Your weight is a loaded subject if ever there was one, & it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to alignment. See, we have a pervasive link between weight and self-image, but as you’ll discover below, you can’t move without this weight-sense. Only when we own & embody our weight can we reach our full movement potential.
In a literal sense weight is simply the force exerted on an object by gravity, proportionate to its mass. So you’re never really overweight, right? You always have the exact weight relative to how massive you are. But enough semantics…what is the meaning of weight in regards to alignment and movement?
Figure 1. Labanotation scale. Notice the axis of weight from Light to Strong along vertical.
In our somatic work weight is simply a sense of self in space. This concept was developed in Laban Movement Analysis to clarify and describe our movements (Fig. 1). Many of us move without an active awareness of weight, passively collapsing into ourselves or floating away, lost in airiness.
However, when we are aware of our weight, our movements take on a bit more definition. We get a better sense of ourselves in space, making our movements strong or light. Healthy alignment depends on this weight-sense. And weight-sense depends on an awareness of gravity.
Our Old Friend Gravity
Figure 2. Gravity and “anti-gravity” through ground reaction force.
Gravity won’t quit. That’s why we’re here, right? We should be thankful for it because it allows us to expand and move via ground reaction force. As you recall this is the force the earth exerts against a body in contact with it (Fig. 2). Equal and opposite, of course. So in standing the ground reaction force is equal to the downward force of your weight, pushing right back up. Without this equilibrium of forces we’d be crushed against the earth or tossed into space…not a good situation.
This is where things get interesting. Our movement and alignment can so benefit from an awareness of ground reaction force. Think about it for a second: even as you stand there, the earth is literally pushing you back into uprightness. Doesn’t that alone give you a bit of lift? You may also consider that our contact with the earth makes “roots” that allow us to grow up & out. When part of the body condenses with the force of weight, another is freed to expand.
Try this: collapse into passivity for a second and reach overhead. Not a great feeling, huh? Now actively yield and push your feet into the earth as you reach, riding that ground reaction force upwards. A bit better? That’s an active weight sense. You can do the same with alignment, reaching the crown of the head upward as the feet root down.
When we embody our weight-sense, our alignment takes on a whole new dimension. No longer do we suffer the effects of gravity; we ride it upwards through ground reaction force. We find renewed buoyancy and lift and cultivate our potential for strength & levity. Of course our connection to the ground is critical. Try this exercise to find improved grounding and re-build your alignment from the feet up. Ask yourself:
-How does my posture reflect this renewed weight-sense?
-Am I able to carry it with me in walking?
-How are my daily movements affected by an embodied sense of weight?
-How does my own sense of self change?
Active weight-sense is our most powerful tool in restoring alignment. When we own & embody our weight, we discover an untapped reservoir of potential right beneath us. So get heavy!
(PS. Mindless movement is just one of the top 7 mistakes keeping you from your full potential. Check out the other 6 in my free report, “Top 7 Exercise & Movement Mistakes".