Reversing diabetes: Phyllis’ return to health. Part 2.

This is Part 2 in a series of posts telling the story of Phyllis and how she reversed Type 2 diabetes. Part 1 is here. If your reading time is limited, here is a summary.

To recap, Phyllis was working stressful 12-hour days with two-hour commutes each way. She wasn’t eating right. Her doctor told her she had a choice: be hospitalized or see an endocrinologist. She learned her A1C level was 10.2, putting her at high risk for serious complications…

Peace, Quiet, and Nature

Phyllis realized she had to do something differently. She knew she had to get away from food being such a comfort to offset the stress she was under.

She faced the stress first by giving a month’s notice and stepping away from her stressful job and commute.

She says now she was so sick back then, she couldn’t even think. Her body felt bad. Besides the diabetes, she had blood pressure issues, a heart murmur, and thyroid issues (Hashimoto’s, another autoimmune disease). Her memory declined. Continue reading

Repost: Gabrielle Roth: The Most Badass Teacher of Our Time

Gabrielle Roth: The Most Badass Teacher of Our Time. | elephant journal.

Here’s another tribute to Gabrielle Roth that I couldn’t resist sharing for its first sentence:

Gabrielle Roth was the most truthful, determined, vibrant, hilarious, seductively ferocious person I have ever encountered.

My Austin dance community danced our farewell to Gabrielle yesterday. I couldn’t attend all of it — it was one of those days when I could have used a clone or two, there was so much deliciousness going on — but I did get some good dancing in, and some savory connecting, and I took my favorite healing stone to sit on the altar and soak up the energy of the room and touch/be touched by many of the gifted healers who dance.

We danced fiercely, with abandon and so many huge smiles, mine among them.

It was also our last dance in that space where we first danced 14 years ago, and so it was a milestone day for that reason as well. We move into a new space next month. I felt so much gratitude for so many people whom I’ve danced with over the years, knowing I will see many of them in a few weeks.

We honored the teachers who brought the rhythms and ecstatic dance to Austin in 1994: Claire Alexander (now a 5 rhythms teacher in Mountain View and Santa Cruz, CA), Carola Marashi (leading an ecstatic dance in Ashland, OR), and Terry Teaters.

And Gabrielle. Of course.

I was sorry to miss the ceremony led by Lisa DeLand, the 5 rhythms teacher in Austin.

Thanks also to Elephant Journal and the writer of the original post, Natasha Blank.

As with taking yoga and NLP into places that need it, like prisons and schools (which I’ve done and will keep doing), so there is a way to share the 5 rhythms in the places that most need it, 5Rhythms Reach Out. Here’s a direct link: http://www.5rro.org/

I would not ask you to donate if I didn’t believe in it enough to donate myself. I’ve made a donation, and you can too.

I just keep remembering how expanding, affirming, and life-changing it was to first encounter the 5 rhythms 18 years ago. There are many, many people whose lives are more sheltered and laden with suffering who are waiting for this transformational work, and they don’t even know it. 5Rhythms Reach Out will find and teach (and transform) them.

Gabrielle RothOne of my favorite Gabrielle quotes is this:

The problem is, we’re just too fucking alive! (said when someone complained about the noise and activity of a bunch of dancers after a workshop)

I say:

If that’s your problem, I’ll have what you’re having!

 

In remembrance of Gabrielle Roth: freedom is our holy work

One of the significant teachers in my life died yesterday, and I’ve struggled with writing about it. I find myself getting too heady, and yet this loss is actually so profound that when I took a nap yesterday, I dreamed I was balancing upside down on my head on a dance floor, surrounded by lively, active children.

When I woke, I could feel the pressure on the crown of my head.

Headstand is definitely about changing perspective.

I stumbled into ecstatic dance 18 years ago, first encountering the 5 rhythms of Gabrielle Roth and Sweat Your Prayers after I left church as something I could no longer take part in with integrity.

I found a tribe, a practice, and a way of experiencing myself and the world as energy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that the latter is the change in perspective that I’m integrating with this shock of loss and review of Gabrielle’s influence on my life, that it’s all just energy all the time, and it’s always changing, always dancing. The best I can ever do is to be centered, grounded, embodied, and ready to meet it. What’s solid is awareness.

I’ve had issues and struggles at times with that tribe, practice, and worldview, and they have deeply shaped me. I keep coming back.

Here’s what ecstatic dance is to me: being free, feeling joy, being embodied, clearing, cleansing, breathing, sweating, extending myself, being aware, taking care of my body, pushing to my edge and beyond, being in the moment, sharing, delighting, inquiring, discovering, connecting, having compassion, being inspired, seeing, allowing, playing, surrendering, breaking myself open, feeling what comes up, being danced, letting go, grieving, dancing with other versions of me, dancing with the entire room including the space, letting life and everything flow through me, being totally and completely alive, being fully present, blowing all the blocks out of my energy channels.

I feel so grateful to have found this and that I am able to do this.

Thank you, Gabrielle Roth, for your life’s work. Thank you, dancing tribe.

Here’s Gabrielle in her own words.

I became a mapmaker for others to follow, but not in my footsteps, in their own. Many of us are looking for a beat, something solid and rooted where we can take refuge and begin to explore the fluidity of being alive, to investigate why we often feel stuck, numb, spaced-out, tense, inert, and unable to stand up or sit down or unscramble the screens that reflect our collective insanity.

The question I ask myself and everyone else is, “Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit?” Can we be free of all that binds and bends us into a shape of consciousness that has nothing to do with who we are from moment to moment, from breath to breath?

Dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth — not some big truth that belongs to everybody, but the get down and personal kind, the what’s-happening-in-me-right-now kind of truth. We dance to reclaim our brilliant ability to disappear in something bigger, something safe, a space without a critic or a judge or an analyst.

