“I think many of my skills have improved in both eurythmy and everyday life. Eurythmy has taught me patience, focus and confidence. ………… I have learnt to feel the music and try and transfer the feeling and the vibes the music gives off into my actions………………. I enjoyed how we all came together………… they (my classmates) were all supportive. I think watching them grow and improved helped me emotionally, too. The module was 10 times better with them all.”
This is a part of what a Class 9 (age 15) girl who was new at Elmfield Rudolf Steiner School wrote after 3 weeks of an intensive eurythmy module. Her experience here provides a glimpse of how eurythmy can help young people to acquire life skills through movement and how eurythmy addresses mind, heart and body.
In various ways we human beings are threefold beings. Mind, heart and body (spirit, soul and body) is one; thinking, feeling and will (doing) is another; and thirdly, we can also see in our physical appearance, the threefoldness of head, rhythmic (circulatory) system and limbs. When those three parts work harmoniously, we become healthy and balanced.
At the foundation of Waldorf education lie these three aspects of the human being. Another important basis is that Waldorf Education aims to give children what they need (the right thing) at the right time according to the life rhythm of developmental stages, which unfolds in seven year periods. In the first 7 years children learn through doing (will); in the second 7 year period (7-14) they learn about the world through beauty (feeling); in the third period (14-21) young people learn about the world through thinking.
The eurythmy curriculum, too, works with this developmental picture. In the Kindergarten children mostly learn eurythmy through imitating the teacher’s movement, imitating animals, plants and the movement of nature. They are at one with the world around them.
The tasks that children practise in eurythmy become more complicated and demanding as the year progresses. In the lower years of school one of the most important things for children is to learn to develop harmony and balance not only physiologically, but also socially. Everything they experience in Waldorf education between 7 to 14 is directed toward establishing a healthy relationship between a child and the world surrounding him/her. In eurythmy one of the most commonly used exercises to assist this development, is where children form a circle, then contract and expand this circle together. This is done to either music or spoken verses.
They learn to develop coordination, dexterity, agility and the ability to focus through various exercises as well. Copper rods are often used for developing these qualities. Their movement becomes more refined and they can hold themselves upright more naturally.
Children learn all the gestures of vowels and consonants using their arms and with these sound gestures they ‘move’ poems. These gestures manifest formative forces working in the nature, and practising them has a health giving effect. Geometry is also learned through experiencing it through movement (e.g. 5, 6 and 7 pointed star formations etc.). Thus it helps children to gain spatial geometrical consciousness.
As they get older, they are encouraged to work more with the qualities of spoken sound and music. They learn to bring out different feelings and emotions shown in poetry and music and bring these to expression. This is why eurythmy is sometimes called ‘soul gymnastics’.
In eurythmy, all movements and gestures are meaningful, never arbitrary. Students are encouraged to become conscious and mindful of their movement. Particularly from the onset of puberty, the teenage tendency is for them to turn in on themselves too much. These tendencies can be counteracted by an emphasis on working together through movement. Various social eurythmy exercises are used to promote social ability which will be the foundation stone for a healthy and fulfilling adulthood.
For this vital work we are in constant need of more eurythmy teachers in Waldorf schools all over the world. To become a eurythmy teacher in a Waldorf school, one needs to do a full-time, 4-year course to become a eurythmist. You can see more about studying eurythmy here.