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“Passion”, A Lab for Every Body on Sunday!

Inspired by a series of conversations with black belt Nia guide Andrew Mills, I started exploring different formats with the intention of first helping my students learn Nia choreography more easily. Feeling the need to take the concept “live” I invited my students to help me test the early version. They agreed and were wonderful!

On Sunday, September 30 from 1-3pm, I’ll be sharing the first Learning Lab of this type.

We’ll be learning The Base moves for the Nia routine, Passion.

This Lab is perfect for a new-to-Nia students, as well as veteran students and new Nia teachers.

Dedicated to Awareness of Body Sensation, let’s create a relaxed, fun atmosphere. We’ll “walk” through the Nia Base Moves that make Passion the pleasure-filled fitness experience it is. We’ll explore just enough technique to create a foundation for success and I’ll share my “new toy”*, a tool that puts the intensity level of each and every class of any type in the palm of your hand.

I love doing this work and I’m honored to offer this first Lab.

The Passion Lab will be offered at the beautiful, serene Clarus Center in Warrenville. I love this location; gorgeous, warm hardwood floors, floor to ceiling windows and doors that open out to a bank of marsh grasses and wild flowers surrounding a huge pond settled against a tall line of trees. At Clarus we get to dance with coyote, ducks, geese, racoons and whoever wants to join in and if it’s cool enough, we’ll have a fire in the fire place.

The Lab cost is $35. You’ll go home with the Passion Home Practice Packet including the music CD so that you can practice at home.

To register, contact me, either by email – Niaspirit@yahoo.com or call/text 630-290-4814.

This Lab for learning the Base Moves is a first step from which many other learning opportunities can grow. Next, we’ll explore the Passion Moves for Core and the Upper Extremities of the Body. Then? How about the 9 Movement Forms followed by The Body’s Way?

All you have to do is show up and your body will do the rest!

I’d like to express deep gratitude to my students for their patience and willingness to step into the unknown with me while I figure things out, and for trusting that I would.

Thank you, Andrew.

**

*I introduced my “new toy” in my last blog post, What Is Movement Alchemy And What’s In It For You?

REMINDER…

Sole Practice, my one-on-one sessions are beginning in October in the same amazing Clarus location. You can get more details about Sole Practice at http://www.movementalchemy.com. Click on Ooze, Melt and Drip and then on Sole Practice.

What is Movement Alchemy? And What’s In It For You?

Why am I here?

Why did I create Movement Alchemy?

What do I have to offer that will benefit you and others?

I’m here, I guess because my parents liked each other alot!

Seriously, I’m here because I can help you heal.

Movement Alchemy describes the transformation through movement that is accessible to every body.  Transformation that honors every body in its uniqueness and life history. Movement Alchemy is the culmination of the work I’ve done; the different disciplines of movement, the variety of injuries I’ve befriended as well as the various methods of healing I’ve explored.

Movement Alchemy is…

  • Nia classes, an energetic, fun way to get fit, connect to community and get your dance fix! 52 Moves fuse the energy of martial arts, dance arts and healing arts for a perfectly balanced fitness program.
  • Labs and Workshops that are perfect if you are new to movement or Nia. Labs and Workshops that are also rich opportunities for all of you veterans and teachers to dive more deeply into your somatic practice with others in the Nia community.
  • Sole Practice, one-on-one sessions that incorporate your personal body history and natural movement style. This information is a treasure map that will lead us on a journey of mind, body, spirit and emotional fitness, well-being and pleasure.

Why should you come and get it from me?

First, I am head over heels in love with your body!

It’s the truth and I’m pretty shameless about it! I’d like to hear about your experiences with movement, and your body history.  I’d also like to share tools to help you increase your awareness of body sensation. Awareness is the foundation for any change, whether you want to increase strength, and flexibility or get faster and increase stability. I’ll share tools that will improve your ability to  move more easily, release pain, heal and reach your goals.

Second, I’m a gifted teacher.

That means:

1. I can do what I claim.

2. There is nothing I would rather do with my time than share my love of movement with you. I bring 15+ years of experience moving bodies and a passion for exploration and movement adventure. I speak Sensation, the language of the body and with a little practice, you will too!

