I recently recommended to a Skype coaching client that he read pages 131-132 in The New Rules of Posture--pages that describe what I nicknamed “skintelligence”. One of this man’s goals was to improve his ballroom dancing. His partners had commented that they felt he was holding them rigidly, so I wanted to remind him of the surprising degree to which our tactile sense influences motor coordination. I knew that turning on his skin could help him turn off excess muscle tension.
Skin derives from the same embryologic layer as the brain and nervous system. So even before we are born, skin is smart. It’s not just a decorative container.
When I was studying Ki-Aikido, I learned to grasp a partner’s arm with “a baby grasp”. An infant’s grasp of your finger is reflexive—it comes from subcortical areas of the brain. The touch is soft, but so strong you may need to pry the little fingers open to free yourself. What a different feeling to be held this way compared with how adults touch things to control them. And yet, in Ki-Aikido, the skin grasp is the secret to controlling one’s opponent. And, in the case of my client, I believed it would be the secret to more graceful guiding of his dance partners.
By becoming more tactilely aware, we key in to the part of the brain that codes movement without interference from our worrisome consciousness. In the beginning stage of learning this there's a trick you must play on yourself: you use your cortical brain to make the choice to become more aware of your senses, knowing that your sensations evoke sub-cortically patterned movement. With practice, skintelligence renders your way of moving more connected, graceful and efficient. Need I mention that it improves your posture?
I'll write more about this in my next post. Meanwhile, try it out: Bring more awareness to your skin sensations. What occurs within your body as a whole as you do this? Does it affect your breathing? It could!