Tension and Personal Space

I love my Monday evening dance classes – the atmosphere is playful and relaxed and even when I can’t get one step right, I still manage to leave buzzing. Something happened yesterday that I wanted to share with you – it’s not very dramatic, but it was unusual. And it made me think. A little bit.

At the end of the dance class, we always revisit a routine, a simple sequence on which we build every week. For some reason, the movement stayed in my body and I was able to dance (instead of finding myself thinking “What’s next, what’s next?” all the time). The class was split into two and both groups took turns to dance in the space.

Holland Dance Festival start morgen!
Maybe we should do as these ladies do.

I loved it and yet… by the end of the session my chest was more tense than at the beginning of the class. From the title of this post, you will probably guess that it wasn’t a small group and I felt like other people were crowding in, or, to take some responsibility for the overcrowding, I didn’t feel like I could take as much space as I wanted to without smacking someone. (Yes, I love flinging my arms around!)

No wonder everyone in the city ends up with shoulder and neck problems. It’s not just all that time spent at a desk but also the difficulty of not taking up as much space as we would like. Public transport, the pavements, even the physical workspace is not designed for us to expaaaaand. And unless we consciously relax in our confined space, if we don’t expand, we tend to contract.

At the beginning of the dance routine, I felt perfectly relaxed, in control of the space around me, comfortable that I had enough room to move. But I realised that as I became more confident and wanted to take more space, my body didn’t let me.

Because I was self- aware, I managed to do something about it (as simple as making sure that when I walked home I didn’t let my shoulders cave in) – but how many times a day does this happen without us realising it? I would encourage everyone (and make sure that I remind myself too) to expand once a week, if only to remind the body of its most “expansive potential”.

Stand in an empty room, however big or small – think of your head floating up, up, up. Stretch your arms to the side and think of an elastic which starts at the tip of one of your middle fingers and goes through the arm, chest, other arm, right to the other middle finger. And see how much you can stretch that elastic. And relax, remember to relax.

How does it feel?

[photograph by Haags Uitburo]

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