In Walking Your Talk, award-winning performer and movement teacher, Lavinia Plonka, reveals the fascinating connection between how you move and how you feel. What’s more, Plonka shows how changing our movements and body postures can be a crucial first step in altering our emotional behaviors and improving how we are seen by others.
Drawing from her years of experience as a Feldenkrais Method® instructor, Plonka provides simple exercises, thought-provoking lessons, and real-life examples that help you grasp the relationship between your movement patterns and your emotional state. She demonstrates how to develop a kinesthetic “sixth sense,” which will empower you to effortlessly command your postures and gestures, and change your self-sabotaging attitudes and expressions to new, more effective ones. You will then be able to embody your words and literally “walk your talk.”
After beginning with an overview of both historical and modern ideas about the correlation between bodily movement and human emotion, Plonka then addresses each major area of the body — and the psychological baggage held there. Through exploratory exercises, we learn:
- How we carry stress – from responsibilities, family issues, and financial burdens – in our shoulders
- Why we “freeze” the pelvis – the bodily center of personal freedom, power, spontaneity, and sexuality
- The self-confidence (or lack thereof) we convey through our carriage.
Whether she is examining how a depressed chest can make us feel psychologically depressed, how body language is used (or abused) to deceive others, or how loosening our pelvis can help us break a lifelong cycle of self-destructive behavior, Plonka is always good-humored, caring and insightful, guiding you to a deeper awareness of how changing your posture has the potential to transform your whole life.
Part One – Questions
- One – Am I Walking My Talk?
- Two – Not Walking the Talk?
- Three – Is It Science or Magic?
Part Two – Experience
- Four – A Leg to Stand On
- Five – Giving and Receiving – The Arms and Hands
- Six – The Heart of the Matter – The Chest
- Seven – Getting to the Core – The Pelvis and Your Spontaneity
- Eight – It’s All in Your Head
- Nine – Face It
Part Three – Synthesis
- Ten – Practical Shape-Shifting
- Eleven – Embodying Compassions
- Appendix: Worksheet for Goal-Setting
- About the Author
The Mechanics Of Walking
Listening To The Hand
Lip & Jaw Service
Putting Your Head In It’s Place
Opening The Nose
Relaxing The Eyes
The Pelvic Clock
The Breath Of Life
The Real You
Every Move You Make
You go for a job interview, and you think it went well, only to find that you didn’t get the job. At a party where you can’t seem to get a conversation started, you envy someone surrounded by a group of enthralled admirers. While walking down a street, you pass a couple of men. Hearing a scream, you turn and see them grab a woman’s purse and run off. Why them and why not you? Is there something in the way you walk, stand and act that affects others?
Often, people say one thing and do another. They desire something, then unconsciously sabotage it. They begin with an intention and then find themselves at cross purposes. Dreams and wishes seem to get waylaid by life’s circumstances so that existence becomes “a life of quiet desperation.” Is it possible that even your successes and failures in life have something to do with your carriage, your walk, your gestures — and not just the words you say? Body language affects everything — your relationships, your potency, your self-image. These, in turn, affect your happiness, personal power and ultimately, your health.
Back pain, sexual impotence, immune and anxiety disorders, headaches and much more can often be traced back to how you use your body every moment of your life. You are not just communicating with others; you are constantly communicating with your entire organism. Your clenched jaw, gripped buttocks, jutting chin affect other people even as they are affecting your nervous system, skeletal organization, the circulation of your blood.
Many body language books teach you about reading others: how to know when someone’s lying, who is the right woman for you. Others offer body language tips for business success: how to close a sale, land the right job. I propose a deeper study — your own body language. Through that, you will discover the possibility to literally change your life.
Ask the average person if he is aware of himself and chances are, he’ll scoff (slightly dilated nostrils, pulling nose upward in a signal of dismissal, head moves back slightly in a gesture of rejection as eyebrows come up and toward the center in disbelief) and say, “Of course I am!” But if you ask him to tell you what his body just did in reaction to your question, he’ll be unable to answer.
We all have an invisible sixth sense — the kinesthetic sense. Our kinesthetic sense is what teaches us how to ride a bike, gives us our spatial orientation and our ability to recognize a friend or foe. Yet we are as unaware of this process as a fish is of water. Most of our lives are spent oblivious to kinesthetic habits and reactions that are constantly affecting our attitudes, perceptions and behavior. Many are essential. You don’t want to have to think when avoiding an oncoming car, or about how to chop an onion. Yet even in the above moments, a whole world of emotional expression exists. Most of the time, we are driven by unconscious triggers, yet are unaware of much of what is taking place. The thoughts run on, emotions churn, the body tenses and relaxes, movement is sometimes elegant, sometimes awkward.
Awareness of this kinesthetic sense could be called embodiment, literally living “in the body.” By experiencing fully what takes place in standing, walking, talking, making love or fighting, it’s possible not only to attain what you want in the world — financial success, creative fulfillment, healthy relationships — but how to be a different person, by understanding and transforming the tool with which you chiefly — and unknowingly — engage the world.
Movement Is My Life
This book is the result of a 30-year journey, beginning with a career in theater. As a movement specialist and choreographer, I was trained in the classical arts of mime, commedia dell’arté, and many forms of dance from ballet to Kathakali. I studied physical acting techniques from all over the world — rigorous training programs designed to make an actor’s body a finely tuned instrument. Many years teaching both theater and yoga to diverse populations, from professional actors to at-risk children in the inner city, afforded me a magnificent laboratory for study of human expression.
