Equal pushing and breathing as described in the last post, connects partners through attunement – breathing in time with each other and balancing their pushing.  Another way of utilizing equal balance through pushing is something I call circular pushing.  Partners stand facing each other, palm to palm, about an arm and a half apart. One partner pushes while the other still resisting, allows their arms to move back.  Then the partner with arms back, pushes harder and makes the first pusher move their arms back.  As you push harder you breathe out.  As you receive the push, you breathe in.  Inhalation and exhalation happen at opposite times as your partner.  You can receive the push with little to no resistance or your can offer resistance but you still have to let your partner to have her/his turn to push harder.  The resulting movement is a circular pathway timed with breathing.  Even when this is difficult to do, children immediately can relate this to the balance of power in a healthy friendship.

Grounding Through Equal Pushing


All bullying happens in the context of unequal power. When working with a class group, I want the targets of bullying to feel their strength and I want the bullies to accommodate to others.

Pushing against another person or even against a wall provides a solid connection to the ground and to your core, which helps you to feel strong, centered and calm.

In the picture to the right, my Dance/Movement Therapy class at the University of Wisconsin, Madison is trying out equal pushing.  I had the class form two lines facing each other.  With children I sometimes use the image of a stream of water between the two lines.  I have everyone put one foot forward and slightly to the side with knees bent.  This stance lowers the center of gravity and provides a balanced position from which  to push.  Arms are put out in front of the body, the flat part of the hands in contact with their partner’s hands.  Elbows need to stay bent. We begin by pushing  lightly and gradually increase the force.  No one is allowed to push harder than their partner can push so you have to stay sensitive to the push you receive.  If one partner has his or her arms bent up close to the body or elbows straight and locked then the pushing is not even.  If the arms are not in the middle of the ‘stream’ one person is pushing harder. The goal is for both partners to feel their strength without overpowering the other.  With children I may choose partners I feel are closely matched so that everyone gets to feel somewhat challenged.

Once your group has the idea of pushing, it is important to put recuperation into the movement. I time the push, saying “Push, and push, and push and Breathe….. ”   The release happens while remaining in contact with hands your partner.   Partners bring their arms  up in the air together as they take a slow, easy, breath.  After the breath we push again.  This forms a rhythm of pushing and releasing, pushing and releasing.  When this reciprocal use of strong and light, tension and release, is done in time with a partner, a sense of connection develops.

The ability to delay gratification as a preschooler has been linked positively with staying out of jail, finishing school, keeping a job, (in general, doing better in life in many parameter than those children who cannot delay gratification.) The ability to delay gratification is intricately linked to resisting temptation. It is the ability to say no to something that pulls at you. Temptation can be felt as a physical pull in the body. Helping children to practice this skill is something I offer all my classes. I start out by have the children try to sit still while watching an ooze tube timer (look up on Google.) Children with ADHD frequently feel like they are dead if they are not moving. They loose the sense of there body being there. We start out wiggling around and feeling our bottoms on the floor. Then we breathe in and out and feel the breath move from the floor up through our body and back down again. The goal is to keep feeling the breath and our bottoms while we stay still.

When we can stay mostly still, I have some children act as distractors. They move around outside the circle doing and saying silly things, trying to get the children sitting still to turn and look at them. All children seem to love this exercise. Almost all of them can stay focused despite the distractions. We are not looking for perfection. We do try to refocus if we get distracted. When the class gets pretty good at this task I give the children a Beanie Baby. They practice having this on their desk or on the floor in front of them with out it distracting them and without touching it. When the class gets pretty good at that, I have the teacher give resisting challenges to the class through the day such as sit on the carpet without touching anyone or walking in the hallway without talking, etc. Then I have children make their own resisting goals and evaluate their progress. Eventually they get to take the beanie baby home. I have children in middle school and high school stop me and tell me that they still have that Beanie Baby. It ends up meaning a lot to them.

There are many ways to play with the idea of resisting from actually resisting the pull of a spandex cloth, to maintaining a specific way of moving such as only in straight lines despite others trying to get them to change. Watching the children work on these tasks always makes me feel in awe of their abilities. I frequently make my own goals and practice at the same time.

What is very important is to have the children discuss what strategies they use to maintain control, or to not get distracted. Some of the strategies children have expressed are; looking at something else, keeping their mind on what they need to do, talking to themselves to stay strong, thinking about something else. I would love to hear about ways you introduce and teach the idea of resisting.

Last week I tried something new to work on the skill of resisting temptation. Thanks to a volunteer, I found a store where I could buy glass stones like the ones used in the game Mancala (The African Stone Game) except these were in different shapes; stars, squares, and swirly things. I had already used the Mancala type stones – having the children balance them on the backs of their hands while watching an Ooze Tube Timer for 1-5 minutes depending on the class. And, holding two or three stones in one hand without jiggling them. The children love the different color stones and find it quite challenging to resist moving or jiggling the stones.

This time I tried something new.

Each child got 4 stones of varying shapes and colors. They were instructed to resist touching them until everyone had received their stones.

Then they were given a short time to make an interested design or sculpture with the stones.

We all sat in our spots and looked around and then we stood up and walked around the room to look at the shapes without touching any stones (body control in space.)

Then we sat back down in our spots and talked about what we saw, while resisting the temptation to touch the stones or change our design.

I then gave out more stones. Once you had the new stones you could begin making a new design. But until then you had resisting touching.

Any time a child touched a stone while we talked or looked they lost a stone. The challenge was to keep all the stones and remain in control.

We repeated this several times. The children enjoyed making more complex designs. Some found it very difficult to resist touching when a stone fell or when we talked.

We discussed strategies the children found helpful such as looking away from the stones, focusing on something different, using self-talk to remain in control.

A few classes brought stones back to their class to resist touching them during whatever period the teacher decided to take them out.

The purpose of this BLOG is to develop a site where anyone using the body or movement in their work in violence prevention and developing peace can share their approaches.

My approach, published as Disarming the Playground; Violence Prevention through Movement and Pro-Social Skills (book and training DVDs) uses theories from the field of Dance/Movement Therapy to develop an embodied approach to creating peaceful schools and communities.

I know that there are people from all over the United States and in several other countries that have purchased my curriculum and made their own adjustments.  I would love to hear about successes and problems in using this curriculum as well as hearing about other embodied approaches.

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Disarming the Playground; Violence Prevention through Movement

Violence Prevention through Movement is a comprehensive curriculum that utilizes the body and mind as equal partners in developing the skills necessary for creating a safe world. A two-book set, complemented by two training DVD's, teaches protective and proactive behaviors tailored for aggressors, targets, and witnesses of aggression.
If you are interested in learning about purchasing this curriculum, go to www.hancockcenter.net and click on the link to Disarming the Playground.

Dance/Movement Therapy

Dance/movement therapy is a form of psychotherapy which incorporates creative and expressive movement along with words to provide an integrated experience of body, mind and spirit. Dance/movement therapy helps develop healthy self image, communication skills and emotional stability. For more information visit http://www.adta.org/

Hancock Center for Dance/Movement Therapy, Inc.

Hancock Center is a dance/movement therapy center. Seven board certified dance/movement therapists, licensed by the state of Wisconsin, work there, seeing individuals, families, and groups, providing a wide range of services both at Hancock Center and in the community, encompassing both therapy and wellness work. For more information visit www.hancockcenter.net

Disarming Playground