Tag Archives: choice

I Can Teach Through Injury

Mortons Neuroma Feels Like This

For a long time when an injury was taken to medical care, the prescription was to stop doing whatever caused the injury.

Makes sense. Like the hammer thing.

Then we shifted to the idea that we might continue to do what we want, but at a different level. To stop moving at all isn’t a solution either.

In another realm of our social existence came the proclamation that to admit to pain is bad enough, to modify our activity stood us on the precipice of public humiliation, but  to stop to rest – turn in your jock strap ’cause it’s over. Unless you want to lose your social standing or even be shunned you’d better suck it up and play through it, run through it, dance through it – get through it. So what if you have debilitating pain for the rest of your life? That’s what aging is, isn’t it?

I’m currently teaching injured. A skeleton schedule, but still teaching nonetheless. I’m also considering the wisdom here.

With Morton’s neuroma, I am unable to put weight onto the ball of my right foot without pain that literally stops me. On carpet in 2 pairs of socks and a pair of thick, fuzzy knee-high booties I can walk with relative comfort. On hardwood, nothing is comfortable.

In class, I’m still experimenting with what I can wear to protect my foot without disturbing my alignment. So far, nothing.

What is fascinating to me is how I have been impacted by the compensatory movements I choose in order to avoid pain.

In a simple clock step, stepping to 12 and 6 is a fluid and continuous motion – on my left. On my right, the momentum into 6 o’clock stops rather abruptly so that I don’t

1. put the ball of my foot down

2. fall down.

My low back does not like the abruptness and is confused by the imbalance. My ability to co-create movement with other parts of my body has been compromised. First, the change shifts my natural rhythm and my other body parts don’t know when they’re supposed to do their thing. Second, I am distracted by creating compensatory movements, hoping to avoid pain, and I forget to use the rest of me.

In a cross behind cha-cha-cha, my left knee is unaccustomed to the stress when I don’t put my right foot on the floor in a certain way. If I decide not to put my foot down at all, my knee actually growls at me. With my knee receiving more weight to manage than is usual, shifting my weight to go into the cha-cha-cha is heavy and slow.

What I also find interesting are the moves that my foot will tolerate as long as they’re not specific to the ball of my foot. I can shuffle laterally – to the side – as long as it is to the side. Since there is far less rolling of my foot onto the ball , it works for a while. After that my body begins to realize that there is a laying down and peeling up of the foot from heel to toe, even in lateral stepping or shuffling. Huh! Imagine that.

Like I said before, my back doesn’t really appreciate the choices I’ve been making. My choices result in my back moving quickly in unusual ways, stopping sharply and also in tightening and holding where it would like to be free to move.

When movement cannot occur where it is designed to occur, the body will find another route. I know this too well. The human body is remarkably adaptable. But there is always a price. What moves should be able to move. Our bodies are built to manage stress. We have built in shock absorbers (the discs between each vertebrae and the synovial fluid in certain joints are just two examples), but when they can’t do the job the way design intended damage can be the result. My left knee is reminding me of this fact. My back is reminding me of this fact.

So, what now?

I can design the fast clocks and the cross behinds out. Squish walk out. Bow stance out. Releve’ out. Stepping onto the ball of the foot, out. Rock around the clock, out. Slow clock out. Traveling in Directions – turns – mostly out.

Or, I can do it all on one side only. That’s actually more complicated than it sounds – just ask my students who’ve watched me teach a complete move on one side, only to appear to lose coordination in the modification on the other side. I forgot the direction change I cued 2 minutes ago. Oh, yea, and there were core and arm movements that went along with the feet…

I can teach through this.

Should I?

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Claiming Choice

Learning 1

This is how I felt over the weekend as my daughter was teaching me her dance team dance. Seriously, we got to the spinal roll and I couldn’t get my body to roll in the right direction for beans. “Swallow the marble and follow it down” was her cue. A great cue. It worked for my head, but when I brought my chest into it, it was my habitual movement that ruled. I couldn’t even feel it wrong. After 5-10 minutes we were both laughing and it was not happening. Even thinking it through before I moved it didn’t work. I never got it. On Saturday.

