This text, by Rachel Smith, offers some meditations on movement for those who are bed-bound. They also exist as audio here. The photos are by Hannah Devereux.
The words are scores, starting points for explorations, or bed dances – because dance can be anything. You can work with the whole score, a part, or one sentence or phrase.
Prolonged time in bed can leave us feeling disconnected from our bodies, estraned from the environment. These scores were begun while I was bed-bound with a lupus flare up, when my bed was my dance floor. I offer them as companions to coax you into movement, no matter what that looks like, whatever shape it takes.
In a culture that privileges ends, goals, and summits, these scores explore the small and the still. They remind us that there is a whole world, a complete landscape, here, in our bodies. Through these investigations we regain access to our interior lives, our sense of self
Our bodies hold a memory of every landscape we have known. Inside our muscles and bones are the paths, hills, dunes we have walked along and around, or which we have seen and allowed ourselves to be immersed in. Know your body like you know the land.
These movement mediations, or scores, were begun while I was bed-bound with a lupus flare-up.
My bed was my dance floor.
I offer them as companions to coax you into movement, no matter what that movement looks like, however tiny it is. you can work with the whole score or just one part, or even (and especially) just a sentence or phrase.
A lot of time in bed can leave us feeling disconnected from our bodies, disconnected from the environment. these scores remind us that there is a landscape in our bodies.
Our bodies hold a memory of every landscape we have known. inside our muscles and bones are all the paths, hills, dunes we have walked, the places in which we have seen, heard, and allowed ourselves to be immersed
Through these gentle movements we may regain access to ourselves.
run the fingertips of one hand over the palm of the other. feel the skin of your body-land.
trace the rivers and tributaries that criss-cross the plains of your palm; the hills and valleys that emerge when you slightly open or close your hand.
explore this changing landscape. be curious about parts you have never been to, the ravines between the fingers, the hummock of each joint. sense each of the 27 bones that make up the strata of your hand.
move back and forth between hands, each one in turn explorer and explored. turn them over, continuing your finger-tip walk.
explore the body-land. notice any changes in terrain or temperature.
track the grooved paths between ligaments, the raised lines of veins.
circle the crags of your knuckles, how they change shape as you clench and unclench your fist.
press the finger-tips of each hand against each other. interlace your fingers at the middle joint and then at the base, first symmetrical, then exploring the ways your fingers can weave together, the ways they can dance.
rub the palms against one another.
hold your own hand.
space and sky
start with your jaw. yawn.
open and close your mouth, starting small, and then gradually wider. play with the ways your jaw can move - side to side, crossing over, opening and closing.
breathe into the joint where your jaw meets your skull, rub it gently if it is tight. breathe into the muscles that surround it. loosen the hinge with movement and breath. fill the cave of your mouth with breath.
breathe in the sky.
take a moment to notice the back of your head on the pillow. the weight of your head sinking down. feel the embrace of your pillow, soft grass on a summers day. very gently, very slowly, roll your head from side to side, as much as feels right. feel the contact of your skull on the pillow changing as you move. luxuriate in this a while.
now, if you can, slowly tilt the head forward and back, again feeling the contact of your skull on the pillow shifting as you move. breathe into all the joints of your neck, the bones and tissue between the bones that make this movement possible. as you gently move the joints feel space open between each vertebrae.
now place your hands on your chest. as you breathe feel your lungs fill with sky. notice how your lungs become spacious, ready to fill again.
run your hands over your ribs, the ridges and hollows, this container of sky which rises and falls with each breath.
gently lift your shoulders towards your ears, as little or as much as you can, then relax them back down. do this a few times. feel the space that is created between your shoulders and your ears.
play with moving them together and separately, and then roll them in tiny circles, moving back and forward between the two, gradually bringing more sky into your shoulder joint.
now begin to lift your arms up and out, a little at first, finding your range. feel the space of your armpit, give it lots of sky. begin to move the arms, stretching a little, folding a little. open and close the elbows, slightly at first. breathe into any stiffness. breathe into the space in your joints.
flex and circle your wrists, in movements big and small. stretch and bend your fingers. spread your hands wide, look at the sky through your fingers. play with this awhile, then come back to your body-land, the support of mattress, pillow.
be filled with breath and sky.
a spine meander
begin with your back. it may be easiest if you roll onto your side. rub your hands over the parts of your spine you can reach. if that’s not possible, take your imaginary hand and let that do the feeling for you. keep it matter of fact.
be a rock climber, sensing the different surfaces of the rock, the bits that jut out, the crevices, holds and dips.
rub your hands over your neck bones and upper back. reach around and rub your middle and lower back, your sacrum. below that is your tail, tucked deep inside your pelvis
now, very slowly, move your spine from side to side. start small and gradually increase your motion, if that feels comfortable. breath into the places that are stiff, places where you can bend. curve, arch and round your spine, playing with how bending or curling one-part effects the rest - a small bend in your neck ripples down through your lower back.
feel how your spine is not just the bones that you can feel and rub, but rather a stem that lies deep inside your body.
notice how your pelvis is connected to your spine through the sacrum. your pelvis is a bowl of bone. play with rolling, circling, tipping it.
notice how rolling your pelvis ripples through to your neck. how moving your pelvis, even a little, causes your ribs to respond.
your spine is an eel, long and sinuous, curving back and forth. breath into the dance of your spine, this stem of bones connecting your head and tail.
lie still and let the bones of your spine settle.
for days when no movement is possible
there’s nothing to do.
make space for the part of you who thinks you should be moving. tell it it’s ok to lie still. right now, just for today, not moving is all we’re doing.
ankle and toe dance
move your hands. begin to move your toes. ankles. wrists. toes talking to your fingers.
create an ankle and wrist duet.
move as little or as much as you can, exploring what it might be to find a position that is comfortable, whatever that can be at this time.
cross and uncross your legs, or bend you knees a little more, change how the pillows are. make micro adjustments, knowing that a small movement of your elbow, a curl of your neck can help find a way in to your body-land.
a way of being here in this bed, this body, these sheets, this mattress, befriending all of it exactly as it is.
just for this breath.