July 11, 2020—dem bones

In these pandemic times, I’ve segued, kinda-sorta, to online teaching—just a handful of private clients (I’d love to come up with a more dynamic, less power-structured word than “client” or “student” because truly, I’m right on par, learning alongside everyone I teach. Any suggestions are openly welcomed…)—to sustain me in these unsustainable times. Like everyone, I’m waging my own version of internal kicking and screaming against this fucked up “new normal” and its fucked up “new rules” that no one can agree upon. Other than a handful of Facebook Live classes in the early days of the pandemic, I’ve shied away from teaching classes online for a variety of reasons, mainly these two: 1. as soon as the shelter-at-home edict was announced, literally every single movement teacher on the planet (along with every single {fill in the black} on the planet) scrambled to the virtual world and I was left trampled and bewildered in the stampede and 2. to me, “online movement classes” can’t be any more oxymoronic if they tried; my mission is to help people move away from the things that are disconnecting us from our very essence, that are turning our divinely designed bodies into chair-shaped, computer-collapsing lumps, and online classes seem to openly, outright defy this mission.
 
But, we’re all making concessions in these fucked up times (I saw a meme yesterday, “I’ve come to a point in my life where I need a stronger word than fuck” and I couldn’t agree more. Again, any suggestions are openly welcomed). I’ve decided to not return to teaching in a studio or have clients in my home—instead, I’m taking this time to learn how to set up for an online presence. In this process, my handful of private clients and other teachers encountered along the way are opening me and moving me in ways I never anticipated, but am profoundly grateful for.
 
Dan and Susan are two such people; we’ve known each other for longer than the pandemic (which sounds like infinity, doesn’t it?!). Dan is a quiet, pensive man, known to take daily, meditative 10 mile hikes along the river and through the woods that intersect the city. Susan, his wife, is more effusive, a gardener, baker, artist/painter. Both are in their 70s, but move in bodies that are ageless; I’d like to take some credit for this, but they came to me with an already finely tuned mind-body connection. They are incredibly receptive to the restorative work I teach, and have been some of my most passionate supporters and profound students-as-teachers-to-the-teacher. I love their company, in person and on screen, our sessions are as dynamic and restorative in conversation as they are in movement.
 
Almost never, do I plan a session ahead of time with anyone; instead, I let their lives and their bodies guide our hour together. Earlier this week, Dan had asked a specific question about his shoulder, some tightness he’d been experiencing that seemed to affect his breathing (already, you can see how highly-tuned Dan’s brain/body awareness is—most people would never make such a grand shoulders-to-breath connection). Now, I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on the internet, which means I can’t diagnose or prescribe. I can only offer observations, and guide people to move their parts in more nuanced ways than they might be otherwise used to, which often yields stunning, profoundly healing insights.
 
After a short, attentive warm up that starts with our feet (quick aside: if your feet aren’t moving well—a quarter of our skeleton resides in each!—be assured that everything above your feet are bearing the consequence. Grab a lacrosse or tennis ball and start rolling it under your tootsies now!), I suggested we have a seat on cushions the floor and start exploring the aptly named “shoulder complex.” As we began teasing out the question: where does shoulder movement reside in our own body? we started connecting the dots and extrapolating parts—to simplify, our session sounded a lot like that ol’ song: the arm bone’s connected to the shoulder bone, the shoulder bone’s connected to the neck bones, the neck bone’s connected to the rib bones…(the fascinating evolution of which I just learned this morning, link below…now do you see why I’m always late for everything? Every single thing I encounter in life is an opportunity to dive a little deeper—itself an act of resistance to the status quo if you think about it—always, so worth it…)
 
As we moved our hands, arms, shoulder blades, spines, we focused on how our breathing is dramatically, directly impacted by the various positions of all dem bones, and that when even just one is is outta whack, the whole is impacted—circulation, respiration, digestion, neurology, lymph flow…i often use a tent analogy to describe how our body parts work—but not just a simple ol’ a-frame, I conjure the image of something more complex, like the stunning structure of Cirque du Soleil, and how every nook and cranny isn’t managed in a balanced manner, the tent will sag, buckle, collapse…in other words, you will likely not move in a typical ass-kicking, fitness-classs way in my sessions, but you will likely feel your ass (or shoulders, or head, or…) in ways you never have before, if you ever have before.
 
At one point, Dan interrupted our session by saying, “Okay, when I get things in place on top, I start to feel a pull down into my lower back, toward my pelvis—my hunched forward upper back and shoulders is a compensation that really does affect everything doesn’t it? I think I need to sit up on a higher stack of blankets…” and proceeded to stack up blankets to a more comfortable height. I wish I would have screen-shot the visible ease that settled into Dan’s body once he elevated himself higher, as well as the goofy grin that nearly split my face in half with his glorious a-ha moment. Such a profound, embodied moment to witness—John Muir’s words in action—when we try to pick apart anything by itself, we find that it’s hitched to everything else in the universe” which is why I so love what I do—continual reminders that everything is truly connected, continual challenges to find those connections, and strengthen them.
 
This level of awareness knows no bounds, but certainly does make life more complicated and outright inconvenient—we are confronted by our own limitations and restrictions, which can be humbling, if not outright infuriating. If we view our bodies as intricate ecosystems in their own right, then where does it end? I’m telling you, it doesn’t. Every move we make radiates out into the world we inhabit, and vice versa, and we are either working toward opening our consciousness, to create balance and ease for all, or we’re fighting against that balance, if we only focus on a select few parts, which results in compensations, restrictions pain and dysfunction. If you’re starting to see the metaphor of the body to the universe, you’re onto something pretty cosmic…It’s really as simple as that, but you know that by “simple” I mean anything but. We messy humans have an annoying habit of fucking shit up, all the time. The cool thing is, the universe offers these lessons over and over and over again, all day, every day. Though, given the events of the first half of 2020, I’m starting to wonder if we’re running out of chances…
 
The lovely side effect of Dan and Susan’s session this week, is that they are softening me to the idea of an online teaching presence; I’ll keep you posted on the progress of that idea and the connections as they develop. Right now, I gotta run, I’m late for a social-distancing date with my sisters. xo.
 

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