I kept thinking about it, though. I even woke up in the middle of the night to find my body practicing the spinal roll – still wrong! But not quite as wrong. The next day we worked on it again (since she had practice on Monday). When we got to the point in the music where the roll fit in, I did it without thinking. I wouldn’t have known it was right if Rachel hadn’t been happily yelling, “that was right!” “you did it right!”.

That particular spinal roll pattern still does not belong to me, but every time I do it it makes more sense to my body. I can think it. I can move it. I, however, cannot think it through and move it through at the same time. Not yet. I’m learning. This is giving me a choice to add to my movement vocabulary – even as it is. When it is mine, it will be a jumping off point for variations of the roll and more choices.

Learning is the kind of process where you learn to do the thing you can do in a different way, so that your choice is increased. The difference must be significant. Otherwise your choice isn’t free. No one forces you to do this movement or that movement. But you have your free choice.”

Moshe Feldenkrais, The Master Moves

When we do the same old thing the same old way every day, day after day not only do we lose our gift of awareness, but we forfeit choice.

There is more than one way to do everything.

Don’t believe me, go and discover it for yourself.

Re-define aging?

Body

Brain

Mind

Emotions

Spirit

Learn something new. Really new – not “continuing education”.

Learn how to do something you do in a new and different way. If you don’t feel completely goofy, awkward and confused, keep at it until you do!

Do it backwards.

Do it upside down.

Start from the middle.

Start from the end.

Do it “wrong”.

Do it without tools.

Do it the way someone from another planet would do it!

Awareness: Deeper Personal Practice to Share… Moving to Think 2

Open in Red

Almost 2 months ago I let go of most of my Nia classes.

It was a decision I never really thought I’d make – even though I knew it needed to be made. I released a professional situation that was incongruent with my Spirit, Heart and Mind. I have no regrets.

With 1 class a week to teach, I have been feeding myself.

Over the course of the past 10 years, I’ve taken time away from teaching Nia before, during family trips and to heal. Without multiple classes to teach, I was keenly aware of my teaching skills declining. After a break I would return to my students feeling as though I’d just gotten up from a nap – groggy, slow and with a sense that I’d lost my overall timing.

Since March 13 I happily step into my one class as though I’ve been teaching all week!

What’s the difference?

Two things: Personal Movement Practice and Personal Awareness Practice.

I don’t practice “for class”. I practice for myself. Instead of practicing primarily to to share, my Practice is to embody on deeper and deeper levels. I am writing to suggest that this approach may be more effective than either separating the two Practices or leaning on a professional Practice to feed both Practices. Make sense?

There are a few variables involved here. The one variable I have not taken into account is learning a new routine. Up until now I have been combining my Nia Practice with a non-Nia movement Practice involving Nia routines with which I am familiar.

I am a happy Nia Practitioner. I am a better Nia teacher. I am a better Nia Practitioner. What I have been able to share with my students has been far more organic and spontaneous within the work. There has been an organic and spontaneous quality to my teaching but I feel it expanding and evolving as it must in order for me  to be a great teacher.

I am also more creative.

I also mentioned my Personal Awareness Practice.

As my first online course, Body Awareness launched, I was going through the course with those who had signed up. Either I was in the process that existed to discover ways to improve it or I was re-creating it. Either way, I created a rich awareness Practice for myself in addition to the movement Practice.

Some of the most remarkable life revelations have come since I “stopped” teaching Nia and began living it more deeply. Baby steps…

Emerging clarity. My life. My role in Nia. The role of Nia in my Life. My curiosity in regards to Nia in the World. Moving Forward.

Away from the Struggle. Away from Frustration and the Energy Drain.

Stepping into Peace. Pleasure and Genuine Fun.

Letting the Light In: The Alchemy of Awareness

Flame

Ok, so I created this online course series with the focus on awareness. A series of body, mind, heart and spirit meditations with movement at the heart of it all – to get us all to notice what’s going on with us.

To what end?

What’s the point?

What’s the payoff?

Improved quality of life.

How does increased awareness equate to a better quality of life.

Awareness turns the lights on.

What’s the first thing we do when we notice something – anything?

We make a choice.

“Oh, that doesn’t feel good.”

Choice 1: I’m going to do nothing.

Choice 2: I’m going to keep noticing it, maybe it will go away.

