I hate to exercise… but I love to move my body

Bodies are designed to move! Just by looking at the structure of the body, this is easy to see. We have about 200 bones, 700 muscles and 360 joints in the human body. We have so much potential for movement variety allowing us to adapt to almost any situations we might encounter on this planet. So how did we get to this place where we need to go to a gym, usually to do some kind of repetitive motion on a machine in order to get our daily movement? It is just weird.

Gyms have definitely fulfilled a need in that they create an environment that is dedicated to moving our bodies. Lately I have heard the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking”, with so many jobs and daily activities for so many people being primarily sedentary, increasing the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes, contributing to muscular pain and associated with higher risks of developing depression.  Often, having jobs where we sit a lot, begins a downward spiral in health of the body, mind and spirit. Standing desks are becoming more popular but not every workplace is open to providing them.  Some of us still have jobs that keep us moving more than sitting. However, even these jobs offer us a limited range of motion at best often resulting in repetitive motion injuries. And how much sitting is too much sitting? 8 hours a day is the too much mark and this includes time at our desks, time sitting in our cars of commuting, time sitting watching tv and eating meals.

For some people, making a commitment to going to the gym gives them the time and space to move their bodies. The fitness culture in gyms also encourages people to take better care of their bodies. However, for people who are overweight and who are not used to moving much, going to the gym can seem daunting. For people who are looking to lose a lot of weight, feeling like their only option is go to the gym can be a deterrent to starting to move at all.

I often hear people say that they hate to exercise. I hear that it hurts or is too much work or they feel uncomfortable exercising in front of other people. So rather than starting with the word “exercise”, I like to start with the word “move”. We are all already doing that. How are you going to bring more movement into your life? Movement begets movement, especially if it feels good. Is it okay if I hate to exercise but I find ways to love to move my body? So what are you going to do to bring more movement into your life today?

09_Maria

Living High Like a Tree

Discipline defined as training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character

Devotion defined as a feeling of strong love or loyalty : the quality of being devoted or a : the act of devoting <devotion of time and energy & b : the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal Image

Transiting  Saturn over my Natal Neptune these cold winter months of 2014. The lesson as it comes to me is this: that if I want to experience expansion and pure acceptance and bliss in this life, then I need to simultaneously ground to the same extent that I am expanding.  Discipline and devotion intertwined, what I love must be brought to the fertile ground. Sounds reasonable. In order to grow a tall energetic tree, I need deep rootedness. I feel this. Even as I reach out with my mind to touch new things that feel out of my reach, untouchable, the more I connect to the earth, the more I sense my beingness, the easier these things feel.

My body temple, I live in you and as you.  How do I tend to the temple when I realize I am the temple? So much of my life has become about that. It can be about what I eat or what I drink, how much I sleep, what I wear and put on my skin… but on a deeper level, the way I am learning to tend to my temple is to stay in it, to listen to what it tells me via sensation, to be a loving devoted witness to it, to myself. And to look through the eyes of my temple at those around me as the soul that lives within.  There is no separation of heaven and earth, they are one and they manifest in me.

Vanessa Stone’s writing frames the entrance to my mind (From Live For the Soul):

Look toward the temple within.

Tend to the temple…

devote your attention again and again to its sacred space…

invoke the light of your awareness to inhabit this space once again.

Turn in toward the temple of the soul and drink from the cup of sweet mercy for your wandering… simply to return… again and again.

The door is wide open…

Come as you are

There is no separation of heaven and earth, they are one and they manifest in me.

The patriarchal model has been this: I am in charge and your work, your manifestations, your life force energy is mine to use in any way  that benefits me.  Your dreams, your wishes and your desires, if they do not benefit me, they are worthless. This is the travesty of believing that authority actually comes from anywhere outside of us.

I want to be taken care of, I want to be accepted, I want to be supported, but if I am not doing all this for myself, how can I blame those who recognize my vacuum as a place where they can gain. Negative Saturn. Positive Saturn, saying no to outer control but also saying yes to my dreams, my desires and my wishes and taking responsibility for making them be so and feeling all that comes with them including the sadness and disappointment when they are not coming to bear.

Neptune, I am building an altar to you in my body and Saturn, I am bringing you in as the administrator.   To help my dreams come true. The patriarchal model is ending, so how do I find the stable ground now?  When I let go of the big “father” taking care of all my needs in exchange for my life force and labor, where am I left?

