Maps for Movement

What maps guide your moving?

What maps guide your moving?

As a yoga teacher or student, what are the maps or experiential frameworks that underly your practice and teaching? Here are many (not all) of the maps that I have used over 30 years of practice and 16 years of yoga teaching, drawing primarily on yoga, but also body-mind centring, dance, focusing and somatics. 

In the spirit of inquiry these maps are presented as a series of questions to evoke your own investigation. These maps help us with way-finding through the topography of the body-mind. Sometimes a map helps us walk terrain we could miss entirely. Along the way we pause to explore self-determined sites of significance. As we experience physical and psychological landmarks that are meaningful to us, we expand our inner capacity for connection with all aspects of ourselves. 

These maps are broad: there are many specific practices I use to explore these questions, beyond the scope of this article, but perhaps these questions will evoke or expand the practices and tools you use in your practice or teaching. For the teacher, maps give greater awareness, depth, clarity of intention, richness and inspiration to our teaching.

These are experiential maps. Yoga itself is a map that can only come alive through experience. As we travel through body-mind landscapes, we welcome all perceptions, the experiential detail of our practice, as messengers that arise from and return us to - Life itself. Taking just one of these questions at a time to explore in our practice, we meet the intimate detail of our sensory experience with the beginners mind, with lots of open curiosity, putting aside, again and again, assumptions. In this way we embrace all that we perceive as sacred messengers guiding us to our own discoveries and integration.

The Map of the Breath

  • What rhythm does my breathing have today, right now?

  • How can the breath lead the way with the pace of my movement?

  • What qualities are brought alive in my practice as I let the breath lead the way?

  • In a held posture, what parts (chest, ribcage, abdomen, spine, shoulder girdle, pelvis, pelvic floor and so on) of the body move with the breath?

  • In a held posture, how does the body move with the breath?

  • In transition movements/vinyasa, how does the breath support my movement?

  • What postures evoke an especially easeful breath?

The Map of Joints

  • What is my felt sense of my joints? Which joints feel uncomfortable? Which joints feel open, easeful and stable?

  • How could I move in a way that brings stability and openness to my joints?

  • What effect do circular or releasing movements have on my joints?

  • How can I move in a way that gives stability to hypermobile joints?

  • How does stretching or contracting muscles affect my joints?

  • How does a joint injury guide me?

The Map of Bones

  • What do I experience as I go underneath (the often dominant) musculature, to move from my bones?

  • What qualities does bone-awareness bring to my movement?

The Map of Posture

  • What practices (like pelvic tilts, pelvic circling, standing, walking, imagery) help align my posture?

  • In standing, where is the weight on my feet? What is it like to explore the weight spreading between heel and toes, across the whole sole of the foot? Across both feet evenly?

  • How do the feet align with the knees, hips, pelvic girdle, spine, shoulder girdle?

  • How does locking/releasing the knees affect the pelvis and lower back?

  • How does releasing the neck and the base of the skull connect me to my feet?

  • How does the bowl of your pelvis become buoyant and aligned, be supported by the lower body and supporting the spine?

  • How do I experience connection and support between parts of the body?

  • How do the questions above bring functional movement to our standing, walking, forward bending forward, back bending, side bending, twisting, turning?

The Map of the Part

  • What part of my body calls me today?

  • As you choose one part of the body (the feet, knees, hips, pelvis, spine, shoulders, neck, head, legs, arms, hands, face, mouth, eyes, skin and so on) what insight does this part bring to the whole?

  • What is it like to move from each organ?

  • What is like to move from fluids, lymph, blood?

  • What is it like to move from the endocrine glands?

  • What insight does an injured or ailing part give us?

The Map of Integrated Movement

  • What is it like for your body to yield? What contrasts do you notice exploring collapse, contraction and yielding?

  • What is your experience of the movement cycle of yield, press (push), reach and return (pull)?

  • What is your experience of navel radiation, of moving with two-way connection between centre and limbs?

  • How does gravity support your movement?

  • How does your breath integrate your movement?

The Map of the Emotional Body

  • What emotion is here in my practice today?

  • When an emotion surfaces, what is it like to pause and allow that emotion to move me?

  • Putting aside the story, what are the sensations of an emotion and how can the sensations move me?

  • When the story of the emotion is strong, how can I use movement to express the story and let the body discover, possibly, a new next step in this unfolding story?

  • How can I use movement to safely express, even exaggerate emotions, to allow full expression, then resolution?

  • What practices help with meeting and processing familiar moods and psychological landscapes such as fear, anger, anxiety, depression, powerlessness, confusion?

The Map of Energy

  • What practices (from active to meditative) connect me with a felt sense of energy?

  • What do sound practices show me today about energy?

  • What do chakra practices reveal about my energy today?

  • How do breathing practices expand and enliven my relationship with energy?

The Map of the Koshas

  • What kosha or level of human experience (physical, energetic, emotional/mental, intuitive, wholeness) calls me today?

  • What does one kosha show me in my practice today?

The Map of the Everyday Context

  • What event or relationship from my daily life has left an imprint in my practice today?

  • What concerns me most in the world around me? How does that affect me? How can I move to express or transform that effect?

  • How can my yoga movement influence my movement in daily activities?

  • What quality discovered in my practice can I bring to my daily life?

The Map of Presence Itself

  • What is my experience of presence, consciousness, the sacred?

  • What qualities does presence have for me? What is it like to explore one quality of presence in my practice?

  • What spiritual map do I have as the backdrop for my practice and life? How can I bring that spiritual map into my experiential practice?

  • What is the deepest context or purpose for my practice? Is it love, True Self, God, nature, Life or ?? How can my practice connect me with this deepest purpose?

Anahata Giri

September 2019