The Importance of Meditative Movement
Review by Natasha P.

In what seems to be a never-ending state of medical and economic duress, it is not surprising to hear that reports of depression and anxiety levels amongst people globally have rapidly increased over the last year. We are essentially stripped of certain basic elements that make up the contemporary human experience - the ability to move freely, to form new connections and to submerge ourselves in nature. To compensate, some have turned to the beauty of movement meditation. In the art of movement meditation, movers/artists/movement psychotherapists combine elements of movement and dance to relieve both physical and mental stress.

Ekin Bernay, a Turkish-born artist, dance and movement psychotherapist explores the healing qualities of movement meditation in Resilient Responses: Repair and Restore. Inspired by Bruce Nauman’s use of his body as a channel to explore the human experience, Bernay takes the opportunity to explore stillness, fluidity and the use of breath in response to the effects of the pandemic. In the online workshop set in the empty halls of the Tate in London, she guides us through the way she uses movement to encourage grounding and being present in the moment. I experienced the workshop as both a viewer and participant.

The 15-minute workshop is divided into 5 parts. In “PART ONE: HERE YOU ARE”, the artist is seen running around an empty hall, disappearing each time she runs behind a beam. The viewer is accompanied by the echoey sound of her voice as she reminds us to inhabit the space around us and to inhabit our bodies. The use of empty space that envelopes her in each frame is not only visually pleasing; it also proves to be a clever use of the venue to frame the artist. This encourages the participants to make full use of our own spaces. Usually, our homes are seen as walls that trap us daily, but through her guidance, we are encouraged to enter little corners and crevices that we may not usually pay attention to. - creating a new sense of awareness of our surroundings.

“PART TWO: TOWARDS THE UNKNOWN” is a lesson in playing with and exploring resistance. Bernay pulls against a rope tied around a thick pillar and explores different ways in which she can wrap the rope around her body and push against its force. When I did this myself, I used a theraband looped over my window grill to experiment with the shapes I could make with my body. I took the chance to study how this exercise could benefit me as a mover, and how I could incorporate the new movement vocabulary I’ve acquired into my own practice. It felt equal parts freeing and challenging as I found myself either stumbling over my imbalanced centre of gravity, or maneuvering the resistance in an awkward manner. The push against the tension is symbolic of the push to beat our own mental challenges. At the end of the exercise she tells us to shake the tension off, which is a great reminder to eventually let go and let loose, no matter the situation.

The most impactful section of the workshop is Part 3, in which we are instructed by Bernay to “uncover the flow” by creating waves with our bodies. It is usually very hard for me to move freely without the fear of looking silly. However, in the comfort of my own home and with her reminders to abandon care, I was able to completely let loose and let my limbs flail the way they wanted. The cathartic quality of being able to move in a flowy state is unparalleled. I became aware of the space I was taking up every time I expanded and contracted my body. I felt very good coming back to stillness at the end of the exercise and syncing my thoughts to slow down with my breath - a beautiful reminder that I am allowed to take up space in the way I want at any moment.

The final part, entitled “NOW TOUCH YOUR FACE” shows the artist close up for the first time, staring into the camera. She narrates over this frame, telling the viewer to imagine wind blowing on their face. As soon as she says this, a gust of wind blows in her direction, sending her hair flying. While it may seem odd to the viewer, in an interview, she mentions that this exercise encourages the participant/viewer to focus on sensations from the outside world that they may be deprived of. In terms of aesthetics, the final part is moving art in each frame so as a workshop participant, it was hard to imagine a physical sensation that isn’t felt. I suppose this is where there is still a gap between experiencing art in person and through an online medium, as not everything can be communicated in the way the artist intended.

I found the workshop experience nothing short of stunning. Bernay’s use of space, words and overall creativity birthed a beautiful body of work with an equally beautiful intention behind it. I’m a huge advocate of art being a form of therapeutic healing. It is important - now more than ever - that artists explore the ways in which art can be created purely from personal healing, and how it doesn't have to be for the consumption of others.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Natasha P. is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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