Monday, July 9, 2012

The Body's Grace

What is the most beautiful movement you’ve ever seen in your life?  A heartbeat on an ultrasound monitor; Michael Phelps winning his record breaking 8th gold medal; a heron taking flight as it sores across the lake?  Movement seems to have the capacity to evoke many different emotions within us. 

Movement can be emotional.  A few weeks ago I fed my baby nephew his bottle and he reached up and gently touched my face.  

Movement can be funny.  Are any of you Seinfeld fans?  I think there are only a handful of actors who are as hilarious as Michael Richards.  Check out this 30 second clip of Kramer scrambling for a seat on the subway.  

Movement can be triumphant. Remember Karri Strug’s final two vaults during the ’96 Olympics?  She sprained her ankle during the first vault, but got up and did it again, fighting incredible pain, to win a gold medal for the team.

Movement can be different.  Have you ever taken the time to watch yourself move?  You might be surprised at what you see. Earlier this summer I was dressed up to meet a friend for a lunch date.  As I was walking quickly down the street towards the restaurant, I caught a glimpse of myself moving in a store window.  I was shocked at my appearance; I couldn’t believe how “tangled” my legs appeared.  My movements seemed to clash with the outfit I was wearing as if I had somehow mistakenly chosen to wear bright red pants under my teal tunic.  It looked “wrong.”  Is that really how I look when I move?

It’s taken me a while, but I am learning that there is beauty to be found in the way everyone moves, even people who live with physical disabilities.  So often, when I encounter someone who faces challenges in their mobility, my initial reaction is, “Wow, that person is really struggling to walk,” followed by, “I wonder what’s wrong?”  

While I think these questions are normal, my whole perspective has started to shift in this regard.  I once heard a radio interview with Matthew Sanford, fellow Minnesotan, yoga instructor, and quadriplegic who had much to share on this topic. Below is my paraphrase of his thoughts. 

We ought to look at people who face physical disabilities differently.  Instead of thinking about how hard it is for them to walk, we ought to consider how well they are moving.  Despite all the challenges that they face, the mixed messages that their minds are sending to their muscles, they are moving exactly the way they were designed to move to the best of their ability.  Their movement is not only one of struggle; it is also one of amazing beauty.

Artist Simon McKeown is interested in showcasing how people uniquely move who have physical disabilities.  He has created computer generated animations recording the movements of 14 people who have physical disabilities including Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, and Brittle Bone Disease.  A video is embedded below.   I’ve never seen anything like this before.  It is both different and unique.  You can read more about this project on his Website: 

This week….

Watch yourself move.  What do you notice about your stride?

Watch other people move.  If you encounter someone with a disability, try to remind yourself of the beauty and grace that is being exhibited before you.  Despite the challenges that this person may face, their body is moving exactly as it was originally intended to the best of its ability.  Amazing!



  1. I'm grateful to live in this era.
    Compared to a time when medicine was limiting.
    I cannot imagine a time without pain killers let alone antibiotics.
    I admire those who overcome a disability.
    It's wonderful to have numerous resources available.
    I wish there was a better word than d********y.

    1. Melanie,

      I too am grateful to live in this era!