Friday, June 24, 2011

Shortest Post

Have been busy. There will be more in the coming days/weeks, but for now:

Let your experience of your body challenge what you have been told!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hip Hop, Motivation, and Joint Spaces

This post is not meant to be a composed paper. It will be bits and pieces of images and thoughts I want to get out. Indeed this whole blog is sort of that; selfish.

The way I want movement classes to be structured and dance to feel has a lot to do with the fact that I have a tight body. I just feel bound and tight in my joints and spine these days. Going into a dance or other class I sometimes have a hard time feeling aligned because the movement has nowhere to flow. As I was saying before about walking, I am deeply interested in joint freedom. Movement flows through joints and when it does things feel juicy and great. So I am very motivated to open and lubricate my joint spaces.

Motivation in general is also a theme in my movement. In BMC we talk about a deep sense of ease even down to the cells and movement being initiated or motivated deep within the body. I often look for that initiation as deeply as I can and sometimes have trouble finding it. Pam Pietro asks rhetorically in class how you get your motor humming. Inside I ask where do you find the motivation and initiation to move a tight body that feels out of whack and doesn't feel delicious regeneration from the breath?

And I was thinking this today as I was walking to work with my ipod on. And then Snoop Dog's "Drop It Like It's Hot" came on. All of a sudden I felt energy and many of the joints in my body busted wide open. I felt like I could breathe better. I remember how much I love to teach hip hop dance classes. And here come the thoughts and images about some of my motivation and why I love hip hop...

I know music motivates a lot of people and motivates dancers to choreograph. What I noticed was a distinctly physical energizing. I felt like a guitar string that had been plucked and began to vibrate, energy flowing from the ground up enabling me to move. I recalled a similar feeling any time I practice African dance. And then I thought about my joints.

What do I get from African and hip hop dance that I really don't find anywhere else in life? Bouncing! Jiggling of all the joints of the body in concert! It feels so good! And this helps me loosen my joints so that movement can flow. The Trager method is a whole method of bodywork devoted to jiggling the body. Milton Trager also developed a movement protocol he called "Mentastics" that involves shaking and jiggling the limbs and joints to lubricate the joints and loosen the soft t issue around the bones. T'ai Chi and other practices employ this strategy of using shaking to bring synovial fluid to the joints. And Snoop helped me realize today that my favorite place to get this is from certain types of dance.

I was just glad to feel that there is indeed something in this world that helps me bust open my joints and get my motor humming.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Word about "Dynamic Alignment" and Therapeutic Exercise

Many events came together to inspire this post. One is this post on Movement's Research's blog by my favorite dance teacher, Jennifer Nugent. Another is the yoga class I took last night with all-around beauty and BMC practitioner, Julee Snyder. These two things highlighted something I have been thinking about and experiencing a lot lately.

In Pilates and yoga and such we talk about "dynamic alignment" -- that alignment is not a static thing, the body is always in motion, trying to right and balance itself with reference to gravity. But we easily (at least for me and my attention span) abandon our dimensional, dynamic being responding to gravity in favor of the rules of forward-focused alignment and specific muscular engagement. At the end of Julee's class, we sat. During class we got to keep in mind our organs and our depth so that movement undulated from deep inside with respect to our contents. In sitting, I had a sense of a dripping feeling down the back of my skull which reminded me that, even though my eyes are on the "front" of my head, I am a cylindrical being who does not necessarily have to orient front-ward. So often in the beginning of a yoga class we hear what we are supposed to do to sit upright; how this and that should engage and how our chin should be placed to have proper alignment. But these rules or suggestions come about because we naturally do just sit and balance in all directions with's like a constant dance...oh my god, how beautiful. (I've said before to my yoga classes and others, I secretly just want everyone to be dancing all the time. Well, guess what, we are.) And in Pilates we engage this in the front and that in the back to bring the spine into a neutral alignment so we can be "at the ready." Again, the body does this on its own because it is. It lives with forces that it constantly balances.

This is not to say I do not enjoy Pilates and yoga nor find them fun and helpful. I've just been thinking about bodies in space without the rules. And I guess the point of this post is that for me, dance (or the kinds I like to practice based on weight and momentum and proprioception) asks for an acceptance of the force of gravity and a willingness to feel how the body can balance them in movement. Dance asks to forget forward orientation through its disorientation and to let go of the rules a little bit to simply experience the body's ability to balance, as the movement asks you to go off balance. Without this context, postural guidelines and muscular exercises lose their meaning.

That's about it for now. Enjoy gravity and pretend you have eyes on the back of your head.

Friday, June 10, 2011

confessions of a movement slacker

Part I: :dancer:

i have always rejected broad labels as predicates to the self, or as descriptive relations to others. “i am a dancer.” “i am his or her girlfriend.” “i am a slacker.” oops. i guess i’m okay with the self-depricating predicates??

i quit dancing in november 2009.

i no longer felt authentically connected to the experience. teaching ballet and modern dance had become a habit. i had co-produced my first dance performance in summer, 2009, only to find that i had not stayed true to an artistic intent. i had never set or taken time to think about artistic intent.

my MOVEMENT had become something i did not want to do. ballet class hurt my body. i didn’t feel like there was a place in my community to safely explore modern or ballet technique without falling into my old patterns of judgment, pain, i stopped teaching dance after 9 solid years of it. i forgot that dancing, moving, was artistry. i lost connection (or maybe never even had it) to feeling what is good for myself while running headlong toward that which did not feel good to my physical and emotional body.