3. I have a new Toy and I can’t wait to share it!

On a personal note, recently I caught myself wishing I had stepped into this earlier in my life. I just didn’t have the juice I have now; the fuel, the excitement that gets me up every morning (and Movement Alchemy won’t fully manifest until October!).

What is it? This fuel?

I love my body! I love the way it moves. I love the way it feels and these two concepts feed each other.

The more I love the way I feel, the more I want to move and find ways of moving that result in loving the way I feel!

The Joy of Movement, Nia White Belt Principle 1. It is the sensation of Joy flooding my body. The sensation that says, “oh yea, this is the way I want to keep doing it”.  It was through Nia that I discovered The Joy of Movement, but it is not limited to Nia. I discovered the Joy of  Running. After 25 years of doing it-hating it-doing it-hating it, I applied Principle 5, Awareness. I ran and listened. When it didn’t feel good I made tiny changes, I tweaked – I kept my mouth closed but my teeth apart so my jaw would stay relaxed. I lengthened my stride; that did not feel good and I started counting steps again. I checked my ego, shorted my stride and slowed my pace. Ah, Joy returned. When I felt like I could run for hours, I was there. My body would ask me to run. I was slow, at first, but it felt really good and I was happy to be outside. Before long I was faster. I quietly kept up with the speeds of some more serious runners and found my pace not far from theirs. Ok, this really works!

Nia is much of what I share, but Movement Alchemy is how the big picture comes together.

Nia. Dance. Running. Basketball. Golf. Business. Relationships.

Strength. Flexibility. Agility. Mobility. Stability. Longevity.

The Balance of Yin and Yang, masculine and feminine energy within each one of us and out in the world.

Oh, yea about that new toy?!

This toy is actually a tool that gives me the power of choice; the power to choose how I’m going to use my body in any given moment. Learning to use this tool has made a huge difference in my conditioning and how my body looks. I’ll bet learning to use this tool would make a big difference in your movement practice; profession, hobby or sport, whatever your fitness, experience or skill level. At the same time, you will develop what I call your deep core reserve of stability.

Curious? Good! Come see me.

Too far away for live and in person? That’s ok, we’ve got this thing called technology. Contact me and we’ll figure it out.

Somatic Practices

I just spent some time doing a little research. I was curious about somatic practices so I’ve started a list.

You’ll find my list on my website:

http://www.movementalchemy.com

click on For You

click on Somatics

Feel free to look around and let me know what you think. There will be downloads available in the very near future and I’m still working out how I’d like to organize information but otherwise I’m pretty happy.

The Nature of Sensation

We are amazing.

Remarkable.

Walking, talking, loving, feeling, giving works of biological art.

That is a neuron (thanks to Anatomy in Motion, http://www.mografi.com/anatomyinmotion/). Truly a thing of beauty.

Briefly and very simply because that is my level of expertise with neuroscience, neurons are the basic components of nervous tissue. The picture shows a typical motor neuron with a cell body, dendrites (which conduct electrical impulses toward the cell body) and axons (which carry electrical impulses away from the cell body). Neurons are specialized according to how they communicate and with what they communicate. I’m only sharing three!

Sensory or afferent neurons carry impulses from sensory receptors in the skin or internal organs. The cell bodies of sensory neurons are found in the peripheral nervous system/PNS. The PNS consists of nervous tissue outside of the central nervous system/CNS which consists of brain and spinal cord.

Motor or efferent neurons carry impulses from the CNS to body muscles and glands. Cell bodies of motor neurons are found in the central nervous system.

Finally, association neurons or interneurons connect sensory and motor neurons.

Ok, so sensory neurons carry messages from skin and organs to the CNS. I just touched something.

The interneurons “fire” and

Motor neurons carry messages from the CNS to the body. It’s hot and I pull my hand away.

I may get a blister, but sensation – this dance of electrical stimulation works to insure that I don’t lose the use of my hand or my hand entirely due to burn injury.

My point: Sensation is built in.

