Week 3: Irene Dowd’s ‘Orbits’

This week we will explore the hip sockets by studying Irene Dowd’s ‘Orbits’. We will also look at other exercises and ways of moving the external rotators of the hip in relation to the bony structure of the pelvis. Additionally, we will address the adjacent muscles and how their mechanics affect the overall function of the hips.

Although we are not learning ‘Resonance’, I thought it would still be of interest to post this video:


19 thoughts on “Week 3: Irene Dowd’s ‘Orbits’

  1. I love the articulations in the feet at the beginning of class. It is so great to wake up a fuller range of possibilities in my feet, such a precious part of my body. It is great with flexible ankles for stability and for stiff ankles for mobility. The circles of the leg and hip and then the combination of the two were an interesting testament to stability, particularly when the two were combined. We’ve been programed to hold our leg steady so we can go off balance but we rarely practice the stability during off balance. Finally, my mind and body still get so frustrated trying to pick up the movement combination at the end of class in a vernacular I am not use to. I hope each week the first day will click into place but alas I will work toward a richer understanding and execution as the week continues.

  2. Today’s warmup was a little familiar and a whole lot of unfamiliar territory. Some movements reminded of a floor barre or Pilates mat exercise I had done before, but this sequence of movements honed in on my hips in a way that I wasn’t expecting when I first watch the demonstration. It was exciting and a bit painful at times to feel all the tiny inter workings and happenings in the hip socket. It especially highlighted movement patterns that are not in my comfort zone, but because we repeated each movement a few times I was able to explore that discomfort instead of just passing through it.

  3. I loved class today! I have returned to a somewhat heavy running schedule as my supplemental exercise since becoming pregnant. My body has been so tight and sore in class. The foot exercises in the beginning of class felt like magic. I started class wondering how I would get through it – I was so sore and tight! However, by the time we transitioned to the phrase, I felt very limber and stable.

    I also greatly valued the orbits exercise. I have an issue with my vestibulocochlear nerve in my right ear and my balance is being damaged/challenged. I feel that I truly benefit from stability exercises like this. The circling hip and leg challenged every aspect of my balance from the base of my foot up to my pelvis and then extending further up to the top of my head.

    Finally, the attitude swing exercise was fun and freeing. I felt the most increase in my range of motion when my partner really contacted my sits bone for the push forward. There were a few times when her hand slid lower or higher and the result didn’t feel as powerful.

  4. I enjoyed going back to the foot work today as a start to class. I became really interested in the foot that was peeling off the floor in each step as well as the foot placed down. This was helpful especially in the inside to outside and outside to inside versions. As I placed a foot down inside to outside, I peeled the opposite foot off outside to inside. This gave me a clear sensation of how the balls of the femurs rock the pelvis side to side to create weight shift. I think I often feel the weight of the pelvis shifting a little higher up – around mid-sacrum to lower back-ish. It also seemed to be a great preparation for the standing orbit work we did not long after. Thanks!

  5. With all the somatic overlap this summer, I have really been trying to understand how to move more efficiently. I thought to myself in class today that this should be getting easier since the body is “doing it by itself” (sort of)….then I had to remind myself that more efficient does not necessarily mean easy! With that realization I felt more inclined to explore.

  6. I agree with several of the previous comments. I really enjoyed returning the the foot articulations at the beginning of class!! It sets me up with a solid base. Afterwards, my feet feel wide and stable and ready to meet the challenges of being on balance and off balance.

    I also enjoyed the orbits sequence. The two years prior to my hip surgery and after have proved challenging to keep both stability and mobility in my hips. The orbits sequence combine the two quite nicely. I will definitely be incorporating these into my daily routine.

    I also appreciate the use of conditioning within the technique class. This is something I have struggled with as a teacher.

  7. I am loving the orbits work this week. My body likes to isolate muscle groups. I’m having a little psoas issue, and when I first began the orbit exercises I thought I would only be able to do one side. I was really surprised that that wasn’t the case. My hip sockets felt free to move without straining. When I focused on the rotation of the joint and allowed my body to follow rather than using unnecessary muscle groups, I didn’t strain. I felt my body activated simply without trying to use every muscle available. I realize I tend to thrown in whatever I can to get the job done, and finding that method just throws me off. I’m trying to take some of the self imposed pressure off and allow the most direct path, and although it’s taking some serious inhibition, those baby steps are very satisfying when fulfilled!