I am left with my body temple meeting your body temple and both of us, all of us, working toward a planet and a place where we all can thrive. I am pretty sure there are sacrifices to be made here. That is one thing that Neptune always demands.  Fear of what will be unleashed if I surrender control looms large. The path of the renunciate has always been littered with the perceived control given up to reach a higher vibration. However, in the patriarchal model, this has also been a disembodied place.

This time is about uniting. Not choosing one or the other, but choosing both. I can be with my body and my spirit and the heart is the place where they meet my soul where the greatest sacrifice and the greatest devotion is allowing all the feelings that exist in me to be felt and expressed in the moment they arise.

The sacrifice (sacrifice comes from the Latin sacra and facere, meaning “to perform sacred rites.” ) is in allowing the emotions to move through the body, this is where control is to be relinquished, and where grounding truly takes place. Like the lightning from the sky seeking earth, the earth, the body as part of the earth can take the feelings and give them flow. Neptune and Saturn in wedded bliss. Maybe this is not everybody’s path, but it certainly is how I am finding my way out of the morass.

ENTER MOGA

There comes a time when something is just too good to keep to oneself.  Enter Moga: An Adventure in Awareness with Maria Skinner.  A colleague was sharing with me a wish she has to teach classes that feel like ones she loves to receive. I told her my desire when I teach class is to teach the class I would want to take.  We looked at each other like “Are we saying the same thing?” At any rate,  enter Moga, the class I wish I could take every singe day.

Moga is the culmination of my experience with the Nia Technique, Contact Improv, Experiential Anatomy, yoga, self-awareness and self-inquiry liberation practices and my unending exploration of the relationship between the body, the mind and the spirit.

At the root is  a practice that emerged from Principle #5 of the Nia White Belt: Awareness …that each day, choosing sensation from the instant I wake up in the morning, begin to notice the state of  my body and where I might need self-healing. This practice began being inspired by wanting to release aches & pain but has become the way I meditate and spend time with my “myself”.

At first glance,  it is just a body scan laced with love, gratitude and curiosity. I  check in (bring awareness to) and speak to my body beginning at the base, my feet, inviting it to relax. I do this by sensing of that part of my body with my full attention and breath without judgement, noting what is there for me. I make my way all the way up to the the top of my head, stopping at each joint and when I have time also each bone and muscle group. Sometimes I hang out in one place where there is more tension or holding or pain and I stay there with my awareness, breathe into that space, infuse it with love and gratitude and move on when I feel the tightness dissipate and sense what I call ” the flow”. I move all the way up my body, and by the time I get to my head, I am usually in a blissful state of humming vibration where I sense my whole body realigned, my breath deep and full and my spirit fully present.

This is a mostly physical process, I do not stop to analyze why something hurts or why something is tight, I just sense, witness and release. Needless to say, this is a great way to start the day.

I have also used this when waking up at night, times when sleep does not come easily. When I do this practice, it relaxes my mind and even if I do not fall asleep (which is rare) I go into a beautiful restful meditative space that is the next best thing, maybe even better.

This is also a great way to explore my emotional body. Inevitably, as I scan, emotions emerge. Connecting to the emotion as sensation, rather than the story behind it or the story I may create so that the sensation can be justified is extremely liberating. If I find a place in my body that feels tight and the feeling that comes from it is frustration, I go more deeply into that sensation. I use curiosity to sense more, to breathe into it, to move with. If an expression of emotions comes up, tears or laughter or sound, I go with it.

I began to bring this kind of awareness to my slower movement practices, experiential anatomy and yoga. Being in this very present state while I move, helps me release any interference in my energy fields and I can sense my connection to the larger earth and universal fields around me.  If I am focused and my intention is clear, I can sense the field I am creating for my class to connect to the whole as well. And by teaching them to be in awareness, they can partake of the shared awareness  field that we are creating.
What do we do in Moga? We move – sometimes in familiar yoga like postures and traditional stretches, sometimes in organic unorganized ways the emerge in the moment –  we breathe, we sit in holy awareness, we shake, we use the floor and props to release tension. Every class is different and I cater it to the group that assembles for each class. Dare I say it does not really matter what we do as long as we bring clear awareness into it? Vanessa Stone, a beautiful teacher of awareness once said the it does not matter what our practice is, as long as it makes us feel more live. If it makes us feel more alive, that is our spiritual practice. More connection, more aliveness, more knowing the self through movement. That is what you will get when you come to Moga. Sweet connection to yourself.