Sensation is designed into our biology to give us continuous, up-to-the-minute data concerning our well being as well as to protect us. It functions on different levels. If the sight of fire doesn’t bring with it the sensation that accompanies fear, then the sensory receptors on our skin will message our CNS. If our general awareness and awareness of body sensation is sluggish and we actually contact the source of heat, our interneurons tell our motor neurons to fire and our muscles contract to get us away from harm.

How cool are we?!?! Ridiculously cool – yea.

So why do we work so hard to disconnect, dishonor and short circuit this elegant and extremely efficient system of communication?

Here’s the place where I might venture into how we think we’re superior to nature and how we walk in denial of the potential for self inflicted damage and harm. We make choices that put material gain above trust, safety, health and even life and limb. Not only do we make these choices for ourselves but we make these choices for our children and we pressure those around us to do the same. When we live in such disconnection it causes ripples effecting not only everyone around us but everything around us as well. When we fail to care for our own bodies, why would we care for anyone else or the very planet on which we live and make our home?

I’m not going to, though. I would rather consider how the alternative is sooooo much better. How better to step into every day than by taking care of ourselves by learning to receive the information our bodies transmit? Then we have a choice. What are we going to do with the information?

Tweak. Shift. Adjust. Change.

Stop. Listen. Eat. Rest. Love. Release. Show up. Say No. Say Yes. Open. Explore. Commit.

Based on the natural language of the body – every body.

For more on Sensation, click on the For You tab and open Body for my Sensation Vocabulary. It’s not quite ready for download, but you’re welcome to copy and paste if it pleases you!

Nature of Nature of Nature

Perspective.

It’s a word that gets thrown around alot. If you would rather not acknowledge my feelings, you can refer to my expressions as my perspective. It depersonalizes my feelings. It devalues my feelings. It neutralizes my nature. It makes me safe, in your perspective. The reality, however, is that I am still what I am. I am still my Nature.

I am of Nature. I am not Neutral.

Nature.

There is nothing neutral about nature. Even what we refer to as medium, as in “medium height”, is not neutral; it is still in relationship with that which is taller and shorter. Neutral is not in relationship. Neutral stands alone. It is, well, neutral.

There is nothing neutral about Nature.

Culture, on the other hand, while artificial is also not neutral. Culture is a product of our imagination. It is what we say it is. There is nothing inherent or natural about culture. It is not and cannot be neutral because we are not and cannot be neutral – by Nature. We bring to culture our fears, hopes, frustrations and beliefs.

Nature is of itself. It is life. It is everything that springs from life. Nature is what it is. We can accept, honor and flow or we can resist and struggle.

We are neither too small to matter nor are we masters.  We are as we should be in our part of Nature. Nature isn’t concerned that our lives are “short” and that we’ve got things to do. Nature is less part of us though we are all Nature. Nature doesn’t bother with will either. Our will exists within the scope of our existence. When we attempt to impose our will on Nature, the damage we do is only to ourselves.

Nature is not of the Earth. The Earth is of Nature. The universe is of Nature.

We are not too small to matter – I mentioned this earlier – we are what we are supposed to be. Perhaps the next time we think about our power over Nature, we might imagine ourselves stopping a supernova from exploding. Not a bad use for perspective.

We are uncomfortable with what we cannot control. What we cannot control we tend to vilify – tornadoes are described as “destructive” rather than a natural result of weather systems. Is that inherent to humans or is that a learned response? Anyone? When we can’t stop the rain, or the wind, we turn to our own nature. We attempt to impose our will on the biology of others, on the biology of ourselves and on the natural world around us. That hasn’t worked out all that well for us. Attempting to controlling nature is still attempting to control Nature.

We fear what makes us uncomfortable. We fear what makes us comfortable even more. If we want it. If it looks good, smells good, tastes good, feels good – surely we must resist. We must resist because…

We must resist because what?

Because if we get what we need then we won’t want so much? The expression “forbidden fruit” will cease to have meaning? Then what will the marketers do?! And the political and religious leaders?

What we resist creates struggle. Do you believe me? DON’T! Turn on the news. Go to your kitchen and look at the cake – what’s your knee jerk – I shouldn’t have that?

What we resist creates struggle.

What we deny ourselves becomes obsession.

We’ve lost our way a bit. In my perspective I don’t think it’s unrecoverable. We’re like the 4 year old who can’t get her way so she holds her breath until she falls down, hits her head and needs 25 stitches. Yea, she showed her mother.

