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Falling in Love: When the Body Says “Yes!”

September 19, 2011

This summer I fell helplessly and deeply in love. It was not my first time feeling this bigger-than-life, adrenaline pumping, oxytocin-flooded body and mind. But it was an intense romance, demanding most of my attention throughout my days and capturing my dreams at night. Make no mistake, this love was no fleeting fancy. I was facing the love of my life.

So who was the object of my affection? Alas, it was not the most incredibly handsome, full-hearted, spiritually conscious and sexy man living next door to me. No, my unbounded love was for my body and how miraculous it really is.

You see I survived a very emotionally, physically and spiritually challenging few months. And this amazing body of mine kept showing up, in its somatic fullness, with my heart raw and mind spinning, no matter what circumstances were happening outside or inside of it’s hallowed structure.

The love affair began on the dance floor. Entering into my dance, I hauled my feet and heart and hips and head into the sacred space. Mostly feeling broken and unworthy, or bitter and ready to fight the world, I let my body guide me. In a few short minutes, my body parts would conspire together to bring me back to equanimity. What ever emotional and physical state I began in my dance, it was always transformed into something else, something greater. Even in my most desperate and dire state of being, I followed my body and allowed it to open to itself through the rhythms, releasing all that was pent-up so tightly inside. These healing waves were huge for me. I was left in awe of the transformative power of the 5 Rhythms ™ and how my body was perfectly suited to it! Even after more than 14 years of dancing the rhythms, my body and soul adores this practice.

And it did not end there. I also put my body on the yoga mat when my “obsessive-can’t-stop-this-train-of-thought-for-anything” brain was driving me nutty. Again, after a few short minutes of breathing and contorting my body parts into twists and angles usually found in geometry texts, I would arrive on the other side of the equation. I was more open physically, less frantic intellectually and feeling like I could tackle another day. My body kept saying, “yes, we like this, it feels good”.

So I tried another approach with my body. Swimming in the early hours of the morning. Repetitive, monotonous laps. Back and forth, breathing, breast stoke, front crawl, back stoke. Counting laps, one, two, three, ten, 27, 34, 55, 80. Even as my thoughts tried to work out how to fix my relationships, get rich quick or re-decorate my house, my body kept moving through the cool water. I found a rhythm that soothed and calmed my tense being. After 30 minutes I would emerge a new woman, heart pounding steady and strong and feeling a clearer space all through my torso. It felt like I washed away the stress and entered into a fresh state of being.

All through the summer, I brought my body to somatic practices that offered the possibility for metamorphosis or renewal. Ecstatic dance. Developmental movement patterns. Kirtan. Walking. The Bartenieff Fundamentals™. Meditation. Chi Gung. Halprin Life Art Process. Each time, the result was the same. When I entered into a somatic experience, bringing my body and mind together, miraculous things happened. Things I could not predict. I felt a deep respect for these cells and organs and bones and blood that make up me, in this body, in this moment. I came to understand that the body, mind and spirit work together always for your greater good. And when I listened closely to the body, I would hear the truth, even if that truth was hard to hear. I could become curious about what my body needed, follow the passion of my heart and be open to new outcomes. I felt the Divine within me and surrounding me in support. And most importantly, I fell head-over-heals in love with this body, the only one I have. I made a decision to love it and care for it gently and graciously, one day at a time, for as long as I am able.

“Our bodies are a temple of our life experiences and learnings. With compassionate support, we can open these temples so that our inner spirit shines forth both fiercely and lovingly into our lives, our families, and our world. ” Annie Brook

Wishing you continued discoveries of your own body and a love affair for life,

Marcia

Touching into Our Boundaries

July 19, 2011

You know the situation. You meet someone new and they greet you with a hug before you even have time to extend your hand. You would have preferred a handshake, or at least the courtesy of them asking you if you were open to a hug!

This is a common example of becoming aware of our personal external boundaries. We create our boundary similar to a 360 degree invisible bubble around our body. We can get to know the edges of where our physical body starts and stops through body awareness practices such as dance, yoga, massage or somatic therapies. Our energetic boundaries extend beyond our skin and are flexible and adaptable depending on whom we are in connection with. Befriending and practicing our healthy external boundaries allows us to navigate our body through a crowded space or intimate encounter with a sense of safety and ease. Being comfortable with our boundaries allows us to have a clear “yes” or clear “no” when we encounter physical contact with others.

