Nicola Herd who is a Dance and Somatic Movement Artist, Educator and Lecturer explains ..
Authentic Movement is an open-ended movement practice that provides space to deeply listen to and express the voice of the body. Influenced by Carl Jung’s ‘Active Imagination’ and sometimes referred to as ‘moving imagination’ this practice offers support in situations when words cannot express or process challenging experiences, such as trauma.
The practice, in its basic form of mover and witness, offers depth of self-exploration which supports wholeness and integration of body/mind/spirit. The underpinning discipline of the practice is to develop both the mover and the witness’s ability to be compassionately present with themselves and with one another. It is a relational practice through which, new perspectives emerge from a co-created field of awareness.
How Can Authentic Movement Help?
When repetitive or ‘over-thinking’ dominates a client’s perspective AM can turn attention towards the experience of sensation and imagination, drawing awareness into the present moment and the possibility of emergence of a new story. Rediscovering the resource of the body’s wisdom can be an empowering process especially for clients who may have lost faith in or connection to their body through illness, stress and trauma.
Culturally, much of the disowned aspects of ourselves are buried deep in the tissues and bones of our being. Sometimes known as the Shadow, Authentic Movement allows space for the expression and movement of this disowned aspect of Self to be seen and acknowledged. A return of vitality and energy is often experienced as a result of allowing the voice of the body to be expressed and received. Art making, free writing and other creative activities are often used to process the experience of the movement. This encourages meaning making to arise from the client’s experience and helps to develop self- trust and ownership of the process.
Do I need to be able to dance to use Authentic Movement?
In short no, the practice is much more focussed on learning how to notice the sensations that arise from within, which then might want to be expressed through movement. Sometimes it is gestural, repetitive, or barely visible. Rather than being about form or style Authentic Movement is an opportunity to move as much or as little in any way that feels right to the person moving. Sometimes expression happens through the subtle movement of hands, curling up into a ball or stretching open the chest like a yawn; what is important here is that both the mover and the witness are paying attention to what sensations, thoughts and imagery arise for them in the present moment of the experience. The mover normally has their eyes closed and the witness acts as an anchor of safety and non-judgemental presence. The mover is invited to surrender to the impulses of the body and imagination, to allow themselves to ‘be moved’ from impulse, rather than being told how to move. If this sounds like a daunting prospect, a skilled practitioner will create easy ways in for beginners new to the process.
What if I don’t like my body?
The practice of Authentic Movement happens at the pace that is correct for the individual. It meets the client where they are without judgement and offers the healing gaze of a compassionate witness. There are many reasons why someone may not like their body, it is through the relationship between mover and witness that a shift in state of mind can begin to unfold for the mover. Celebrated Jungian Analyst Marion Woodman has written extensively on the importance of reclaiming our bodies as a spiritual quest as well as a matter of well-being. Authentic Movement is one way in which a person can begin to heal their relationship with body as well as mind and spirit.
The witness/mover relationship supports self-regulation. The role of the witness has been likened to Winnicott’s ‘good enough mother’ and has been identified as having a regulating affect upon the mover’s autonomic nervous system. Due to this effect, overtime, a mover can begin to rediscover self-regulation.
Authentic Movement offers an opportunity to re-engage with the wisdom of the body. To heal, to awaken, to retrieve the buried treasures of our true nature and bring them back into conscious awareness where they can be seen and integrated into the unified wholeness that we are capable of becoming.