It might behoove us to stop throwing ourselves down the stairs.

What if we Embrace Nature…

Body Thrive

How we move is what makes the difference between getting by inspite of discomfort and pain and thriving.

We connect our aches, pains, and physical “lacks” – coordination, grace, pleasure, ability – to general insufficiency.

Another application for not enough.

One prospective student said to me, “I have really bad posture.” She is indeed a young woman with a significant slump of shoulder. She took one class, left before it was over and told me later she just “didn’t get it”.

First of all, I’m not fond of the word posture. My ballet history returns in little twitches of my spine to harden and brace. And what about the expression, “stand up straight”? Yes, this is my stuff (hello, this is my blog ;>)

Ruthy Alon, who worked with Moshe Feldenkrais and went on the become a teacher of The Feldenkrais Method suggests in her book, Mindful Spontaneity, that very little of what we do during our day has anything to do with standing straight upright. So why all the demand and pressure to stand in such a way that is of no practical use to us functionally? Are we smarter when we stand up straight? Are we more productive? Are we kinder, more compassionate human beings due to our forced posture? Are we better looking?

Alon also refers to us as structurally dynamic beings. Our bodies grow, die, shed,  inhale and exhale, bleed, heal and move; we live in bodies that are never exactly the same from one day to the next. On any given day we step, bend, reach, pull, push, jump, climb up, climb down, run, fold, unfold, cross, uncross, undulate, lean, fall, get up, creep, crawl, shimmy, shake, jangle, heave, contract, release, melt, scoop, skip, roll, sway, tap, rock, balance, and the list goes on. With all of these possibilities, why is it so important to stand up straight?

Stand up straight.

Get your head on straight.

Walk the straight and narrow.

Our bodies are capable of so much more than straight-ness.

Having my head on “straight” suggests that there is one right perspective and straying from that is not acceptable.

Walking, to get literal, a straight and narrow path prevents us from experiencing anything other than what is right in front.

What do we get from these tried and true statements, admonishments?(My question here, is who tried  the concept and under what sort of circumstances was it found true?)

Limitations.

Why?

 

Sensory Practice Meditation 1

If you wish, light your own candle. Light it when you’re ready to settle.

Sit or lie comfortably on the floor in a way that fully supports and pleases your body for as long as you use this meditation.

Use as much or as little of this meditation as you desire. Use it from top to bottom or choose a body part and spend time with that body part.

I love fire. The way it dances in its own fluid rhythm. Let your body give you the sway; your own fluid rhythm.

The flame draws and holds my eyes; creating it’s own sensory meditation.

Let your eyes be your first connection into this meditation. Soften your eyes until they almost close.

Take 3 easy breaths and invite the rest of your body to soften with your eyes.

This is practice, so it may take several rounds of breaths to learn and be willing to soften. It may take occasional reminders to yourself .

This is a practice. Be gentle with yourself.

The flicker has its own emotion; its own patient sense of urgency.

Breath in with your own sense of patience.

Wait. Soften your eyes.

Soften your jaw; teeth rest apart.

Imagine a tender warmth brushing up the back of your neck, releasing tension in your neck. Let your head and neck sway very very softly, just enough to stave of any tension.

The way your head relaxes up, invite your shoulders to float down, your upper arm bones hanging longer

and longer.

Take an easy inhale and exhale.

Invite your elbows to draw your upper arms bones down. The two spiraling bones of your forearm mimic the flame dance.

Hands.

Touch. Caress. Invite. Heal. Hold. Protect. Express.

Hands speak what the voice does not.

Sense the spaces between your fingers, sense the warm, soft pulse of life in your hands.

Warmth flows freely from your hands the way it flows from the candle’s flame.

Life.

With your right hand, lightly trace your left collar bone with your sensitive finger tips from your shoulder to the gentle depression where your collar bone floats above of your sternum.

Lightly trace your right collar bone with the finger tips of your left hand.

Let the bones of your right arm drift down and rest.

Let the bones of your left arm drift down and rest.

Take 3 easy breaths. Notice the cadence of your sternum in time with your breaths.

