Our journey begins with getting comfortable on the ground. When I teach movement-based practice, I often have people start on the ground, then progress to standing up, and at the end we often move back to the ground.
The pattern reflects our experience in life. In the morning we wake up lying down, we progress to standing, go about our day, and at night we lie back down again to sleep. Likewise, in the whole of our life, we begin as infants on the ground, we wiggle around, move a little, turn over, crawl, sit up, eventually stand up, walk, run, and so on. We go about all the activities of our life, for days, weeks, months, years, decades … and at the very end of our life, we lay back down on the ground. Again, in each moment, thoughts, emotions, and sensations rise up within awareness, run their course, and subside again.
This is the natural progression of activity and life. So it makes sense — for health, for relaxation, for fitness, for joy, for inquiry, and for spiritual clarity — that our practice reflects this pattern in various ways.
In this first lesson, we’re going to work on just getting comfortable on the ground. This is important as way to calm the mind and prepare the body for movement. It’s a matter of making friends with the earth and our environment, and of beginning the process of letting go our tensions and fears.
STEP BY STEP
1. Lie down on the ground and get comfortable. Inhale into any tension you have, then exhale and relax. Scan your body for any residual tension and try to release it by inhaling into the tension and releasing on exhale.
2. On the inhale or the exhale, move to a different position and repeat Step 1.
3. Do this with as many different positions as you can. Start with lying on your back, each side, and stomach. Then continue with multiple variations in each of the basic positions. See how many possibilities you can find, and how comfortable you can get.
a. You should try this practice on different ground surfaces. A hardwood floor, a tile floor, carpet, grass, rocks, dirt, and so on, all give different feedback. Somewhat hard and uncomfortable surfaces give great feedback.
b. Continue by adding an obstacle or obstacles — a rock, a child’s toy, sticks, whatever — and continue the practice by lying on them in various positions.
c. If you want to focus on the this practice, treat the practice as a meditation exercise. Start by focusing on the relaxation aspect, then move on to more observation and manipulation-based inquiry. What inhibits deeper states of relaxation? How can these obstacles to relaxation be removed?
d. This practice can also serve to just calm down and get ready before more active and intense movement or practice.
As you work on these practices, just when you think you’re completely relaxed, you may discover a deeper tension. It’s like a web, sort of holding yourself together. It may feel like if you released that tension, your body would come apart. It may feel like you’re on the edge of a precipice, and if you fully relaxed you would fall.
Remember, when doing ground checks your body is safely on the ground, at one with the earth. It will not come apart or fall. This deeper tension is more like an idea of yourself that you’re holding onto. If you wish to let go of it, give yourself permission to come apart or to fall. Inhale into it … and let go.
Every day for 1 week, spend 5 minutes working on ground checks. For deeper practice double the times to 10 or even to 20 minutes.
Maintain focus on the work. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the work at hand. With each inhale, try to identify tensions and patterns of tension in the mind and body. With each exhale, try to let go of those tensions.
preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice