My daughter recently began taking piano lessons, and one of the first “mandates” by the instructor was to “keep your legs uncrossed”. She informed us that, when the limbs are entangled, the natural midline of the body is crossed, and this disables new memories and learning experiences from flowing and inputing into the brain.
I searched the medical database for some kind of “proof” to qualify this pronouncement, but came up empty. Oh well. A bunch of hocus-pocus, I thought.
But then, several weeks later, sitting in my office was a client whose breathing began to become discreetly labored as she revealed some recent anxiety provoking encounters. Surely (given basic physiology), even this very subtle hyperventilation was only making her physical experience worse (and reflexively her anxiety). It needed nipped in the bud, STAT. So, I guided her through a Guided Relaxation Breathing exercise, starting with... ”Uncross your arms and legs, allow both feet to rest on the ground....”
Ah-ha! She felt began to feel a bit more calm. And as the calm filled her, she felt less judgmental and more acceptance about the experience that just a minute before left her with dread.
Perhaps (ideally) what followed next was a receptive experience...one where she didn’t need to have her guard up, and could receive the influences around her in the moment. Allow herself to drink in what I was saying, to bathe herself in kindness. And ultimately, to gain something for herself from the 45minutes we shared.
How often do we sit with our legs crossed? Or, when we are in an argument, do we cross our arms tightly across our chest? Our body has several built-in protective mechanisms when we feel threatened. When we are angry, we often don’t want to hear what someone else is saying to us (I am right! They are wrong!), and so I’m hypothesizing that perhaps the crossed body technique is our attempt to physically stop our own mind from “letting that person in”.
So I summon you (and, myself!) to try and be more aware of when your body is “crossed”; when the midline is “off balance”. Particularly, do this when you are in the vicinity of another person. I encourage you to be curious about what is going on for you in that moment and in that relationship...
And, If you can muster the courage, I challenge you to try and untwist, to open up, to uncross, and see what happens if you allow yourself to enter a receptive state.