Here is a great article about the Vagus Nerve… this is what Moga is all about. I hope to see you in class! In December 2013, Fridays at Noon at Yoga & Nia For Life, 135 Commonwealth Ave, Concord, MA.

Studio progress 003

Water Trine: Move that Emotional Body

At this very moment, Jupiter is sailing through Cancer, Saturn is slogging through Scorpio and Neptune is floating through Pisces. And everybody has the opportunity to feel the unfelt in a way that truly heals old wounds, celebrates life’s ups and downs and attunes us to the vast ONENESS that we all know exists in the great unseen realm.

Great article to prime your pump here.

why bad mThe Wind In My Hairoods aren’t as bad as we think

Body Temple: Altar Chakra Explored

Picture 012Never knowing what will emerge but opening anyway; this has been my mode in the past few years when I dance and when I bring a theme into class. Sometimes I am surprised by having something I knew intellectually suddenly meet me as a sensation. It is the difference between having the map and finally arriving at the destination. It is that clear and the potential for this kind of transformation, from concept to reality, is what I bow down to.

So I read that there is a chakra at the knees. It is called the Altar Chakra and its color is gold. Intrigued I began doing what I do whenever I hear something like this. I began exploring the relationship between this information and my actual knees. The knee is an amazing joint; a hinge joint connected by strong criss-crossing ligaments and muscles the reach from the iliac crest of the pelvis and intersect around the knee joint with muscles that reach up from the feet. All in all, a pretty amazing structure. I love my knees.

That there is a chakra called the Altar here was a very moving discovery for me.  I do not spend a lot of time on my knees and when I got down on my knees, I felt like getting back up right away. Can’t move too quickly here, or reach as high as I want to, fight nor flight is easy on my knees.  I am not a church goer, I do not kneel to pray on a regular schedule, however, there have been several experiences in the past that have literally brought me to my knees, in prayer, in supplication, in surrender, crying, screaming, and sometimes laughing very hard. And then on my knees, I met the Altar. The Altar is the experience, yet the Altar is also within myself.  Playing with getting on my knees to explore the chakra brought back so many of the feelings that brought me down. I wanted to get up, but I stayed and prayed and played and something happened.

Ruminating on the knee, there are so many symbolic and real images around coming to my knees. Other knee images are feeling weak in the knees or like my knees are made out of rubber.  Those are real for me. The sexual connotation around getting on my knees can be good or bad depending on whether I am choosing to get down on my knees, and this becomes a metaphor once again for bowing down. Am I bowing down by choice or by force? Am I bowing down in reverence or in humiliation?

The questions I posed to my class before dancing were: what brings you down to your knees? What is the altar you kneel down to? What softens your knees into pure devotion? As we went around the circle around I heard again and again surrender, humility, supplication, respect, gratitude and also humiliation, powerlessness, capitulation.

There is a sensation to this kind of folding down and giving in and giving up that I wanted us to dance with. What are the real Altars, the ones that we want to bow down to? Can any Altar, any experience that brings us to our knees, potentially be a true Altar?  When am I bowing down in devotion and when am I bowing down in fear? And how can I keep my relationship to my knees, this joint of structural integrity and stability so healthy that I can fold and unfold from a place of reverence with ease? When we danced, we stayed aware of the knee joint, spring loaded, alive and in relationship as the portal between the feet and the core of the body. Ending in Child’s Pose I offered the prayer: May what you want to bow down to always be in your life…

And then it came to me, the embodiment of bowing down to my life. I felt it for the first time, the sensation that I could love whatever is bringing me to my knees, the Altar, in the moment rather than resist it or whine about it. And in this moment of devotion, I can choose to be with all the feelings I have about this without hating myself or my knees or those who inhabit my Altar.

