Once you listen to the parts of your body that aren’t speaking, you can slowly move through stiffness or tightness.
I PAY CLOSE attention to what I am feeling in my body, whether it’s pain, intensity or minor tweaks. What I don’t do nearly often enough is notice areas where I don’t feel anything.
When I showed up to learn about undulation from Kristen O’Conner, my focus turned to the places where I didn’t feel movement.
Undulation isolates the vertebrae in your spine through slow movement side-to-side, in circles and forward and back. By focusing on moving areas that are stiff or tight, you can let your body guide you, said O’Conner, who incorporates the approach into yoga and Pilates classes.
When I met O’Conner at Maya Whole Health Studio in Renton, I had tightness in my neck and left shoulder. O’Conner had me sit on a bolster first, and slowly move side-to-side and work on breathing into my belly. She told me to feel my ponytail swish over my neck, and feel the fabric of my shirt on my skin. I did small, slow circles with my spine, keeping my attention on these tiny details.
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Soon, she came over and put a finger on a vertebra in my upper back, and told me to see whether I could move from that point. It was hard to isolate at first, and she reminded me to move from my upper torso, and keep my lower torso anchored and still.
I concentrated and started to move in figure 8s. She told me to move my attention up to another vertebra in my upper back, still working my breathing into my belly.
After working on my spine, we went to my shoulders, rotating them in big circles in the same direction. I was used to rolling them toward each other or away, so it was a good coordination challenge to roll them in the same way at the same time.
As I worked my shoulders, I could feel the tightness and stiffness in my left shoulder.
Next, I isolated my right shoulder, and kept rolling it in circles. O’Conner had me floating my arm out, smoothly like a snake, in conjunction with my shoulder rolls. On my left side, I felt the biggest difference. My shoulder felt stiff and tight when we started, but through the slow shoulder rolls, I felt some of the tension dissipate.
After the shoulder rolls, O’Conner had me undulate free-form, doing whatever I felt like. I rolled my left shoulder more, then added in some bigger spine undulations and twists.
We moved to hands and knees, and she had me focus on my C2 vertebra in my neck, placing her finger on it to help, and told me to imagine shining a light on the front wall, and moving it in slow big circles and figure 8s. I moved down one vertebra at a time, feeling sections of my neck start to relax, and imagined drawing bigger loops and circles on the wall.
Finally, it was time to rest. I went back into child’s pose.
I felt calm and relaxed after my session. My neck and shoulder shifted during the undulation, releasing some tension, and I left feeling grounded and more physically open.
I liked listening to the parts of my body that weren’t speaking, and investigating further how to get in sensation and movement. I also like that undulation is work that anyone can do. If you are interested in gaining more body awareness and moving through stiffness or tightness, undulation is a wonderful, gentle way to move.