Yet, there were so many mysteries that begged further investigation. For example, standing on a corner, your eye catches someone walking a couple of blocks away. It’s a friend you haven’t seen in five years. Yet even at that distance, you recognize him from his walk, his carriage. How? Why? What is the relationship between the way we organize our posture, our physical bearing, and the way we organize our lives? Why do some people seem trustworthy and confident, and others give us the creeps? What does it have to do with the habitual postural choices we make every second? I wondered how my own choices interfered with what I wanted to accomplish in life. I began to question how much of what I call “me” was just a collection of habits learned from my parents, education and society.
At that point, I discovered a field called somatic education: literally learning through movement. After exploring several different approaches, I enrolled in a Feldenkrais Professional Training in 1990. Much of the information in this book is indebted to this elegant method of learning, developed by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, which I will explain in depth as the book unfolds. The training provided me the opportunity to study on a microcosmic level the relationship between each movement and my experience of myself.
When I opened my practice, generally people came to see me as a last resort. Feldenkrais is not a household word; in fact, for many, it’s hard to pronounce. It’s not covered by most health insurance. So I received the desperate, the cynical, the “hopeless.” Almost everyone who came had physical pain – due to injury, illness, or just some undiagnosable discomfort that defied medicine. My students and I discovered the deep relationships between their pain and movement habits they’d developed over the course of their lives. Even people with permanent physical damage due to accidents, birth defects or stroke learned that their particular approach to their physical challenges affected their development.
When people come into my office, I don’t see a collection of symptoms to be dissected and repaired. Instead, there is a story about to unfold. The defiant little boy who is still daring his parents to say no at age 59. The successful executive who still shields her face from the blows she received from her alcoholic father 20 years ago. The 12 year old girl with scoliosis who has no idea what it’s like to stand up for herself. We don’t work psychologically, but directly with the physical habits. Slowly the story emerges, sometimes in words, sometimes in an elegant re-organization of the posture that makes words extraneous. Suddenly, a young man who always walks on his toes has his heels on the ground. He is more confident, more balanced. Another man’s chest has become softer, it is not jutting out and frozen, forcing his arms to move separately from the skeleton and creating shoulder injuries. He realizes he no longer has to protect himself from jeering high school peers. Throughout this book, we will study the stories that have emerged from this work. Many times, in order to illustrate a concept, I will focus on one aspect of an individual’s body language. Understand that each person is infinitely more complex than the few characteristics I examine in a particular chapter. The truth is each person I work with contains a story so rich in his walk, her posture, his gesture, her face, that to truly do justice to them, they’d each merit a book of their own.
Feldenkrais himself often said that pure physical rehabilitation was not his aim. Instead, it was to help others “realize their avowed and unavowed dreams.” He defined unavowed dreams as the waylaid intentions and ambitions of our childhood. We give up these dreams, blaming circumstance, fear, society or injury. They get buried under myths of security and responsibility, and our posture then reflects this. Compulsions arise that forbid spontaneity, risk taking, freedom of choice. Eventually walking your talk is no longer an issue, because you’ve long ago forgotten about that screenplay you were going to write, the trip to India you had planned or the pilot’s license you had dreamed of. My hope with this book is to re-awaken for you the possibility of reconnecting with that sense of joyful possibility. By understanding your physical “instant messages”, you can begin to uncover the potency and vitality within yourself and be the person you say you are.
How to use this Book
This is a workbook. Every chapter contains not just information, but exercises and explorations that can begin to awaken your innate kinesthetic abilities. I have found it extremely useful to have some kind of journal or notebook in which to collect the information and impressions that the exercises offer. Of course, there are as many ways to record information as there are styles of learning. I’ve had students record their input on MP3, use their insights to create colorful drawings, make flowcharts complete with arrows and circles, write on loose-leaf paper and add it to a binder along with other materials from other sources. How or whether you choose to record your insights is up to you. The book is designed to guide you through the territory known as yourself; to be absorbed not just with the mind, the way we normally read, but including an inner, kinesthetic experience that can allow physiological and psychological change. Some exercises can be done alone, others need people. After all, the study of body language requires that we look beyond the pages of a book.
While it is tempting to just read a book through, I invite you to use even the format of this book as an opportunity to break out of your habitual approach to learning. Take some time each day, each week to explore the physical exercises offered. While some are easily folded into the course of the day, some will require you to find a quiet space, to lie down, to take up to a half hour to explore a movement pattern or habit. If you need to skip over a section because you are reading the book on the subway, or in the employee cafeteria, take the time when you get home to go back and try the sequence. Many of these exercises are done in a space on the floor. Perhaps your living situation or a physical disability does not allow complete freedom of movement. You can still do variations of these exercises by keeping them small, or by imagining the sequences that are not possible to execute. If space is the limitation, however, I highly recommend you explore the possibility of creating a “movement exploration” space in your home.
We have become so divorced from a true relationship with this two -legged creature that carries our thoughts and feelings around, that we actually think we know how it works and what it does. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Only by intently listening to yourself while engaged in movement will you begin to understand your personal incongruities and learn to truly “walk your talk.”
While doing the exercises and exploring the information in this book is an investment, I guarantee that if you dedicate yourself, to experimenting with the information in this book, you will never look at anyone, or yourself the same way again.