Intimate Balls

Excerpt from Nia Blog, my 2 cents on the hip joints. Hips don’t lie…

Maria Skinner, Nia Trainer, says:

The hip joints form the junction where the base of the body (feet, ankles, knee joints and leg bones) meet the core of the body (pelvis, chest and head). Anatomically, the hip joint is formed by the ball of the femur (the thighbone) rolling in the socket of the pelvic bones, or the acetabulum. Although the hip joint is fairly large in size, the movement available in this joint can feel very intrinsic and intimate, as if the movement is coming from a place deep inside of us. Because this joint has the potential for so much mobility via the ball and socket, it also requires a very strong and layered ligamental structure. Numerous muscles surround and connect to this structure that articulate the hip joint: the gluteal muscles, psoas, adductors and lateral rotators.

From Nia’s 52 Moves, Hip Bumps, Pelvic Circles, and Spinal Undulations (starting at the base of the spine) activate the aforementioned muscles, as well as the pelvic floor and abdominal wall. When I move my hips, I sense intimacy in the way this movement activates my visceral organs. When I feel relaxed and safe, my hip joints feel fluid, juicy and powerful. When I feel angry or fearful, my hip joints feel tight and stuck. This is the way my emotional body speaks to me through my hips. When I become aware of the “stuck” sensation in my hips, I can breathe into this area and bring movement to release the tension and change my emotional state. This is how I cultivate a more intimate relationship between my body and mind. Awareness comes from my body and the choice to move comes from my mind.

Tips

  • Practice Hip Bumps, Pelvic, Circles or Spinal Undulations when you need to stand for long periods of time. Small movements can be done in public without attracting too much attention.
  • Practice Nia’s pelvic moves in Closed, Open, “A”, Sumo, Bow and Cat Stance.
  • Practice the yoga pose called Pigeon to create more flexibility in the muscles surrounding your hips.
  • Practice Creeping, from the Nia 5 Stages practice. Get on the floor and motor around on your belly, using your legs to help push you forward and backward.
  • Practice “Legs up the Wall” to release the muscles surrounding the hip joint. Do this by lying on your back with your buttocks against a wall, then extend and rest the legs on the wall perpendicular to your spine.

Fear Vanquished, Check!

When something comes to an end, there are times when it feels more appropriate to celebrate and times when it feels better to grieve. There are also times, when both celebration and grieving go hand in hand. This moment has sort of crept on me. I did not realize or even dream that I would ever be here. But yet, here I am.

It has the spirit of a confession what I am about to say, and the specter of shame around it, but it something I am standing with, regardless of how little of big it sounds to you. I can tell you, it is a big deal for me. I feel like for the first time in my life, I am making choices and decisions that that do not arise from the fear of getting fat. There you go. A whole career and lifestyle that I created for myself has come from this. And yet, the journey out of fear, out of all the ways I have learned to control my environment so that I could stay healthy and thin has brought me to this place: freedom and the sensation of truly loving my body no matter what.

I want to get down on my knees and weep with joy about this, and also weep for all those things I did not do because of the fear that I would not be able to control things. Restaurants I did not go to, trips I did not go on, people I did not hang out with…can be seen as deprivation or choices made from love. Either way, they entered into the equation.

In all this there has been dance. In choosing how I wanted to move to stay in shape, I chose something that I love to do. Something that makes me feel so happy to be in a body. Dancing to music is heaven on earth for me. And even here, I have made my journey away from dancing to burn calories to dancing for joy. My professional practice, the Nia Technique has been instrumental in bringing me to this new place. Nia has taught me how to make choices that bring me more energy, choices that help me stay connected to my emotional body, choices that keep me feeling alive.

This new feeling, as it is dawning on me, is making me question everything around me. Why I do what I do, and how I can make other choices now that I absolutely know for sure that this schism within me is healed. That all that energy that went into fear and control is now able to go into expressing my love for life and the people around me.

To see the truth beyond my personal epiphany, I have to say that the world itself is not inherently set up for us to feed ourselves with true nourishment. Maybe it was at some point, but I can tell you for certain that when I go into a regular supermarket, there are few things that I want to eat in there. I am not advocating that you do anything that I do. What I know is that for myself, I have created a whole new culture around food that centers on freshness, realness and simplicity. The most credit for this came from the work of Sally Fallon and Nourishing Traditions and the work of Donna Gates and the Body Ecology. And yet, I feel like I have moved beyond their prescriptions to something even more simple.

Having the intention and fear of not getting fat as my guiding force for so long, makes me wonder what now? ImageHow do people live when they can just live? I think I am going to find out.