What is intuitive movement? Read on to learn how I moved intuitively as a child and then forgot how until a drunken night of dancing helped me remember. Plus, my best tips and techniques for stretching intuitive movement and ecstatic intuitive movement — two of the most cherished tools in my toolkit.
- Intuitive Movement as a Child (Moving and Forgetting)
- My First Intuitive Movement Experience
- What is Intuitive Movement?
- Stretching Intuitive Movement
- Ecstatic Intuitive Movement
Moving as a Child… and Forgetting
It’s amazing how sedentary we truly are.
When I was a little girl, I remember rolling around the floor not caring who saw. I tumbled and somersaulted and folded myself in every way possible. I listened to the adults around me complain of their aches and pains, and I thought it was no wonder. Even then, I saw my own flexibility and child’s desire to move and their lack of flexibility and lack of movement. I would twist my arms together and fold them in on themselves wondering why they ever stopped trying those motions that kept them limber and able to move.
And then, somewhere along the way, I started caring who saw me rolling around on the floor. I started wondering how silly I looked doing a somersault since all the other girls could do cartwheels. I realized that I’d probably look even stupider if I tried and failed to do a cartwheel.
So I just stopped rolling.
I realized I wasn’t the fastest.
So I just stopped running.
It was so easy to detach myself from my body, from my need for movement. I told myself that my mind was all that mattered, that I didn’t have to be all that active to be happy. And slowly, I solidified into one of those inflexible adults complaining about pain.
My First Experience
I can’t put my finger on exactly when it was that I stumbled onto what I would call intuitive movement. I know it has been more than a year, possibly two at this point, and I know that its impact has been profound — on both my physical and my mental health. And when I think about how to put it into words, it almost seems too simple a concept to be worthy of writing.
But as I said, its impacts have been profound, and although it is simple in theory, getting into the right headspace can be difficult.
I discovered intuitive movement when I was a bit drunk one evening. I was celebrating being back home from a trip and decided I wanted to listen to music and dance. For some reason (likely the lowered inhibitions from the alcohol), I decided that I was going to be as exaggerated and extreme in my movements as possible.
I ended up dancing all over the kitchen and rolling around the floor like a gymnast or stripper (or crazed sea lion) to the point that I was more frenzied by the dancing than I was by the alcohol. At some point, the music became only a beat, and my body became a conduit for connection and flow. I could feel the desire to move within me, and I could feel expansion and release in my body with each movement.
Now, it’s important to remember, I did this in my kitchen alone while my husband was already in bed. I’m sure I looked absurd, and this is probably the type of thing that got women burned at the stake in the 1500s.
But the euphoria I felt was intense. And more importantly, the release I felt was profound.
As someone who hadn’t danced since high school and had never allowed myself to feel confident in any movements in adulthood, this really was a transformative experience. My body was more capable than I realized. Not only did it want to move, it was made to move. All I had to do was get out of the way.
So What is Intuitive Movement?
As soon as I let go of my own inhibitions around movement, my body was able to move in ways that thoroughly surprised me. And as I listened to my body and allowed it to move in the ways that called to it, I realized that my tensions were being naturally worked away.
Intuitive movement is simply the process of allowing the body to move in the ways that feel right. It’s about getting back to that childlike flow of movement when it didn’t matter what anyone around you thought — when you weren’t so busy judging every little thing you did. Intuitive movement comes in two flavors — stretching and ecstatic. Each one has found its way among my most cherished personal practices, and I am still exploring the impact they can have in my life.
Stretching Intuitive Movement
Stretching intuitive movement is a part of every day for me now. I can feel the impact that allowing my body to move has on every aspect of my day. I incorporate stretching intuitive movement through micro movement sessions in the morning and evening and intuitive movement bursts whenever my body calls for them through the day.