Choice 3: I’m going to tweak, adjust or change the way I [behave].

Choice 4: I’m going to pretend I didn’t get this information.

“Ohhhhh, I love that!”

Choice 1: I’m going to do that again.

Choice 2: I’m going to take action that insures my success at having that experience again.

Choice 3: I’m going to think about how great that experience was and hope that life drops it in front of me again.

The point here is that Choice is Power. We can chooooooooose to wield it or not to wield it but the fact still remains the same.

Awareness is Power.

Awareness gives us the opportunity to make choices – to engage with that power. Awareness gives us the opportunity to engage with this power that we might otherwise have never had. Opportunity we might not have had if we had not been practicing awareness.

What kind of power can you have?

What kind would you like?

Awareness delivers the opportunity to make choices. It’s choices that deliver results.

What’s the ‘catch’?

There are two:

1. You have to actually Practice.

2. There is discomfort involved.

That’s it.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

We don’t have to age in pain. We don’t have to end our lives in disease, incapacity and incompetence. We don’t have to relinquish our quality of life to a standard definition or sentence of aging.

There is more. There is better. There is choice.

The real fountain of youth is awareness and the rich potential that can be realized. Through awareness there is enormous potential for living a much higher quality of life from start to finish.

What’s it going to take? Choice.

What I’m alluding to is nothing new. It’s a practice that is available to all of us.

It’s a practice that is potentially life-altering.

Not just living longer – we can do that – living better.

I am re-defining what it means to be any age. I’m not alone. I have alot of company; like-minded spirits who practice, teach and live this choice.

Is it easy? Some moments easier than others. Some issues feel impossible but I know they are not. I know that the more I pay attention, the more I notice, the more likely I am to catch tension or poor usage before it becomes habitual.

This practice is a neuromuscular one. Our nervous system is designed to protect us and to move us forward, but only in small doses.

Protection, also referred to as our “fight-or-flight” response not only creates a biochemical reaction, but a neuromuscular one as well, one we know very well. When we feel threatened to any degree, the muscles in the front of our bodies contract. This threat can be so great that we find ourselves in the fetal position without realizing it or it can be so subtle that our conscious minds may not have even registered it, but our bodies did and tension was created.

Our call to action is the physical flip side of protection; it opens us up. To open us in the front, the muscles in the back of the body must contract – back of the neck, shoulders and upper back, lower back and hamstrings. Every so often our system tells us, “Go! Now!” – save that little girl from the burning building, get on that airplane and follow your love, sign that contract, buy in to that opportunity.

Our bodies were not designed to live with these responses day in and day out. Here is where the most detrimental wear and tear occurs. When we either live in high alert in defense or in action. Muscles are contracting more and more often until it becomes habitual. Now we don’t choose, our subconscious chooses for us. What happens when you contract a muscle constantly? Fatigue and pain. Hardening and weakness. In his book, Somatics, Thomas Hanna refers to this a maladaption. Instead of my muscles releasing the tension after the threat is gone or action is needed, I remain in a constant state of high alert and I never completely release.

It is in my nature to pay attention to my body. That didn’t stop me from developing chronic tension and pain, however I have learned two things: what my tension/stress triggers are and that I have a choice in how I respond beyond my instinctive reflex. Now the real adventure begins. Now I get to re-prioritize the structure of my life and choose how I will adapt to stress. It makes a difference.

Relaxation is no longer an indulgence that I’ll get to, if I can – if I have time.

If I don’t learn to practice relaxation every day, I’m going to wind up with the typical stiff-jointed walk of many – too many, middle-aged women and the quadruple bypass surgery my dad had. If I don’t learn to release not only from my body but also from my mind and emotions, I’m going to wind up permanently fatigued, too tired to dance; too tired to have a life much less enjoy it. Nor is relaxation the 5 minutes at the end of a yoga class.

Relaxation has actually never been an indulgence.

How am I adapting to the stress in my life?

How do I use my body?

What are my habits?

Where do I hold tension?

Where is there chronic pain?

How does my body feel after daily situations? After a meeting? After a phone call? After a last minute schedule change? After disappointment?

Stress will always be in my life. Paying attention and creating deep awareness of how I respond is how I choose to derail the “inevitable”.

Not age and certainly not death – but the journey.