The genius of movement....in praise of our MASTERPIECE, the human body.
[Movement; joy, healing, strength, grace, expression, personal power, dance.]
Our body, yes: everybody's body, the human machine, was built to move. Even the perennial couch potato's.
I have recently returned from a white belt NIA dance teacher training held in the majestic BC coastal mountains. This has been a decade long dream, since I was first introduced to the inventive hybrid of NIA dance. Marrying yin/yang effortlessly, it is a joyful expression of what Nia calls, ''the body's way''. The most natural way to find strength, coordination and well being while preventing injury and burn out. Not to mention the secondary rewards of kinship, delicious music and personal creativity. It is the frequent longing for more creative movement and physical expression, not just 'fitness' that has led me on a lifelong journey to find Nia.
Dance of course, gives you a bit of all of it. S l o w intimate dances, fuNky swing, break dancing, martial moves, yogic balance, jazz attitude, tap, modern dance - at times as indecipherable as abstract painting; yet freeing, captivating, cathartic. It is the energetic steps dissolving into the stillness, agility snuggling playfully with strength moves. And the intensity, of course, dependent on the player.
The theatre of dance tells our story. Dance expresses so many levels of ourselves; our spirit, our longings, our physical reality, the material poetry of our body. Perhaps physical intelligence lives most fully in dance. The gifts of movement, and the sheer genius of our body design, maximized through the marriage of all elements in NIA; strength, agility, flexibility, speed, and stability; collected artfully in the moving sculpture of your own making.
It's true, that sometimes I love and need the power and strength of running, the independence of the trail, the unending road. The sheer simplicity of a solo run. Sometimes I need the calming beauty of the forest, or the daunting challenge of the mountain terrain; the uninterrupted eagle view always your reward, as well as the camaraderie of fellow hikers.
At other times, I need quiet. Rest. Stillness. Healing from various emotional and physical ailments I have often turned to chi gong, yin yoga or Tai chi; for the wisdom, gentleness and grace that comes with slowing down.
Rather contrary to this quiet, centred wisdom then, there are also the POWER fantasies of being an unstoppable gymnast/martialartsesque 'time and space bender' with parkour moves; crouching tiger, hidden dragon style, feeling 100 ft tall and IMMORTAL. (I know you can relate!!) But alas, that I have never mastered this level of adeptness and athleticism goes without saying.
It is truly the celebration of movement of any kind, that I feel called to share.
The strength and power one feels lifting weights, or the supple, toned and stretched results of pilates. The peace and beauty of kayaking under a full moon, and the utter relaxation after a swim in the pool. The crazy fRusTRatinG learning Curve of surfing or the thrill of down hill skiing. There is also the kick butt, sweat generating, 'heat up a winter day' on cross country skis (or snow shoes) kinda workout. The array of gifts and experiences movement brings is rather infinite and astounding. The JOY, the friends, the community spirit when you join a race or a fund-raising walk; sometimes even the pain, setbacks, soreness, the sprained ankles and wrists from basketball, The fear of ''not being good enough'', but the growing confidence and opportunity to test these things and trust trying is enough, winning is fun, but showing up is what counts! The tension of relay races and people counting on you, the excitement of shooting out of the blocks when you hear the gun.
Tripping your partner in three legged races, families cheering at summer camp picnics. I cannot emphasize enough, the joy being in this mechanically brilliant body has afforded me.
To say nothing of the sensual pleasures.......
How can you not give back and take exquisite care of your temple that breathes all day long to fuel your thoughts, your activities, your work, your entire miraculous moving life?
It is the vessel through which we experience our very existence.
Yes, it's true, you caught me. I do get caught up in the petty complaints, the years agonizing over big arms or bumpy thighs, a few extra pounds, motivating oneself to get out the door, tripping over big feet and the sometimes indignities of say, mmm....a bout of food poisoning. Sometimes just sheer fatigue and being overwhelmed weighs us down. Cycles of chronic pain can interrupt good intentions.
Meanwhile, the fuller reality is still that the human body is just phenomenal and gives us so much while asking so little in return. The empowerment of movement never ceases to amaze me and raise me up! You don't have to be an Olympian, just shake your booty, because even small movements are fun and energizing
Just take a good long look at that amazing mechanism at the end of your arm called the hand, and thank it for all it does for you day in and day out; writing, holding a cup of coffee, typing...these are movements. If you don't Love to move then learn to move. Just Shake it off. And I promise you, if you pay attention, you will fall in love with your ability to move, over and over again.