My stretching intuitive movement sessions are not that different from stretching, but they aren’t led by anything other than my body’s own desires. Intuitive movement isn’t for exercise; I consider it more about nourishing the body and waking it up. These sessions are how I ground myself in the present day and make sure I am staying embodied. They move tension through my body and make space for me to move freely throughout the day and feel what is going on around me without becoming burdened by those feelings.
Morning and evening sessions usually only last 3-5 minutes though they can last longer when I need them to. Intuitive movement bursts can be as brief as half a minute though often feel so good and bring such surprising physical and emotional relief that they end up lasting much longer.
I usually start by squatting, bending forward, or stretching up on my tiptoes — though any initial movement that feels right is right. That first movement is all about stretch, and I allow myself to fully experience every bit of stretch I feel, pushing and deepening the stretch as far and long as necessary until I feel ready for the next movement. Inevitably there is tension, and I feel into that tension to find which direction I should move, using the movement of my body to slowly stretch and shift that tension out.
Stretching intuitive movement obviously includes a lot of long and deep stretching, but I’ve found rolling or rocking movements seem to shift the tension out best. Undulating motions that allow the body to experience full range of motion or specific motions that hold tension can be very effective at relaxing muscles in the body. I believe it’s possible I may be experiencing a form of myofascial release from these movements and have even called this “movement as self-massage”. Intuitive movement really can be that effective at decreasing pain and increasing flexibility if you allow yourself to listen to what your body wants you to do.
Ecstatic Intuitive Movement
The drunken dancing I shared above was an example of ecstatic intuitive movement. These are much more intense and physical experiences and provide the mental positives of intuitive movement along with the benefits of exercise.
But there is something more that comes with this form of movement, something that can feel a bit transcendent. When you reach a place of complete fluidity and can allow your brain to shut off while your body takes control, you are in a state of mind modern society rarely allows. It is invigorating. It is healing. And it is absolutely mind-altering.
An ecstatic intuitive movement session positively impacts the body, the mind, and the spirit. It is explosive and allows you to build up or release massive amounts of energy very quickly. I have learned to channel these ecstatic intuitive movement sessions on occasions when I need transformative energy in my life, and incorporating them more regularly as self-care and exercise is one of my current goals. Getting out of your head and into your body through an ecstatic embodied experience is a great way to break through barriers.
There are two keys to ecstatic intuitive movement: momentum and extension. These are the principles I keep in mind when I am trying to get going.
Just like with slow and stretching intuitive movement, your only goal is doing what feels good and right to the body. This isn’t about how you look; it’s about making your movements as big and impactful as possible. We go through life shrinking ourselves down and trying to minimize our movement so we don’t draw attention to ourselves. Here, you are making every motion as big as it can be.
Stretch each motion as far as you can, and then reverse your energy on itself in order to swing back around. Use your body weight as a counterbalance, and don’t be afraid to get on the floor and spin around like you did as a child. Make sure you have plenty of space and just be free to move. Let your momentum carry you deeper and deeper into movement.
This form of intuitive movement can be hard to access, especially if you aren’t used to moving freely in your body. I still sometimes struggle to get into the right mindset, but there are some things that I’ve found help. Music is an obvious one, and don’t feel guilty about what you are listening to. Pick whatever has the beat that makes your body move. Having a beat to move to can give your body the momentum it needs to get started.
When we’re talking about ecstasy, it probably doesn’t surprise you that mind-altering substances can be involved. I don’t imbibe on the regular, but I’ve found the occasional evening of drunken dancing might be just what the doctor ordered. It reminds me why our ancestors all got drunk and danced together during communal festivals. There is something healing to the ecstasy of drunken movement — uninhibited and unrestrained. Alcohol isn’t necessary to get there, but reaching the open and free state necessary to move unencumbered can be difficult, and I am absolutely not above using it responsibly to help me get to that state. After all, a drunken night of dancing is what led me to this discovery of intuitive movement in the first place.
One of My Favorite Tools
Ultimately, intuitive movement is one of the primary tools in my personal toolkit. Whenever I am facing stress or need a reset through the day, I look to intuitive movement as my primary means of redirecting.
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