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New Contributors | Lynn Martin


I first learned about Ideokinesis shortly after I had begun to teach an introductory dance movement class in a small private studio in New York City in the early 1970's. I had been a student in the adult beginner class there for several years and took over the class from a departing teacher. I was searching for ways to improve both my own capabilities and those of my students.

Ideokinesis provided valuable information toward unraveling the coordinative mysteries related to learning dance as an adult. I was introduced to concepts of good bodily alignment and Ideokinesis by Mary Bakalian in a small experimental class in 1975. Bakalian was a teacher of ballroom dance and had studied dance with Drid Williams. Bakalian introduced me to Drid Williams in 1976, at which time I had the opportunity to take one lesson in Ideokinesis with Williams. One lesson was all I needed to set me on a path of study that became central to the rest of my life.

For several years I traveled to Minnesota and Pennsylvania to work privately with Williams. When Williams established a Masters Degree program in the Anthropology of Human Movement at New York University in 1979, I was able to study more intensively with her. During 1983 and 1984, I became an apprentice to Williams in Ideokinesis. She supervised my work with private students, helped me to formulate lesson plans and guided me through teaching Constructive Rest. We would have regular monthly conferences regarding a student's progress; then I would continue teaching individual sessions with the student until the next review session with Williams. As a guest at several of Williams's NYU courses, I was also able to observe how she applied her own studies with Sweigard to the teaching of dance.

My early studies in Ideokinesis (1977-85) were aimed toward increased understanding of my own musculo-skeletal asymmetries and tension patterns. Sweigard's work changed people's posture, and in changing people's posture, she changed and redirected their capabilities of movement. I gained the ability to focus clearly and to attend to small, subtle bodily responses through Constructive Rest work. I made many changes in the habitual movements of all of my everyday activities, especially walking. I rethought how I used my body in relationship to tools and equipment, in particular how I sat and approached the task of typing, which I did quite a lot of back then. This intensive study confirmed to me that the deepest application of Ideokinesis requires one-on-one work guided by a trained teacher to elicit changes in one's highly individualized neuromuscular patterns. Ideokinesis could help anyone make these kinds of changes, provided the student is dedicated to such rigorous study and willing to incorporate those changes into his or her daily life.

In 1977 I met Irene Dowd in New York and began to study functional anatomy and Ideokinesis with her as well. I have been able to pursue ongoing studies with Dowd since 1977. I have participated in many of Dowd's semester-long courses related to functional anatomy, visualization, principles of neuromuscular function and problem solving, injury prevention, and observing the dynamic body. These courses have added to (and continue to add to) my theoretical understanding of functional anatomy, as well as offering me further practice in observing and analyzing alignment and movement patterns with individual students. Dowd has developed a series of choreographed movement sequences that provide a warm-up for all of the body's major joints and muscle groups, which may be taught to groups or adapted to individual needs. I use excerpts from these sequences to help private students develop their own neuromuscular coordinations and as examples to teach functional anatomy in group classes.

Gradually, my ability to see below the surface of the body improved. I began to see how my studies of functional anatomy and use of imagery could be applied to teaching movement. I was able to help my beginner level dance students improve their basic coordinations, such as shifting weight from one leg to another, maintaining a sense of a central vertical axis while moving, changing levels and through movements such as plie and releve. The more I have learned to clearly visualize anatomical structures in motion, the more I have been able to help my students to improve their movement strategies.

In 1983, I helped Williams to organize a day of tribute to Dr. Lulu Sweigard. "Sweigard Day" took place on April 30th of that year at New York University. Presentations were delivered by Drid Williams, Irene Dowd, Karen Barracuda and Gretchen Langstaff-Schaffer, all of whom spoke of their memories of Dr. Sweigard and their experiences with her work.

In 1985 I assisted Irene Dowd to organize a study of the effects of Ideokinesis and exercise on maintaining mobility in the elderly, sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania. As a result of that successful program, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union invited me to teach a class for their retired members, which I did for fourteen years.

Among the important anatomical information in Dr. Sweigard's book, Human Movement Potential: Its Ideokinetic Facilitation, is the fact that there are approximately 100 movable joints in the ribcage. That statement led me to pursue studies in Breathing Coordination with Carl Stough in 1976. I wanted to experience the movement of all 100 of my ribcage's joints. Stough identified important physiological principles governing the function of the respiratory system. His work also includes developing vocal function as an intrinsic aspect of the breathing mechanism and the primary means of redeveloping the diaphragm. Breathing Coordination led me to study voice and singing for twelve years with Conrad Osborne, whose teaching method is ideokinetically based and has a wholistic approach to the teaching of voice. As a result of Breathing Coordination and voice studies, I became a member of the St. Cecilia Chorus in 1980 and have performed much of the great choral-orchestral repertoire at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

As I began to teach Breathing Coordination Principles, Lynn MartinI saw that Stough's concepts for improving the function of the diaphragm fit well with my background in functional anatomy and visualization. Although the practices that promote Breathing Coordination are different from those of Ideokinesis, an accurate understanding of the respiratory structures and their movements is crucial to the successful transmission of Breathing Coordination concepts to a student. Since none of the structures directly involved in breathing can be easily observed from the outside, clearly articulated imagery regarding their activities is an excellent route to improvement.

Since 2001 I have been teaching Anatomy and Kinesiology for Dancers at New York University. Working with a fairly large student body within a narrowly proscribed timeframe precludes the possibility of dealing with individual alignment and movement issues. In this context, my goal is to offer students clear descriptions and visual pictures of the body's movable joints and major muscle groups that act upon those joints. I try to convey both the movement possibilities and limitations of those joints and to provide general imagery to illuminate their location and potential direction of action. While these classes are experiential in nature, the practices must be generalized, based on sound physiological principles.

I maintain a private practice in Ideokinesis and Breathing Coordination in New York City.

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Lynn Martin

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