I had a wonderful experience today on a Thai massage platform under the hands of my favorite massage therapist. As I lay on my side she worked on my upside at the hip and waist. I had the experience of my laterality having so much more dimension. The sides of me filled into front and back adding depth to the up down focus of my lateral line.
If you’ve attended any of my workshops you probably experienced your lateral line. Often standing in a circle we will move the fish swish, an exploration I learned from BodyStories author Andrea Olsen in 2002. We focus on moving the torso in a side side motion and stimulating lateral awareness through touch from armpit to hip on each side. This lateral line is important in fish communication, the force and direction of water flow is perceived along a fish’s lateral line, telling the members of their school which way to turn. In my community we are extending our awareness though our sides to each other and tuning into how we communicate and move together in our circle.
I like opening a group with this fish swish. It gets the spine warmed up with more awareness and the schooling fish images get us tuned into how much we affect each other in space and movement. Our forgotten sidedness, it’s not the movement most of us think of when we want to get our spines moving. It may be obvious without saying it but as a people we are very oriented to our front space. Our expressive faces, seeing eyes, articulate range of the arms moving, our speaking mouths; there are good reasons our communication privileges our front space. It’s even most of what we can see of ourselves.
Knowing that we may have some awareness of not paying enough heed to our backs. Our backs that ache are stiff or tense, where we carry our burdens literally and metaphorically. If I simply invite participants to warm up their spines some will try to do a very good job with big range of motion and try for the extremes. Missing the subtle small muscles close to the spine that the fish swish tickles awake; and risking injury. Move your sides? That is the gift of an exploration like fish swish.
Today I had a perceptual shift; I experienced my sidedness in a new way. The tactile and proprioceptive stimulus came through a different sequence, via the skilled and perceptive touch of another. The information through the lateral line came in a novel way and my brain ever hungry for new information seized that input combined it with related association networks and gave birth to a new perception, more three dimensional than what I’m used to.
We do get stuck in our same old perceptions of ourselves whether they are emotional, cognitive or physical. And if you know me even a little you know what’s next. All our perceptions are based in our physicality; our self-concepts originate in our physical experience. I know that having a new physical perception can shake up my self-concept. My body has experienced a more three dimensional perception of sidedness. As I sit writing this I stop for a moment and feel into it, both visually and sensorial, reinforcing the new brain map I am establishing of my lateral line.