Let the breath sway your spine. Imagine your breath flooding your spine with volume and space.

Sense your spine sway, quiet; a delicate dance of breath, bone and nerve.

Notice how the flames expands and contracts in subtle ways.

Notice how your ribs and your breath blend timing…

expand and contract… soften

expand and contract… soften

expand and contract… soften

Invite your next breath to peacefully fill you

chest

belly

pelvis

Remind your body to soften.

Imagine the bones of your pelvis blossoming to release what remains bound.

Take 3 breaths.

Your thigh bones slip effortlessly in your hip joints.

Volume and Space.

Invite freedom.

Feather touch around your knees.

Healing heat.

Volume and Space

Let the candle remind you to soften your eyes and notice the inhale and exhale that nourishes your ankle joints.

The give and take of balance.

Arches. Spans. Dainty. Sturdy.

Notice 3 breaths connecting our sensory bridges between Earth and body. Through our feet, we are in relationship with the Earth’s magnetic field, energy.

Gently spread your toes, and imagine air slipping in and out between your toes. Imagine air brushing the sides of your feet. Imagine the air brushing the length of your feet.

Come back to the dance of your candle.

You are plugged into sensation in all parts of your body.

Let your body return to the sway of your own fluid rhythm.

When you’re ready, take 3 easy breaths and move yourself back to upright. Blow out your candle and take your awareness into the rest of your day.

Pre-Sensory Meditation

This is a new idea for me and a bit of an experiment. I’m not sure how it’s going to create itself.

Sensory Practice Meditation is one of the Sole Practice menu choices. I’m in the mood to play with the words. It will become movement.

I’m working backwards with this. I always begin with movement and the words follow.

Here’s to a new process and embodiment on a deeper, richer, juicier level!

Do You Speak Sensation?

You absolutely do.

Even if you can’t access it in this moment, that doesn’t mean you don’t have access to it.

You may be a little rusty. You may not feel comfortable in conversation but when you practice it – use it – and you will regain the fluency you had as a child. To the same degree? Perhaps not.

There’s a psychological aspect that is quite different now. A willingness to listen and a perspective that we no longer have as adults. When we’re children, we are naturally connected to the sensations of our bodies. We hear them loud and clear and we respond immediately. As we get older we formulate belief systems regarding sensation and what it means to feel.

        Social conditioning + body history + inherent personal psychology

= how it’s possible to lose our natural relationship with the body we live in

We may believe that our body sensations are obstacles to be overcome rather than messages that give us valuable information about the state of our health and well being. Other beliefs insist that pain is a sign of weakness that must be conquered by sheer will. Then there are the beliefs that insist the body is a “temple of sin” and sensations (particularly to good ones) are dangerous, will lead us to misery. Sensations should be ignored and even punished – so down this road misery is the end result either way.

With these and other belief systems in place, it is not difficult to understand how and why we, as a culture are so out of balance.

Now from here I find myself at a crossroads:

Sensation within the context of our overly yang/masculine culture

or

Sensation with a zoom lens.

Give it some thought. Any preference?

If so, let me know, otherwise I’ll do what I do…

The Gifts of Yin Body Meditation1

Take a breath.

Notice how the air flows in and out of your body.

Don’t do anything. Just breathe. And notice.

Take 3 full breaths. That means 3 natural and full inhales and 3 natural and full exhales.

Notice. Breathe.

Take 3 full breaths. Inhale and exhale through your nose.

Notice where you feel your ribcage every time you inhale.

Breathe.

Notice your body’s comfort level. Tweak or change your position to be comfortable.

Take 3 breaths.

Notice what your bellybutton does during your inhale.

Notice what your bellybutton does during your exhale.

Take 3 noisy inhales and 3 quiet exhales.

Notice how the inside of your nose and throat feels.

Take 3 quiet inhales and 3 noisy exhales.

Notice your body’s comfort level. Tweak or change.

Take 3 quiet inhales and 3 quiet exhales.

Notice your feet.

Notice the space between your toes.

Now:

YAAAAWWWWN

your lungs and the rest of your parts and pieces.

Yawn… feline-like; slow, languid, lazy, liquid.

Move on to your next adventure.