Tag Archives: Movement

The Sensation of Healing

Yesterday I experienced my first one-on-one Feldenkrais® session with gifted practitioner, Julie Francis. The pain in my hip had become overwhelming. I’d seen the doctors and done physical therapy. I sensed the need for care more in keeping with how I am crafting my life. Rather than continuing to compartmentalize the issue I addressed the pain as an integrated voice of a guide.

Julie witnessed what I could no longer feel happening in my body. I had lost some specific connections to sensation. I had become an emotional as well as physical rubber band wound too many times around a straw. In the enormous tension I was creating unconsciously (and consciously I later discovered) I had lost my bones and electrified my energy output. Very simply, I was (and continue to be in varying degrees as I heal) out of balance.

After the precise, amazingly gentle and remarkably humane treatment that acknowledged not only my physical injury but the emotional injury as well, I walked through the room in a different body. I was in my body in a completely new way. There was still pain, but it was no longer attached so tightly; no longer wrapped around my bones and joints like a boa constrictor squeezing the breath out of me.

I taught 3 Nia classes yesterday; one before my session and 2 following. Unlike every other 3-class Monday, I never felt exhausted. I didn’t feel as though I was expending more energy than I could afford. Chatting with other Nia teachers after class, pain returned. I responded out of habit by pressing my right foot into the ground. The pain increased and I recognized the tension. I took a suggestion Julie had made earlier. Instead of continuing to pour my attention and energy into the pain, I pressed my left foot into the ground. The pain immediately quieted  and the tension unwound.

Today I’m spending the day moving in a softer body. A friend and movement therapist remarked this morning how my energy felt more balanced…  softer. I like this. Softer and more fluid. Not just through movement I design to look soft and fluid often feeling less than comfortable. Finally true ease.

Softer. Not a word frequently used in fitness. Not a word often used in a positive or complimentary context.

Soft. Generally considered synonymous with weak.

This healing has been on its way for some time. Even with only a glimmer of understanding on my part, the seeds of balance Have been germinating. My body has been telling me; in its wisdom, that the heart of this matter has been, in fact, my heart.

Finally, moving grief. No talking was necessary. It was the right invitation and my body began to release what I’ve been holding for a long, long time.

Softening

This is only the beginning; a first step. First step onto a fresh path. Yet another fresh path.

Balance.

The Sensation of Awareness

For as long as I can remember I’ve been having conversations with my body.  I have earlier memories of body sensation than I have of events. I have also noticed that I sense emotion in my body as sensation before I’m aware of it as emotion.

I watch and I do. As a child, I would see someone doing a particular thing/movement and my body would send a rush through me to “try” it. I rarely made any serious attempts in a public setting. Past humiliations reminded me to take it home to my room or to a safe place.

The first sensations I remember are moving my body with a purpose and the sensation of failure/humiliation (one and the same for me).

Cool, wet, heavy, thick, slightly sticky mud pies.

Scratchy, pointy particles in my sandals.

The scorching hot summer sidewalk on bare feet.

The chill of fear, hard rigid pedals and the burning of skinned knees as I learned to ride a bike.

Heart pounding nausea of driving lessons. After the weeks of dread; of stomach-pitching inability to learn to drive a manual transmission – I woke up one morning with the entire process in my body. Driving a “stick shift” is rhythmic and the rhythm was playing. As I walked out to the car my body was playing the rhythm for me as practice.  After my dad had given up, I got in the car by myself and drove it. (Incidentally, I still love driving a manual transmission!)

Now, I like playing with new movement skills (I hardly ever get fear-stricken nausea anymore!). I’m fascinated by the sensation of disconnect, where my body doesn’t yet understand what it’s being asked to do. The motion moves across in my mind’s “eye” like a movie as though my body is simply going to get it. Meanwhile my body is actually gallumping along hoping not to hurt anyone if I’m in a class and relieved that no one else is witnessing this if I’m at home practicing – anything but graceful. Sometimes the get it happens, often not. When it does, there is still a roughness to the movement – the mechanical quality that commonly accompanies brand new skills. When it doesn’t, the sensation is initially a sinking one, then a tingly curiosity – why can’t I just pick this up? After the initial sinking feeling, panic overtakes me as I frantically search for my feet!

I don’t know how to do this. 

Once the screaming stops, and I slow down, I become aware of hot or cold, vibration, weak-in-the-knees mush, and tension. I notice that I’m holding my breath. Breathe. When I open to breath releasing the tension, the whirring in my brain slows down and three things happen for me: first I relax, next I begin to “see” how the main movements are composed of smaller movements and I am acutely aware that my body wants to play and enjoy learning. The movements begin to break down;  the tension continues to dissolve and I am absorbed – body, mind, spirit and emotions.

Now it no longer matters whether or not I have it, I’m no longer hoping for the flow, I am the flow. I am ease, I am pleasure. Energy ripples effortlessly through my movements. I am in the sensation of my body’s way.

In sensation I can be both inside and outside of movement.

Moving from the inside, I get to create what feels natural. Instead of responding to someone else’s movement, awareness gives me the opportunity to move according to my body’s wants and needs.