Here’s another common example. You enter into an elevator with a lot of people. Do you notice your breath change as you gather yourself physically and energetically more inward? Does your body become more narrow and pin-like in shape? Or do your limbs and head and tail feel like they are shrinking inward to your center? Or maybe your torso and limbs spread out wider to take up more space in the elevator? No matter how your body responds physically and energetically when our boundary is being challenged, it can be a good practice to bring awareness to ourselves in those moments and invite ease and fullness in your breathing even if you are feeling uncomfortable.

Here is a great exercise to begin to practice body awareness and health boundaries. With a friend, sit far across from each other. Each of you uses a piece of string or yarn on the floor to demarcate the space around you as your boundary. You can use your arms and hands to trace a full bubble above, below, behind, in front and to the sides of you. Once you have your boundary string in place, touch it with your hands; look at it all around you. What do you feel in your body? How is your breath? Do you have any emotions that arise as you rest in your boundary?

Now, look and connect with your friend, who is also resting in their boundary. How does it feel to be in relationship to someone with a clear boundary?

Slowly start to move you and your boundary closer to your friend. Each time you get closer, pause and notice what you feel in your body. Is there anything you need to say to this person as the distance changes between you? When you find yourself very close to them, pay attention to your breath. Even if we cannot identify what we feel in our body, restrictive or shallow breathing can be a barometer of our boundary being challenged. To finish the exercise, place yourself and your boundary string at the distance from your friend that felt most comfortable to you. Reverse roles with your friend.

We can choose to exercise our healthy external boundaries. Being able to say “no” to that unwanted hug in a courteous way or “yes” to a loved one as they hold you close are simple ways to be responsible for your boundaries. Listening and allowing your body to clearly communicate your limits is empowering. As we honour our physical boundaries, we become aware of the boundaries of others and can respect and honour theirs.

Happy Healthy Boundaries to you all,

Marcia

Back to Basics with your Baby: 10 ways to Nurture your Moving Baby

March 14, 2011

  1. Turn off the TV, the computer and your cell phone. (at least for a while each day!)
    As a parent, your baby needs your attention throughout the day. It is important to set aside some uninterrupted time to connect and interact with your baby. The simple aspects of your voice, your touch and your body movements provide perfect stimulation and learning for your baby’s developing brain. Additionally, your love and attention develops your baby’s emotional and social bonding.
  2. Tummy time!
    You may have heard the slogan, “back to sleep, tummy to play”. Babies need tummy time. Even if you only start with 5 minutes each day and gradually build it up, you will be supporting your baby to discover and explore their bodies in relationship to gravity – first yielding to it and then learning to push away from it. The absence of tummy time can lead to weakened body musculature and missed developmental movement milestones such as belly crawling. Like any other animal, the experience of learning how to move independently on the ground, without guidance, provides the necessary foundation for all further locomotion. 

  3. Ditch the swing, jumpers, walkers and fancy baby seats.
    Toy, furniture and car seat manufactures love to make bright, colourful and cozy devices to hold your baby. These are like “baby containers” which can restrict and constrain your baby’s natural movements. While car seats are a vital part of keeping your baby safe and secure in our modern society, they were not intended to keep your baby immobile for long stretches of time outside of a vehicle. Take your baby out of the “container” and put them on the floor with a few toys scattered around them. 

  4. Get on the floor with your baby.
    When you get down on the floor and move along with your baby, it allows you to observe, listen and learn alongside your baby from the same level in space. By moving together at the same level on the floor, you are both able to activate and move using similar parts of your brain. Moreover, babies make vital brain connections through their body movements at these different levels. When your baby is lying on their back or tummy, the lower brain is active. As your baby shifts weight and is able to sit up or crawl, the mid brain becomes active. Once your baby can stand, the higher brain functions are activated. Development of all three parts of the brain is important during the early physical development of your baby. 

  5. Don’t rush developmental movement milestones.
    We can inadvertently push our babies along, trying to facilitate the movement milestones (such as walking) by using seats and toys that prop our babies upright before they have the strength and efficiency in movement in order to support themselves in a sitting or standing posture. A child who is rushed through the developmental sequence may have to compensate too much in their bodies which can affect their muscle tone as an adult and their ease in transitions from lying to sitting to standing. Allowing your baby to sit up and learn to crawl and walk on their own time schedule can greatly assist in the correct wiring of the brain.
  6. Invite more skin contact with your baby.
    Babies need their skin touched in nurturing and respectful ways every day. Research studies have shown that without human touch, babies cannot thrive and develop fully. Practice singing songs or nursery rhymes while you caresses or massage your baby. Take a few extra minutes during diaper changes or bath time to really express your love through your touch. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby lying on their tummy on top of you while you are lying down is another simple and loving way to get some tummy time in! This is a particular good activity for Dads who may not always have as much skin-to skin contact with their baby. 

