We know by now that the nervous system is some powerful mojo. But is it actually possible to think yourself taller? Is the nervous system so connected to the body that thought alone is enough to improve your alignment?
It sounds like a New Age crock, I know. I thought so too. But I’ve been blown away by the transformative power of a discipline known as ideokinesis. This approach, pioneered by somaticist Mabel Elsworth Todd, roughly means
Image or thought as a facilitator of movement.
Ideokinesis has been around the block a few times, albeit a bit under the radar. In its 100-year span it has been called many names & oddly enough has never truly been codified. But its earliest pioneers included Mabel Todd, Lulu Sweigard, Barbara Clark, and more recently André Bernard. Since its inception it has gained quite a bit of popularity in dance circles. For good reason…this creative approach to alignment and movement works wonders to find ease and develop awareness.
How It Works
Ideokinesis–somewhat counterintuitively–relies very little on conscious movement. Instead it uses imagery and visualization of movement to find ease and improved alignment. Now’s a natural time to ask…huh??
See, ideokinesis concerns itself primarily with the function of the nervous system, knowing that our nervous system underlies all human movement. If the message goes awry from the brain to the body, you can bet a painful or dysfunctional movement is the result. Ideokinesis works to improve that link between systems.
Sports science has long shown us that brain and brawn aren’t so far apart. Numerous studies show that visualization combined with a physical practice drives higher neural output, resulting in more efficient muscular activation. Essentially your brain doesn’t know the difference between thinking an action anddoing an action. It lights up similarly.
Ideokinesis uses these visualizations to develop more efficient motor patterning and a simultaneous release of excess tension. As we’ve explored in the past this excess tension can wreak havoc on your posture. Of course unraveling it can improve your alignment!
Can You Think Yourself Taller?
So can visualization actually make you taller? Try this.
-Stand comfortably, and scan your body. Pay attention to the curves of your spine, how you feel you carry your weight, and how vertical you feel.
-Find your way down to Constructive Resting Position (CRP).
-In CRP begin to visualize your weight on the ground. Pay attention to the bony landmarks of the body: your heels, your pelvis, the thoracic spine, shoulders blades, and occiput (back of the skull). These are where we have the strongest weight-sense on the floor.
-Imagine a melting…wax…figure…type…softening occurring along those bony landmarks. If you were in standing, the occiput would melt between the shoulder blades, which would sink down toward the hips. Together they’d gradually melt down to and through the heels into the floor. Sit with this ongoing image. It isn’t a static picture held in mind, rather a continuous, dynamic experience.
-Once again bring awareness to your physical body in space. How does your weight sit here?
-Slowly roll to one side and make your way to stand.
-Check in once again. Has anything shifted? Where is your weight? How vertical do you feel here?
This creative approach to alignment can be done anytime, anywhere. It’s deceptively simple, tapping into the subconscious processes of the nervous system to reconfigure our physical structure.
So what do you think…can you think yourself taller?