From the outside I connect to where my body is in space, in relationship with everything around me. As a teacher, awareness gives me the tools to know, every minute, what I’m modeling for my students.

Awareness.

Crisp. Sharp. In focus. Present. Connected. Clear.

The Sensation of Dance

I took Ulrich Schnauss’ piece, Monday to 6:15 class Thursday, after listening to it pretty much the entire day.

Normally, for me, when I fall in love with a piece of music, I can’t sit still. I have to move and better yet, dance to it. This exploration was different. My initial sensory experience kept me in stillness, rapt – with a huge recurring smile of systemic delight.

When I got into the lovely space that holds Nia twice a week, I turned on the music. At first my body just wanted to be still and let the sounds swirl and swoop around me.

Then the drums pull me in, drawing me close and teaching me where to move and when to wait.  Wisps, pulses, murmurs and voice of melody invited my body to relax and listen with different ears.

“L i s t e n,” spoke the sounds, “and F e e l.”

What had at once felt so familiar and unfamiliar began to melt into trust.

Bends in the music became bends in direction. Liquid percussion became liquid art. From vibration to flesh and blood.

Loose, joyful shifts into the pleasure of discovery; simple, open discovery revealing knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, hands and eyes. Alone and in relationship, my spine slips into the dance and a new conversation begins.

I am not pieces; bits and parts listing and rolling without consciousness.

I am a biological community; a nexus of cells and creativity. My boundaries soften and blur as sound and solid collide, and blend.

Now both more than the sum of parts, essences spill over and what was separate and discernible is no more.

“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.

A Sensory Practice

Sensation Vocabulary

These are words that are either clear adjectives or words that evoke sensation and may be used to more clearly communicate the language of the body.

These are words that make sense to my body.

This list was inspired by a similar offering from Debbie Rosas Stewart and Carlos AyaRosas in their work in Nia as well as contributions from other Nia teachers.

Powerful          Quick             Achy            Soft            Showy          Sassy                   Loose               Jangly               Slippery

      Weightless                Precise               Free                 Centered             Light                  Graceful            Liquid

Energetic        Sloppy             Crispy               Electric            Lively                   Expressive               Empty            Warm

Full       Fluid          Heavy           Responsive           Solid              Playful             Tight             Linear             Bound

Sharp         Mechanical          Wild           Yang            Masculine              Stuck         Slow          Connected              Sexy

Flexible           Rooted              Strong               Aggressive              Floaty            Mushy  

Languid              Cold             Prickly

Stable           Yummy        Hollow             Yin            Feminine          Bubbly                Fit                  Relaxed            Weary

Adventurous             Alert             Bold              Fidgety              Hot                Calm  

Luke-Warm             Unsteady                   Weak

Fluffy         Stimulated              Wide               Sticky             Vibrant               Oscillating            Unstable              Tense

          Juicy            Dry            Coarse          Silky         Velvety         Crunchy          Smooth             Taut             Rigid

Shivery          Slinky           Feline             Open             Closed           Circular            Agile            

Curvy            Still               Subtle

Confident            Organic              Expansive            Edgy           Stuck         Coooool             Deliberate

Accidental            Restless          Awkward

A few of these words are usually associated with emotional states.  Avoid this association by remaining body and sensation-centered.

Practice:

You can play with this list by paying attention and using the words to give voice to your body’s communications. You can also pick one word at a time and move each one. Sense these words in your body rather than thinking them. How would “crunchy” move? How does “mushy” move? If it doesn’t come right away move on without judgment. If you don’t get anything, it’s ok.  Go through the list then move on with your day.

Go back to this exercise at least once a week.  Awareness takes practice.  Give yourself the time you need to adapt. It will come. When you practice, play without a mirror.  This practice is an avenue to discovering Your Body’s Way or your body’s nature.  This practice will heighten your sensitivity to your body’s well-being. In turn, this practice can also heighten your awareness to the world around you. Discovering Your Body’s Way is a tool for taking your wellness, fitness and performance to a higher level as well as re-connecting to life in a global way.

This is all about sensation.

Want to Feel Better and Move More Easily For Longer? Pay Attention.

Not to me, though you might want to finish reading this post! You want to pay attention to your body.

Collaboration. Cooperation. Success.

Hard + Soft = Balance

(These 2 little word plays are part of a thread.)

You’ve just started reading this. Before you read any further, adjust your attention so that it is on body sensation. If you are not accustomed to this kind of work, take a little time to listen to the kinds of sensations your body is giving you right now. Do you notice tension in your neck? Does your chest feel open and free or closed? Bring your attention to the other end of you, to your feet and ankles, what do you get? Give it 15 seconds, then slide up to your knees. Did your shins have anything to report? 15 seconds and up to your hips. A more complete body meditation will come in a later post. I’m going to move on but you’re welcome to continue with your body check, ofcourse. I’ll be here when you’re ready.

Oh, and did I mention no trash talking?  There is not mind chatter, no scores, and no judgment. It is you noticing how you do what you do, with respect, honor and love. So if you’re still paying attention and I interrupted, please continue and I’ll be here when you’re ready to move on.