  8. I have been reticent to comment on the orbits series this week. I appreciate to work in the hip socket, but the stabilizers in my ankles and shins feel like they may be overworking. This troubles me a little bit because I am working with a reconstructed achilles tendon. There is kind of a generalized burning sensation in the lower leg area – what I am accustomed to is more specificity of fatigue, and it is a little alarming to not be able to localize the working area. Obviously this points to a weakness in the area, but I wonder if working with the barre in this series would be a good modification?

  9. I enjoyed articulating my feet and finding mobility in awkward and stiff places. It was a great way to begin class by waking up the sensitivity in the soles and inner and outer sides of the feet, then letting that sensitivity inform my connection to the floor for the rest of the class.

    At the start of the week, Orbits felt difficult to do (burning), but as the week continued, I felt much more fluidity, space, strength in my standing leg, blood flow to my hip joints and stability.

    The floor work was freeing and fun and the tension in my shoulders and upper body (from doing so much writing), got in the way for a while. Thankfully, as the class progressed, I felt the tension subside. I enjoy going upside down!

  10. I really enjoyed this concept of orbits and how you fully integrated them into the entire class. The Irene Dowd warm up in the beginning of the week was pretty intense for me and brought attention to not only my rotators and glutes but also how the hip joint functions. It also reminded me of a Pilates mat class. However, how it was presented brought my awareness to working more from the inside out rather than the reverse. When standing the orbits helped me to find more stability on my working leg and greater rotation and also displayed the many possibilities of movement that can be generated from them. My most enjoyable part of the class this week was traveling through space with the saute de basque step and incorporating the different timing (I did want to do a one and half saute de basque when we switched the direction). The last phrase incorporated some possibilities of how orbits can be used in a phrase but also had elements of qualitative expressivity which I enjoyed exploring.
    On Friday, for the first time the warm up felt therapeutic and not forced as I was focusing on my breath and thinking about sequencing rather than muscling of having to arrive at certain time. Very liberating.

  11. I thought about Gerald’s class when reading this part of an LMA-paper: “First, we must be able to picture the locale in which the movements occurs-is it small, large, cramped, crowded? Can one circulate through the space freely or is one compelled to stay in one spot? Secondly, we must be able to articulate the spatial design that is in the movement itself; that is, to describe where motions go in the changing process of flowing from place to place.” (192, “Introduction to Laban Movement Analysis”)

    At the beginning of the week I was sore in my feet, chins, and hip joints. The “orbitz” sequences made my body really tired and tight to begin with. Today, Friday, I feel as if everything came together. I feel stronger, more fluid, calmer, and I breathe “more” during exercises.
    I also realize that I’ve never taken class in this every day mode since undergraduate! It is such true luxury and joy. I’m also aware of how I take class for my own pleasure; not to please the teacher, but to please myself. I don’t feel that I have to “get” movement sequences at first take; I trust that it will all fall in to place eventually. I sort of wait around.
    Great week, thanks Gerald!

  12. This week I became interested in the way information is integrated from our brains into our bodies. On Tuesday morning in technique, I could not stop thinking about the reading I had done for Alexander Technique as we worked through the orbits series. I found mobility of the axis just under the ankle joints, allowing for movement of the bones of my feet. This movement connected me to the floor in a new way and I found a real rebound of energy through my whole body.

    I also was thinking a lot about primary curve versus secondary curve. I never understood why it would be important to identify primary and secondary curves, but this new awareness of these terms gave me a deeper sense of connectivity in movement, especially where the orbits are concerned.

    This heightened awareness of some of the Alexander Principles working together with Irene Dowd’s Orbits was so exciting to me but I also felt a little bogged down by how hard my mind was working. I was having a hard time just letting myself move. By Wednesday morning I was able to let go of the literal translation of new somatic information to my nerves (and then muscles, bones) and dance a little bit more. I found I was able to trust in my body more and that the information was integrating on a different level.