  7. Find places in your community to join with other caregivers and babies in social activities.
    Babies are naturally very social creatures and love to be around other babies. There are often many classes and activities for caregivers and babies. Find something that feels good to you. Music classes, parenting classes, baby yoga and baby dance classes may all be good options at a local community center or dance studio. Even just finding a drop-in center to meet and chat to other parents can forge new friendships and also be a welcome break from feeling isolated with your baby. 

  8. Find creative and fun ways to stimulate your baby’s senses. Look around your house for interesting objects to explore and play with your baby. Items to use for tactile (touch) stimulation directly on their skin could include different textures of fabric, feathers, scarves, bumpy plastic toys, metal spoons and wooden blocks. Items to use for auditory (hearing) stimulation can be played out of sight of your baby so that they orient their bodies to the sound. You could include a variety of musical instruments, home made shakers (dried beans in a plastic container), recorded music and other gentle but unusual sound makers (look around your house for interesting items to make sounds with). Stimulation of taste and smell will occur gradually as your baby is able to taste and eat age-appropriate foods.
  9. Take care of yourself.
    Healthy and happy caregivers make for healthier and happier babies. Giving yourself much needed time to rest, exercise, meditate or just unwind with a good book and a cup of tea are all simple ways to maintain balance emotionally and physically.
  10. Set up a routine and stick to it.
    Our busy lives revolve around schedules. Setting up an established routine with your baby not only helps you, it helps your baby to learn what to expect and when. Working with the natural rhythms of your baby’s energy, you can devise a sleep, eat and play schedule that allows for your baby to get what they need and also the structure that you need in order to get your work done and take care of yourself. Finding ways to be flexible within the schedule is necessary and may shift as your baby grows. However, sticking to the overall sequence of activities in your baby’s cycle is important so that you don’t confuse the “I’m hungry cry” with the “I’m totally exhausted meltdown”. Also, as you become aware and focus on your own energy cycle during the day, you can plan your baby’s activity to support your self-care.

Inner Dancer Blog: Beginning to Untangle the Exact Nature of the Practice

February 28, 2011

I am starting to see a pattern in some of my conversations with my family, friends, students and clients. They say, Marcia, as a CMA, what is it exactly that you do? And I quickly respond with my usual CMA elevator pitch:

I gather information through observation of your body in movement to help support your awareness and connections in your body so that you may find more ease and functionality in your daily life. I use aspects of Laban Movement Analysis (LMA), the Bartentieff Fundamentals (BF) and Body Mind Centering (BMC) as my primary tools to assist you.

And then they scrunch up their face and say, “oh”. “So what is it that you do exactly?”

Ok, message received. It was time to heed the call to bring more clarity to what it is that I do. Hence the Inner Dancer blog was born. I figured it could help to unravel the mystery of the CMA, LMA, BF and BMC anachronisms and put it into the every-day language of movement. My intent through this blog is to:

  • Bring awareness to our bodies in motion
  • Provide insight to support ourselves and our children through all phases of life
  • Discuss specific tools to help integrate the mind and body
  • Uncover freedom and joy through movement in our day-to-day lives
  • Explore embodied somatic practices

These days we are all forced to be discerning consumers because of the multitudes of resources available at our fingertips. It is my hope that the Inner Dancer blog can be one of those sources of education and inspiration in your daily life. My personal experience learning and practicing holistic movement modalities is that we are able to take in information mentally and physically as and when we are ready. Sometimes an event will occur that propels us to seek help from others. This can be a turning point in our personal growth and healing process.

I will end this blog today by sharing a bit about my vision of my work as a CMA and a holistic movement practitioner and educator.

My image of an Inner Dancer is someone who is willing to experience their whole being by sourcing their Inner inspiration and truth and finding ways to manifest it with fullness in their Outer expressivity.

Each of us has a unique and continuous flow and flux from Inner to Outer and back again like a möbius strip. One side of the möbius strip represents our Inner feelings and impulses, while the other side represents our Outer expression and manifestation of those feelings and impluses into the world. As we explore these polarities for ourselves and the balance between them, we can reveal new possibilities for how we want to think, feel and move in our bodies.