I like the expression “being in your body”. I use it with my students and I’m looking forward to using it with one-on-one clients.

“Being in your body” identifies a state of presence.

Like most states of being, there are several levels. You may simply be aware of your body’s existence. You know that you have a body, you are aware of the shape of your body and chances are pretty good that you have defined what sort of mover you are.

If you are managing an injury, the injured area may be what draws your attention, possibly to the exclusion of the rest of your body. This injury may affect more than your attention to your body; it may also affect how you live in your mind. It may be that this injury has damaged your ability or desire to move as you did before and it may feel like a natural shift to spend less time living through your body. You may be more cerebral. Injury can also affect how you interact with the world outside yourself and negatively affect how you manage your emotions. It may change you.

You may become acutely aware of your body when you have strong emotional reactions. A pounding heart that accompanies fear. Shaking hands and wobbly knees that follow a fight or flight shot of adrenaline. The ache in your chest from having lost someone. The expansiveness of joy.

You may notice when creativity kicks in and you are totally immersed in the process. Cramping fingers from hand writing, drawing or painting longer than usual; blisters from guitar strings. A stiff back from sitting in one position. Tight trapezius muscles in your upper back and neck. You may even be aware of a tension headache.

Every day of our lives we are in relationship with the body in which we live. We go about our usual schedule and the body gives feedback. If we pay attention to the information our body is giving us, we can create a better existence. When our bodies are properly cared for, we can spend more time out of our heads and more deeply enjoying life; we have a sense of confidence in moving and a certain level of self-trust.

Our body speaks to us through sensation. Sensation can be considered the language of your body. Unless  neurological damage is present, every inch of you experiences sensation. If you’ve been reading me, you know that I have a penchant for repetition. So…

Every inch of you experiences sensation.

As Debbie Rosas Stewart, co-creator of Nia shares, every single one of your 7ish trillion cells has access to sensation.

Often, even those areas with nerve damage will register the sensation of pressure since the brain processes pressure a little differently and even processes the types of pressure differently.

If you don’t believe me, take a little field trip with your hands. Even if you know this is a true statement but haven’t tried it for yourself – don’t take my word for it – go on. I’ll wait.

Ok, so you’ve made a discovery or two or a dozen – that’s cool.

So now what do you do with this little jewel? How about building a sensation vocabulary? You won’t need any awesome new toys, but you can get one to keep up with this new life project if you like. All you need is your attention – every so often. You can begin with once a day. Get your phone and set an alarm or put it in your calendar – whichever one you prefer. At this time (you pick it, you know your schedule), you’re going to pay attention to the sensations you’re getting through your body.

You might start by asking yourself – your body not your mind – if you’re comfortable. To be clear comfort is not the absence of pain, it is a sensation unto itself (and yes, I did just say “unto”!). When my body is experiencing comfort, I am relaxed or able to relax. I am settled into a position that, for however long it is comfortable, is creating ease. I feel as though I could be in this position for the rest of the day. Does this sound familiar? While we all have generally the same parts for locomotion, there are details that make us individual. Movement history, trauma and injury history. In other words, the way we have lived in our bodies. What I described as my experience may or may not be similar. How do you experience the sensation of comfort?

The truth is that I probably couldn’t be in that same position for much longer than a few minutes. I have joints and a couple of muscles imbalances that will ask me to adjust. Let’s go back to the fact that I have joints. We all have joints. If we didn’t have joints, movement would be enormously limited. So limited, in fact, that we might give it up altogether and evolve into something else! Joints come in several varieties, some more movable than others. What they have in common is that they need to be used in the way in which they were designed to stay healthy.  Synovial joints are the most movable. The facet joints between the vertebrae are examples of synovial joints. “Synovial” refers to the nutritional lubricant or fluid that every one of these movable joints has. This fluid acts as a shock absorber, and helps to keep friction to a minimum (’cause you know that the more friction there is, the more heat and break down is a likely consequence). Enough with the technical stuff.

How do you keep your synovial joints happy and healthy? Move them. Experiment 2: move your joints and notice how movement is created without force. Move and listen to the feedback your body gives. If comfort is present, you know something about your design. If pain was created, you know something else.

Pain is not a sensation to be worked through. Here we go…

Pain is not a sensation to be worked through.

Pain is a guide. Pain is a way of alerting your mind that something is wrong or maybe just not-quite-right and needs to be tweaked. If the pain is a whisper, then a tiny shift may be all that is necessary. So tweak your movement. If the tweak does not resolve the pain, create a slightly more significant shift in how you’re doing what you’re doing and make an adjustment. If pain persists, change the movement altogether and do something different – if you’re running, walk. Making these shifts before pain is screaming and chronic is a smart way to stay healthy, mobile and excelling at whatever movement you love.

What if you’re a type A, hugely competitive athlete? More reason to learn to pay attention. You may drive your body harder and it is especially important to listen to the cues your body gives you. Whatever type you are and however you move, give your body what it asks for when it asks and barring any unforeseen natural disaster, chances are good that you will be able to do whatever you love for a very long time.