Thursday, August 21, 2008

tally ho with Balimo™

What a great opportunity I thought when I noticed the clinic announcement on the Equestrian Education Systems (EES) website early last spring – and it was! For the past week or so I have been digesting some of the rich experience of attending the “Seat Symposium” which was held at Gleneden Dressage in Bedford, New York and conducted by Eckart Meyners, German sports physiologist and professor at the Institute for Leisure Research, Play and Movement Education (sounds like fun!) at the University of Luneburg, Germany.

Mr. Meyners is also the inventor of the Balance in Motion or “Balimo™” chair, a fascinating balance and flexibility training tool. However, I discovered over the course of the weekend that learning to use the Balimo chair is only a small part of his method for working with riders. Drawing upon the work of Moshé Feldenkrais he uses deceptively simple movement sequences to re-program habitual patterns of body use. The process creates more fluid, supple and responsive riders – evidenced both in the improved movement of the horse under saddle and the increased harmony between rider and horse.

Having now experienced Mr. Meyners’ work in person, his books are proving evermore useful and inspiring. Here is a passage which so captured my attention that I missed my subway stop! It’s another piece of the puzzle which has challenged me – how to feel grounded and stable atop the horse:

“The rider’s inner eye . . . should feel the weight of the head traveling down through the center of the body, gaining weight from the body as it goes downward. When this weight reaches the rider’s pelvis, it splits and continues down both legs and out the heels. While the body weight is traveling downward due to gravity’s force, the rider appears to be carrying her upper body upright and flexible, like a puppet with strings in the clouds. Meanwhile the pelvis is following the motion of the horse.”
As the above information sinks in, I am finding that my experience of standing on the earth is changing, as is my sense of connection to the ground while riding. In addition to paying attention to the poise of my head, I also notice that its weight is quite tangible – I call it ‘heavy in a good way.’ I don't have to interfere with the poise of my head to allow its weight to sink down through my bones, all the way to my feet, through my heels, down into the earth. A circuit is established, like plugging in a light, because as the weight flows down, an energy also rises back up through me. Paradoxically, the acceptance of the weight of the head, allows the bones to fulfill their function of support, yet also confers a sense of buoyancy and ease. It is intriguing to feel light and heavy at the same time!

Upcoming posts here will share more of the invaluable insights of Eckart Meyners.
The Balimo™ or “Balance in Motion” chair is shown above with lines drawn to illustrate the type of movements possible while seated on it (virtually limitless planes of motion). Even a short period of use brought substantially increased awareness of the “seat” bones, balance (or lack of it!) and movement potential of the whole pelvis.

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