Finding your Inner Dancer can be a fascinating and meaningful journey of discovery. It is my wish to offer this precious gift of discovery to you.

Wishing you health and vitality in movement,

Marcia

Integrated Movement: Who is that body walking down the street?

February 6, 2011

As a Movement Analyst, I often find myself witnessing the movement of others in their daily lives. I always enjoyed people watching in busy public places and would find myself captivated at the wide variety of movement that was visible to me.

One summer day, I observed a woman working in her fresh fruit and vegetable stand. She was about middle age and was dressed in flowing cotton garments reflecting the heat of the day. She moved from crate to crate, straightening out the stray lettuce leaves, broken carrots and wayward potatoes. Her upper body was moving with a degree of quickness but her touch was delicate and direct as she organized the produce. I could see her chest and belly expand fully and freely as she took in breath to her support her movements. Her arms and hands were working in synchrony with her torso and her lower body provided stability through the groundedness of her sandal-clad feet. As more customers entered the stall, she was able to shift focus with her gaze and gestures and take in more of the entire scene. Her whole body appeared to open, like she had many eyes in all her body parts. I noticed her to be fully present and ready for what ever was needed in that moment. I reflected that she was a good example of being embodied in her work environment, taking care of herself while relating successfully to people and objects around her.

When I trained to become a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA), I learned about the qualities of movement through Laban Movement Analysis (LMA). LMA is a body of work that was birthed out of the dedication and genius of the late Rudolf Laban. Laban was a dancer, choreographer, educator and a pioneer in observation and notation of how people move in their everyday lives. He studied the natural rhythms and harmonies in the environment and applied this to people’s daily movements. His legacies continue on in the dance world, somatic practices, movies and theater, industrial settings and many other places.

What do you notice when you observe someone in your yoga class, at work or walking down the street? Do you get a sense of someone moving with a measure of ease and grace, all their body parts integrated, connected and working together? Or do you witness individuals who are laboring in their actions, appearing injured or uncoordinated?

The way we move our bodies is a creative representation of who we are. Our unique and deeply personal synthesis of gestures, gait, posture and overall body actions comprises our specific movement palette. The palette is like a movement signature. No one will have your exact movement signature, but families and people in similar communities can share common recognizable aspects of the movement palette. Comedians and impersonators are key examples of people observing certain aspects of our culture and an individual’s movement palette. They recreate the salient aspects so that you know immediately whom they are impersonating. I experienced this myself at a party when my friends re-created my usual dance moves!

Young children are investigating and expanding their movement palette every time they enter a playground. They engage with each other, fully embodied and seemingly unrestricted in their physical expressiveness. At play, these children are practicing the mastery of their physical bodies, pushing and testing their limits as they scamper one or two rungs higher on the climbing apparatus. They tend to go all out in full force, without fear of being judged for how they are moving. This is a magical time of learning whereby the influences of parents, caregivers, friends and cultural norms are patterned into the body. As the children mature, these patterns become part of their movement signature.

When we investigate our movement signature with a trained and compassionate observer such as a CMA, we discover the ability to explore different aspects of our movement signature and to practice new ways of being fully embodied. Many of us have some disconnection from our body parts, often unconsciously and with varying degrees of severity. When we become rigid and by-pass the body’s warning signals, we are more susceptible to injury and disease. We also ask what may be holding us back from fully expressing ourselves in our day to day activities.

Becoming aware of our body in motion is the first step. We look at what inspires us to move from the inside and how that inner desire manifests in our outer movements. We can begin to transform and expand our movement palette by simply learning how to re-pattern and connect all our body parts to our core.

“Change is fundamental. The essence of movement is change. As we move, we are constantly changing.” Peggy Hackney

When we re-pattern the body and integrate our every day movements, everything changes. Our physical, emotional and spiritual selves transform into something more authentic, something more truly You.

So next time you are walking down the street noticing others, pause to ask yourself, “who is that body?” and bring the gift of your awareness and curiosity back to yourself.

Moving with you in vitality,

Marcia

Welcome to Inner Dancer’s New Home

January 18, 2011

2011 is off to an exciting start.

Welcome all to my new home for Inner Dancer, movement and dance for all ages.

This site has had a long birthing process but with a little help from my friends and a very fluid and flexible approach, we have arrived to greet the world.

Please come back often to visit and bring your friends. I will look forward to your comments and feedback as I venture forward with this blog site.

Blessings to you for this winter season and the start of another year.

Marcia