Centered vs. Uncentered: Where Are You?

Centered vs. Uncentered

Yoga and meditation practitioners say that the body is controlled by the mind and the mind, in turn, is controlled by the breath. When mind and body are in tune with each other through the breath, we can consider ourselves to be “centered.”

When the body is out of control and we can’t settle ourselves down, we would consider ourselves to be “not centered.” This can happen before or during an audition, when sweating and shaking can become uncontrollable.

It can also happen to the mind. Instead of thinking about how well you will perform, your mind is going through the list of everything you’ll probably mess up. In either of these uncentered situations, we don’t do our best work.

When we think about being centered, or achieving our center, we can go back to the first line of the post: the body is controlled by the mind, and the mind is controlled by the breath. This is where we want to be: in a calm body, with a calm mind, breathing easily.

So, are you centered?

If you are like a lot people, you are an energetic multi-tasker. You do five or six things at once, shifting from your smart phone to the computer, to the TV, homework, and rehearsal flawlessly. You might even be stretching while you do all of that.

Although a useful skill in many ways, multi-tasking is, by definition, not allowing the mind to focus on one thing. If the mind is unfocused, it can be difficult to feel centered.

In some ways, this state of hyper-activity makes us feel accomplished. We can get so much done in a single morning or day! But the question today is, do we feel centered enough to do our best work?

To find out, answer these questions:

  • When you want to focus on a single task, are you able to turn down the chatter in your mind and achieve total focus?
  • How long can you remain in that state before your mind starts to activate or wander to other things?
  • When you set a goal for yourself, can you accomplish it in the time you set aside for it?
  • How often do you get distracted in the middle or before it’s done?
  • Can you think of a time when you wanted to do good work, but your mind or body’s nervousness or anxiety got in the way?

The first step in getting centered is recognizing that you aren’t. Don’t worry if you’ve just realized that you are easily distracted – most people are! It’s actually very normal and natural.

Controlling our minds and bodies is a sophisticated skill that few people have mastered, mostly because they haven’t tried. Stay tuned to the next few posts where I will give you some tips to getting centered.

Healthy Body Workshop Take-Aways

A growth spurt can leave you feeling discombobulated. 

The School at Steps’ Healthy Body Workshop- take-aways continued…please see my previous post for the first part.

  • Physical Development

Among other things, Dr. Andrew Price, orthopedic surgeon, spoke to the challenges posed by a growth spurt.

Did you know that when you are going through a growth spurt your muscles are weaker and tighter than usual? It makes sense when you think about it because your bones are growing and the muscles are racing to keep up with the new length acquired. Usually, students find that they are suddenly very tight (especially in the hamstrings) and weak. It can be hard to lift your legs anywhere near your usual height. But don’t despair. This is all natural.

The take-away here is not to push yourself during a growth spurt.

Go easy on leg extensions and big jumps until your body is finished the spurt. Then focus on strengthening and stretching again. It’s best to talk to your doctor and your dance teacher if you think you are going through a growth spurt. They’ll help you navigate these new parameters so you don’t get injured.

  • Maintaining a Healthy Self-Image

Like many of you, I had followed the aftermath of a certain New York Times’ critic’s remarks about NYCB Principal Jenifer Ringer and her partner’s weight in December 2010. It was great to have her on the panel to speak to her own personal experience with staying healthy as a dancer, as well as dealing with the above-mentioned remarks.

The big take-aways were two.

  • First, that Jenifer, like a lot of young dancers, spent a number of years trying to make her body into something it wasn’t. She didn’t accept her body and spent years hating herself. Her story was about coming to terms with her body and learning to love herself, which included what she called her “womanly curves.”
  • The second take-away had to do with the New York Times critic’s comment. Ringer said that his comment was her worst nightmare come true. And yet, she felt fine. She was not devastated by it.

She attributed her ability to manage that comment to the years of work that she had already put in to accepting herself and loving herself as a healthy, womanly dancer. Her words were so positive, so affirming, and so important to hear. This level of self-awareness and acceptance of our bodies is something that we can all strive for as we learn to navigate the expectations of this training and art form.