditate the movement, reproducing the relaxed drooping feeling, and the active, ‘up’ feeling.

Surrendering Backwards

This movement works the abdominal muscles quite strongly, and needs to be approached slowly until you feel confident and able in it. It is not primarily a physical exercise. It is an expression of letting-go of self, of surrendering. You start with feet about shoulder width apart. The aim of the movement is not to see how far backwards you can go. It is to express the feeling of letting go of self, of dropping control in a disciplined way. At first, when the head and shoulders are back, hold the position for a very short time, then recover to the upright stance. As you get used to the movement, you can stay in the surrendered position longer – just as long as is comfortable – then recover.

1                    From an in- breath you drop your head slowly back and breathe out, allowing your head, shoulders and trunk to drop slightly backwards with the arms limp.

2                    If you are comfortable in that breathe as normally as you can while your trunk is backwards.

3                    Hold for a short time then return to the upright position.

4                    Repeat several times.

5                    Meditate on the movement, moving between the surrendered feeling and the taking control upright feeling.

Sideways Lunge

This movement uses the legs a lot more, and introduces more spinal twist. Because you are reaching forwards with the opposite hand to the bent kneed, there is a common tendency for people to extend the whole trunk forward too, and that is unnecessary. The trunk curves upright from the trailing leg. The breathing sequence for this is out as you lunge, in as you centre again.

When you are reasonably capable at the movement try doing it as slowly as possible. Make the breath slow, and move in time with the breath – out as you lunge and in as you centre. This is a very powerful movement so don’t attempt too many repetitions at first.

1                    You start with feet about a metre apart in a standing position, with the hands palms together in front of the chest.

2                    Turn the left foot to point to the left and turn the trunk to face in that direction also.

3                    Let the left knee bend until the hips drop right down near the left heel. To make this easier, let the left heel rise if necessary. In other words, don’t try to keep the foot flat on the floor unless this is easy. Meanwhile the right leg is trailing, forming an curve from the floor up along the spine. The right knee is on the floor but hardly bent.

4                    As you lunge to the left, let the right hand reach forward in the direction you are lunging. The right arm stretches out backward toward the right foot – i.e., in the same direction as the right foot. This gives a slight spinal twist.

5                    From the lunge position, using the strength of the left leg, push back into the upright position until the trunk faces forward, and bring the hands to the centred position in front of the chest again.

6                    From the centred position you lunge to the right. Don’t forget that it is now the left arm you extend forwards – always the opposite hand.

7                    Pause in the lunge, then, using the strength of the right leg push up and centre again.

8                    With a slight pause at each lunge, and while ‘centred’, repeat the movement alternatively to left and right.

9                    Meditate on the movement, remembering to get the ‘centred’ poised feeling between each imagined lunge.

Spinal Twist

This is more of a spinal twist, more so than the last. The arms are extended describing a wide arc, and coming to rest where you feel comfortable, but not floppy. The breath cycle is to complete exhalation as the spinal twist is complete, and to complete inhalation as you reach midpoint between the left and right twist. Like the previous exercise, if the breathing is united with the movement, it makes for a more satisfying experience. Once you have got the feel for integrating breathing and movement, perform this one fairly slowly and purposefully.


1 –        Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder width and with hands at your sides.

2 –        Leading with the head, turn to the left, letting your arms describe a wide circle, and continuing their movement when head and trunk can turn no further. As the trunk turns to the left, let the feet and knees accommodate the twist, so when you have turned as far as you can to the left, your left knee is slightly bent in a semi lunge to allow the fullest twist, and your foot is pointing to the left.

3 –        Now turn from there to the right, going round as far as you can, fairly slowly to let the feet and legs change.

4 –        Continue this slow swing, making sure you allow a semi-lunge at the end of each swing. This gives a little more twist.

5 –        |Meditate on the movement.


The Swinging Rib-cage

This exercise aims at mobilising the rib cage in one of its movements seldom made in everyday life. To make sure your movement is actually doing what it should, it is helpful at first to practice in front of a mirror. Keeping the hips still and rib-case centred, hold your index fingers about two inches away from each side of your lower ribs. Now see if you can swing the ribs sideways towards the extended but still finger without swaying the whole trunk and hips sideways as well. At first it might be that you do not know just what muscles to move to accomplish this, but with practise it becomes simple.

Like one of the earlier movements, this one may cause you to develop a `stitch’ if you do it fairly actively. This is because it strongly massages the internal organs, and this is a healthful stimulus to them. It may also cause an unusual bellows action with the lungs, causing a pumping of air in and out of the lungs without actually breathing. This is quite normal for the movement, and is not harmful. No need to meditate this one.

1 –        Keeping the hips still, swing the lower ribs slightly sideways. If you do this with the right side of the rib-case, it causes the left shoulder to drop, and the right to rise. When you alternately swing to the right and left, the shoulders alternately rise and fall also.

2 –        Therefore, if you lift and drop the shoulders alternately, this may help produce the extending of the rib-case, but not necessarily so. Many people move their shoulders thus, or swing their hips energetically, without their rib-case being mobilised at all.

3 –        Swing alternatively left and right until you can do the movement easily.

The Crawl

Your attention has been moving up the body in this series of exercises, and so are concentrating more on the chest and shoulders at the moment. This exercise is primarily to mobilise the shoulders and rib-case in relationship to the spine. But it also brings the arms into action in more than a supporting role.

It helps if you imagine the hands are pulling backwards through water. Meanwhile, the head and hips should remain facing forward, so the shoulders swing around the steady spine. The movement can be done slowly but strongly, or fast and energetically. This is a wonderful movement to massage neck and lungs.

1 –        Start by standing with feet about shoulder width apart.

2 –        Be aware of the knees, and keep them very slightly bent and relaxed.

3 –        Keeping your head and hips still make the swimming movements of the ‘crawl’ with your arms. This means the right arm swings up and forward above the head as the left arm is low and moving backwards. Then the left arm is up and forward as the right drops.

4 –        The movement is a slow circling of the arms.

5 –        Finish with the still meditation of the movement.

The Breath Meditation

This is more of a meditation than an exercise, but is important in mobilising inner feelings that lie behind movements. When you begin this meditation, do not be in a hurry to open the hands to let the feeling of pleasure radiate out. In fact, let the hands be as spontaneous in expressing what you feel as you can. It may be that your hands thereby move a great deal, or very little. If there is an urge to move the hands in other ways than suggested allow this to happen.

1 –        Stand in a comfortable balanced position with the hands in front of the chest, palms together and eyes closed.

2 –        Imagine that as you breathe-in, the air is fanning a small glowing coal inside the chest. The incoming air makes the coal glow gently, and you breathe slowly and with awareness. This coal is just a symbol of the subtle pleasure sensations generated by slow purposeful inhalation. If you can be directly aware of this pleasure, dispense with the image of the coal.

3 –        In either case, let the hands indicate the amount of this glow or pleasure. Let them do this by moving apart, so if the pleasure is intense the hands reach wide. As you exhale and the glow fades, let the hands come together. But if there is little felt, then the hands remain unopened.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved