Shift Your Weight, Like a Heron

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Shift Your Weight, Like a Heron…

If you’ve ever taken a yoga or movement class with me, you may be familiar with one of my oft used nature-based similes… Shift your weight, like a heron…

In my yoga teacher training, we were guided to rely on nature for metaphors and similes, because nature provides direct experiences that are easy and safe to relate to. If you live on the West Coast, chances are excellent that you’ve had the opportunity to observe a heron standing very still in the water engaged in food foraging. Herons take their time… they pause… they breathe very slowly, slowing their heart rate and increasing their focus and attention to make their beak strikes count. They are efficient. They are intentional.

Herons appear to embody ‘weight sensing’ before shifting into ‘weight activation”, to borrow terminology from Laban. This slow shift a heron makes illustrates a material and corporeal demonstration of intention. Intention feels very much like an internal process, though it can be triggered or motivated by external stimuli. A heron watches the water closely, waiting for food to swim by, and only when food is in view, do they dive in after it.

When I suggest moving like a heron, I’m using this simile to invoke the sensing of the body first. Feel your weight, allow the sensation of gravity to become predominant in your experience of the body. One of my teachers calls it “making a date with gravity”. Then, with intention, shifting weight onto one foot before moving the other. This, slow and methodical intention, the literal deconstruction of movement, provides an opportunity to slow down, to pause, to reflect and to breathe, and to decide what to do next.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the buzz about busy, the memes that help remind us to resist the cult of ‘busy’ and to take time for self care. It seems we are collectively inundated with ‘busy guilt’ as we are busy being busy. I am not here to ‘busy shame’ you.

Rather, I’m here to inspire you to consider the benefits of slowing down, taking time before shifting from one gear to the other.

Admittedly, I know myself well enough to know that I am a slow processor: I have the kind of temperament that prefers slower transitions. So this works very well for me and my constitution. In my experience, it also works well for children.

I’ve been inviting others to shift like a heron during movement practices, yet in my business life, I’ve not given myself enough time to be heron-like. So this year, I am taking on the heron as a true spirit-guide. I’m taking the time to sense where I am, and where I want to go before I strike.

This year, I am pausing. I am doing less than half of what I’ve done in the past in order to decide how to shift with efficiency, with grace, with elegance, with intention. I am taking the time to view the entire pond before making any moves.

I am taking time to observe. I am taking time to write. I am making time to move with intention, sensing first, then moving with clarity.

There are myriad moments in a day when we could choose to pause. Pay attention to how you move in your environment, in your own eco-system. Notice when you might sense first. Try it out. Experiment. Be curious about sensing before moving. Does it serve you?

Another movement instruction Joani-ism is that “I offer invitations”. I will often explain before a class that what I am offering are merely invitations, and sometimes it is most empowering to decline an invitation. So… my invitation here is to shift, like a heron.

Does that work for you?

Are you willing to share your experience?

I’d love to hear from YOU.