    Although sometimes subtle, it seems that neurological pathways have the capacity to be re-patterned really quickly and that maybe our subconscious mind plays a part in this…?

  13. I loved the break in class that the arm sequence in cannon improvised off balance brought. It felt so environmentally different and provided such a contrast to the orbits, which at times felt particularly heady and muscled. The chance to reconnect to the freedom that comes from impossibility was great. I also felt like it engendered some kind of energetic camaraderie, this kind of beautiful group failure, which really palpably changed the rest of class for me.

  14. I must agree with others that the foot exercises at the beginning of class are an excellent way to begin. I feel connected to the floor after finding all of the gooey spots within my feet. It has also helped me release and massage my foot muscles after yoga, since I have been experiencing a lot of cramping in my lower legs. This helped me feel more “set up” for the “Orbiting” series standing.

  15. I completely agree with Sam about his experience with the improvised arm sequence. I found that it let me come out of my head and experience everyone dancing around me. It didn’t matter if the combination was correct, or if I didn’t complete the exercise in the right way, rather I experienced the class for myself and enjoyed the connection to my fellow class mates.
    I also enjoyed our ton due exercise this week. I felt like I connected to the fundamental idea that it is just a brush of the floor, and I think that the explorations of orbits was a fundamental with that experience.

  16. The turnout dance has really had an impact on the awareness of working through my hip rotation. I feel as though every muscle, tendon and ligament has been awakened in my hips and are now working in a way that I am not sure that I’ve ever felt before. I have always had so much trouble with turnout and rotation simply because of the physical limitations with which I was born. However, after stumbling for the first couple of days I am now beginning to feel much stronger and am able to achieve greater rotation without as much fight. I also really appreciate staring on the floor and continuing the same ideas standing. It really helps me to stay connected applying the same thoughts and intentions as when we are on the floor.

    Oh yeah, and those naughty inversions and floor transitions. :/ I just keep telling myself “head tail! head tail! head tail!” Sometimes I get it and sometimes it just slips away from me. I do believe I’m getting better though, because I don’t feel as clumsy. I’ll just keep trying and if I yell “head tail” in class, don’t be alarmed. 🙂

  17. I have enjoyed every day in class more and more. I got so much out of orbits and am constantly challenged by the necessity for stability in all of the combinations because we are constantly changing our balance on one leg.

    I am so glad we went back to the foot warm up sequence this week because I find it so helpful in finding stability and balance as well as warming up the feet. I feel like my feet always take the longest to warm up sometimes and this has helped me. I would like to incorporate this exercise into my daily warm up.

    I have to say that the highlight of class for me this week was actually the rhythmic combination across the floor! I LOVE tricky feet combinations and the rhythm changes were quite a task! I couldn’t help but smile and feel like I was “dancing” during each repetition as well as be challenged in so many different ways!

  18. I liked that we were able to watch the video of the orbits. Christina taught us the entire sequence, including the standing sequence last year in the fall. I had a certain understanding of spirals then, however now that I have taken anatomy and am currently in LMA, i find that my understanding of spirals has evolved from a “shape” place and more into a direction and lengthening place. I always found the floor sequence to me more useful to me in setting myself up for class. The standing sequence, specifically the turns, was really difficult for me because I had a hard time committing it to memory. The Irene sequences really set me up for class, as well as the footwork that we brought back from week 1. Something to think about when I want to warm myself up for a class.

  19. Better late than never i suppose, but it took me a while to reflect on Orbits. I did orbits with you last year and found that I was really stuck in my hips and everything was really quite painful. I was nervous about revisiting orbits this summer as I was afraid for to experience the same response. Luckily, It was somewhat contrary. Granted the turnout dance really gave my overactive glutes a bit to scream about but i felt less focused on what my body was trying to look like and what it was “supposed” to feel like and just experience the movement for what it was. Whether that was the correct approach, I’m not sure, but it made spirals much more enjoyable. I felt really mobile in my pelvis, and one I got over the whole “foot gripping thing” I was physically “comfortable” with orbits as opposed to last fall. I think the reason why I find orbits so challenging is because I am constantly trying to control my body and my way of “controlling” is by gripping. Orbits forced me to let go, go with the flow of the movement and trust my body.

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