last sunday i went to the pool with my beautiful buddy, Tara. she wants me to find an hour a week to teach her ballet technique. i have been hesitant to agree, but i decided that in July i will start an hour ballet technique class at my Pilates studio. i will try to offer the parts of the technique i miss: the delicious wrapping of muscle to bone, the incredibly powerful feet and ankles, the levity. so, in the pool, we just started doing barre exercises. and it felt good! if only i could harness in my body on solid ground the freedom/resistance that is inherent to the properties of water. what element is your favorite to harness? the solid growth of wood? the heat and effervescence of fire? the mysteriously invisible wind? the density of metal?

for now, i hit the dance floor in our local dj scene. because that, i feel. in anusara yoga this week with Paul and Sommer, they mentioned becoming so engaged with what you are doing that it warps time. i love to warp things, so on my own, i am trying to truly “show up” for myself (as my other main yoga teacher, Ti Harmony, says) and quit my habit of movement addiction. i want to love it.

Two things, and won't you join me?

Okay, here are two things I am playing with today. I love Eric Franklin and what he does with movement and imagery. I have always experienced that our thoughts and perception of our bodies in movement have a huge hold on what our bodies actually do. So today if you can, maybe notice how your experience of your body in your clothes and your feet with shoes on affect how you move. And then if you get a chance move alone naked in your bathroom (or anywhere!) and see what can change.

The other thing, thanks very much to Ms. Sarah Honer, is that these days I am interested in my pelvic floor and not much else. Grab a book or a web page that shows you something about the bones of the pelvic floor. Palpate them, imagine them in your body, and see what happens when you try to move or at least sense the area. Exciting stuff! I mean, what's more delicious than gaining more awareness of the pelvis?
While paleohface is on hiatus, here is something...

The point of this blog right now is to talk about the struggle of becoming bodily aware and happy in my posture. Because I am not. Movement people (seasoned yogis, dancers, etc.) know all of these things well. But I'm going to talk about it from a place of having a body that is not functioning very happily. Movement practices, exercise regimens like Pilates, yoga, and dance, I believe are all predicated on having a working and open pelvis with relationship to its legs. But most of us do not have that. We sit, so this area of our bodies is turned off. It doesn't move or experience itself balancing and bearing weight. But in my past, I remember that all of the joy in movement and being alive is housed in having a happy pelvis that can feel how it relates to the legs and spine. So here's to the struggle.

Being upright some this morning and taking a barefoot walk outdoors prompted me to write this post. Yoga, dance and Pilates people talk at length about standing and the alignment of the spine and the role of the psoas to posture and walking. But all of that is moot if the hips and low spine don't really move in an upright relationship to gravity to know what they're up to. I agree with Jonathan FitzGordon that walking is a great way to begin to unravel and repattern posture. He and others like Liz Koch talk about walking as a "core event." I experienced that a little bit today. I experienced my pelvis, or the core of my body (whether you want to view that muscularly or in terms of organs/the uterus for women, or energy, whatever) moving through space and it was the beautiful and amazing responsibility of my legs and spine to unfurl from there and reach and undulate in space. In a well-aligned body, the core of the body moves or "falls" through space, the spine is free to balance like a willow up into the air around you, and the psoas among other structures flows down to the legs and catches the body with every step. I love dance and am grateful to it and all my past teachers for being the thing that taught me these lessons, even though I am removed from it now. Like I said, this blog is dedicated to those who are not there yet.

So that was my ode to the core in walking and standing upright. Another thing I remembered this morning is my love of open joints. I know a lot about anatomy from studying for dance in school and yoga and Pilates teacher trainings. But I have not studied a lot about neurology and what is happening physiologically and in the brain in our experience of sensation and sensing movement in our muscles and joints. But somatic practitioners talk about proprioception especially in the joints. For a while I got into athletic pursuits, trying to lift a lot of weight and perform feats with my body. That is not my love or my goal, though. I was probably too embarrassed to admit that all I really want in this life is to have some experience of movement in and around my hip joint. I don't know what happens physiologically when you go from not really sensing or feeling movement in a joint to actually feeling it and feeling a freedom there. This is one of the things we reach for when we practice somatic awareness or embodiment. The feeling is wonderful. I'm speaking a lot from memory of when I was dancing and doing a lot of Body-Mind Centering-focused yoga. But two of my favorite places to experience free joints are the ankle, and the region of the cervical spine, jaw, and skull. There is something really intimate, delicate and raw about having a free and open throat area. I have found that when the cervical spine is free, because of a well-functioning pelvis and leg distributing weight, lots of sensation come from the throat and it gives a feeling of being really exposed in a very tender and brave way to the world and to yourself. In one of her books I believe Donna Farhi talks about being upright as a very courageous act. I firmly believe this because I have experienced that feeling. It is my hope that we all become more aware of our hips and their relationship to our spine to put strength and confidence in our legs so that we are more free to enjoy the sensations of our bodies. And open ankles relate to a feeling of freedom and elasticity in the pelvic floor. And that is a beautiful thing.

These are just some musings of mine. But I wish to spread the good word about being on your legs if you can and beginning to feel your body from the inside out. Find some woods, a trail, some grass, or a beach, kick off your shoes, start walking, and report back.