Even the frail elderly, declining and vulnerable will come to life with music; keeping the beat, swaying heads and snapping those digits. We, all of us, (even those that haven't figured it out yet) love to move. The body was built for it. The brain requires it. Movement juices your brain, energy and mood in such a vital way that AHA! Moments become more frequent, problems find solutions, and creative ideas F L O W.
Walking is famous as a method for blasting creative blocks throughout the centuries. Composers, artists, writers, and inventors have used it as a natural balm since the dawn of time. Aristotle, Edison, Brahms, Beethoven, Monet, Dickens, O'Keefe are all fine examples. Julia Cameron speaks of walking as a spiritual rite of passage into a deeper creative life in her well loved tome, 'the Artist's Way'.
Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist, discovered the portal to her groundbreaking trauma tool EMDR, by taking long walks in the woods when she was upset and observing changes that occurred in her well being and processing.
Walking is our birthright.
It's just plain good for us.
And really, pretty darn cool when you spend some time truly honouring the mechanics of the body and it's elegant design. The fuelling system, alignment of 206 bones and 640 skeletal muscles; our motor, speed and cadence that quietly coordinates itself for us during an afternoon summer stroll for ice cream!!
Even when ill in bed, circle those ankles, stretch out your arms, or focus on deepening your breath. Just do your best, from where you're at, to keep moving. Honour your body.
If you were perhaps plagued growing up by clumsiness, oversize, illness, general awkwardness, thick glasses, bad balance and felt all of this has ruined your connection with movement forever...... I encourage you to try again.
Try differently. Try inwardly.
You are amazing! OF this I am certain.
Whatever your circumstance. Whatever your shape or skill or fitness level. IF you have never fostered a healthy or loving relationship with exercise, due to bullying yourself through self loathing or at the hand of others;
Lest I say again, just Shake. It. Off.
(insert Taylor Swift dance video here for inspiration).
Shift into loving, gentle moves. (It's sooooooo much less arduous). Scrap the idea of exercise and fall in love with the miracle of movement. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
We have perhaps become too banal about the miraculous. A side effect of our times brought on by constant inundation with knowledge, advancement and over exposure to, well, everything. Adults often have the bad habit of lulling themselves to sleep on autopilot. Wake up the W O W factor.
Back to basics.
The slow movement from Italy, the sexy resurgence of minimalism; reduce, reuse, recycle...these all hold the same core value of do it yourself with less gadgetry and fuss. Nike was on to something big when they came up with their tag line, 'Just do it. '
I remember many sublime moments of inspiration in my own life afforded by my body in motion. A remote canoe trip in my 20's in the beautiful lake of the woods region, complete with the challenge of portaging, the splendour of encountering owls, a near miss with a mama bear and cubs, an otherworldly full moon, a huge turtle and birds I had never seen or heard. These things, these beauties and connections I would never have known or touched without the capabilities of my body. I have mountain biked up remote trails in beautiful Deutschland, in search of Ein Schloss, and jumped for joy upon the newly toppled Berlin wall in 1990, as well as many nights danced away until dawn, one of the few, rare ways I witness sunrises.
What are your top 5 experiences your body moved you too? Needless to say it is remarkable to tally your exquisite experiences brought by the joy and sensations of movement. And oh yes, sex most certainly counts.
Do something. You don't have to look good doing it, you don't even have to know what to call it, just wiggle those toes. They are anxious to lead you out the door to a new version of you in motion. Use some elbow grease baking that cake, leave your mixer behind, remind your body of the muscle and coordination of beating a meringue that has all but been completely erased from your modernized, techno gadgety mind.
Stretch the parameters of your cramped, tense animal body.... r - e - a - c - h and see the rewards and magic manifest. Joy is to be had by the simple pleasure of tapping your foot in a cafe to tunes.
If you are feeling stuck, and you're reading this and still distracted by an internal discouraging voice, start small. Flutter those eyelashes, loosen your jaw, take a deep breath.
Then take ten steps. Be creative. Be playful. Tiny Tippy Toes....then giant, exagerated steps.
Break it down. Start small. Build from there. You, yes you, not just that cute guy over there or that svelte young thing, are an amazing body. We are all powerful beyond measure and frankly, we are sheer genius in motion.
It is after all a dialogue with your body to be nurtured; a relationship that needs attention as any does. It is communicating in sacred simplicity with the cells of your body to honour your life force. Your personal divine poetry.
Just show up, WAKE UP and r I S E UP!
THANK YOU for being here with me. nh.
(If this blog interested you, you may also enjoy 'the art of listening' (April 2015) about awakening the senses.)