Becoming Aware

Awareness is one of those words used by fitness and dance instructors alike.  We hear it so often, but don’t always do it.  Or maybe, we are uncertain how to do it.  We spend so much of our lives moving without awareness, and it feels strange to change.  It’s challenging and sometimes feels quite alien.

But movement with awareness can have so many benefits, and it’s worth taking the time to practice.  Let me give you an example: take a simple arm raise.  If I asked you to raise an arm, I suspect most people would just do it without a second thought, unless of course you have a shoulder injury.  Now if I asked you to slowly raise an arm, but think about what was happening in your back: think about the shoulder blade sliding down the back like a counter balance as you raise your arm. The movement will feel different: it will be conscious and you may be aware of sticking points, or conversely a smooth movement where there was restriction before.

Awareness doesn’t necessarily mean conscious movement though.  It is an opening up of the mind.  It is being in the moment without the distraction of our everyday stuff.  There can be something almost spiritual about awareness – it can create a sense of freedom.

In Pilates, or other forms of fitness, awareness tends to be about ourselves and our bodies – it’s very personal.  But in dance, awareness is not just about oneself, but about our partner and the music.  This is where it gets a little trickier.  As a leader or a follower, you have to be aware of what you are doing yourself, as well as what the other person is doing so that you can respond accordingly. All that whilst listening to and interpreting the music. As an exercise, try dancing with a partner with your eyes closed (preferably only one partner with eyes closed at a time) and you’ll find your awareness is heightened because one sense has been temporarily taken away.

We spend so much time trying to get exercises or dance steps right, we forget to engage with our bodies.  It’s not a terribly popular thing to do, but we need to feel more.  Feel the sensations as you move into an exercise: feel the muscles working and feel where areas of restriction are. When dancing, we need to feel what our partner is doing; how they are moving, and we need to let the music flow through us and out into our dance steps.

Moving with awareness can be healing – it can help to release physical and emotional tension. Who hasn’t found their mood improved, or the stress of a work day melted away by a dance or fitness class? I know I’ve seen the impact firsthand.