Ideokinesis, from the Greek ideo (idea) and kinesis (movement), applies mental imagery to facilitate movement, improve body awareness and alignment and re-program movement patterns.
One website, Ideokinesis.com, recognizes Sally Swift, the founder of Centered Riding®, as a pioneer of this work. Sally’s method for teaching the art of riding is filled with incredibly creative and vibrant images which encompass both horse and rider and are designed to help the rider find ever more subtle and integrated means of influencing the horse. These rely less on isolated muscular actions and more on thought power and visualization. They help the rider envision their interaction with the horse as a synergistic whole. The rider’s re-balancing, release of tension and clarity of intention are all reflected in the movement and behavior of their highly sensitive partner, the horse.
If you do “do” images you might wish to explore some of the rich literature of Ideokinesis (you will find an extensive bibliography at Ideokinesis.com). One classic work is The Thinking Body by Mabel Todd. I am enjoying the essays in Taking Root to Fly by Irene Dowd and the book quoted below on the work of André Bernard is very accessible. Many of the exercises utilize a supine position known as “constructive rest” (familiar to both Centered Riding and Alexander Technique students) where the body is placed in a neutral, non-doing state and the mind and neural pathways become activated by the various visualizations. Applying imagery to movement is also included, and much functional anatomical knowledge is incorporated as well.
Below are several brief excerpts culled from a reminiscence of the work of André Bernard by Ursula Stricker, from Ideokinesis – A Creative Approach to Human Movement and Body Alignment:
“’Think it, imagine it, let it happen.’ With his deep, warm voice, André Bernard guided us into the heart of ideokinesis, into constructive rest . . . Layer by layer I gained access to the deepest layer, the weight-bearing structure of the bones, and over time I developed a continuous awareness of my bones. Through aligning and balancing my skeletal structure, my behavior and work habits changed and many burdensome postural patterns loosened and melted away. . . . What became familiar as a meditative, creative path of body, alignment, and movement awareness began to weave itself naturally into the dance of daily life. Routine movements became clearer, lighter, and more flowing, which to me is essential to ‘quality of life.’”
The image above was taken at Thorncroft Equestrian Center in Malvern, PA where I contributed Alexander Technique teaching to Susan Harris' Centered Riding® Instructors’ clinic in early May. Please visit their website to see some of the many special people and horses who create the warm and peaceful atmosphere at this very special place.