Self-care for massage therapists, part 2 (what works for me)

In part 1, I listed various self-care methods that massage therapists use for their own aches and pains from giving massage. In part 2, I want to share what I’ve tried (so far) that works.

First, I want to say that my strength and endurance have increased with practice. I used to be in pain after giving 3 hour-long massages in a row several days in a row. Now I can do 4 hours 5 days a week with just a few twinges and aches afterwards. For several weeks, though, I was hurting and feeling some despair about having upended my life to get trained and start working in this new profession and the possibility of not being physically able to do it.

Key learnings from a newbie:

  • I no longer attempt deep tissue work, sticking to Swedish and reflexology. My Swedish massages are good and getting better. I incorporate some of David Lauterstein’s deep massage strokes into every Swedish massage, and I use pressure points, stretching, techniques from sports massage, body mobilization techniques, and reflexology, depending on the client’s issues and the amount of time I have. I cannot deliver the pressure that some clients (well-informed or not about what “deep tissue” means) seem to want. If I work within my limitations, it’s win-win for everyone.
  • I trained in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy so that I can deliver deeper pressure using my feet and body weight, controlled by holding onto overhead bars. It’s so much easier on my body and a lot of fun, too.
  • I rock with my feet and leverage my body weight strategically as I deliver Swedish massage so my arms and shoulders do less work.
  • Hydrotherapy totally rocks after a long shift. I fill my double kitchen sinks with hot water (my water heater is set to 130 degrees F. for sanitizing laundry) and cold water that I dump a quart or two of ice into. I immerse my aching forearms and hands in the water, alternating cold-hot-cold-hot-cold, for one minute each. I can barely stand it, and yet it makes a huge difference in just 5 minutes. Seems to flush toxins and swelling and pain right out.
  • I stretch my fingers and wrists, holding each stretch for 15 seconds. Good to do when driving, at red lights.
  • I press into the trigger points for the elbow and wrist (see part 1 for links).
  • I apply magnesium gel with seaweed extract topically. According to Wikipedia, symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, weakness, and fatigue, and fifty-seven percent of the US population does not get enough magnesium from food.
  • I love epsom salts in a bath. (Guess what? They contain magnesium!) When I was feeling a lot of pain all over, I would dump a cup or two of epsom salts into a fairly hot bath and add a few drops of lavender oil, then soak for 15-20 minutes. I felt like a new woman when I came out! I learned this years ago from dancers.
  • I use Young Living’s OrthoEase oil on clients’ painful muscles, and I use it on mine as well. Contains wintergreen, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and more that are analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
  • I keep hydrated and have been avoiding nightshades lately. I’m already gluten-free and eat fairly healthily. I’m interested in following an anti-inflammatory diet but haven’t done the research yet.
  • I take at least a couple of days off per week, not always together, though. I’m still finding my ideal schedule.
  • I do 10-15 minutes of yoga every morning. Sun salutations stretch and strengthen my body. Plus, it’s a great check-in to do something that starts the same every day. I start slowly and really let my hamstrings lengthen in forward bend before I move on to the next pose. I add standing poses, balance poses, and pigeon as I feel the need and to keep it interesting.
  • I get at least a chair massage every week. I’m interested in setting up a weekly trade for a full-body massage with someone, too.
  • I use a foam roller on back when needed, and a tennis ball to my gluteus.
  • I have two tennis balls tied into a sock that I use when driving to massage my back. I’ve also learned to “pop” my own back while giving massage!

Here’s something that just doesn’t fit into any of the categories I’ve seen so far about self-care for MTs. It’s about how you use your attention. I’ve learned to keep some of my attention on my body most of the time.

When I focused exclusively on the client’s body, delivering what I thought they wanted, I hurt and fatigued myself. I listen more to my body now and check in verbally with the client if I am not noticing nonverbal feedback.

If I notice that I feel rigid anywhere in my body, I say to myself, “Soften,” and my body softens.

Sometimes I put my attention on the soles of my feet and their connection to the floor/earth (I massage with bare feet always for Ashiatsu and as much as possible for Swedish), making the movements of giving massage into a soft, fluid dance.

Sometimes I attend to my breath, letting it become easy and relaxing (and audible to the client, as a nonverbal suggestion that they relax too).

All of these techniques activate the inner body, subtle body, energy body, whatever you want to call it. It feels better to give massage with this “soft present alive expanded body” than not. There is definitely an aspect of being “in the flow” that seems somehow related to doing Reiki, but I don’t know how to put it into words (yet).

Another bonus: the sensations of pain and fatigue become distant as peace and love fill my awareness.

I don’t know if clients perceive the difference, but I don’t think it could hurt. I do it for me because I “in-joy” it!

It’s been four months since I got licensed and began working. I look forward to learning even more new things about self-care and sharing them here.

The dancing genes, sociability, transcendence, and genetic flexibility

A recent article published online says that dancers are genetically different. Some Israeli researchers found that dancers show consistent differences from the general population in two genes.

The researchers said this did not surprise them, because studies have found that athletes and musicians have genetic differences.

I can only speak for myself, but my dance is very connected to music — my movement is a way to participate musically, as if I were playing an instrument. It’s also very physical.

I did a little Googling to see if I could find which specific genes differ in athletes and musicians, but I didn’t find anything that was very clear. Race seems to be the biggest issue in the media when it comes to genetics, athletes, and musicians.

The researchers studied dancers and advanced dance students and found they had variants in two genes, those affecting serotonin transport and arginine vasopressin reception.

Serotonin (“the happiness molecule”) is a neurotransmitter that contributes to spiritual experience — the capacity for transcendence and a proclivity to spiritual acceptance. (See this Psychology Today article for more about that.) It also affects optimism, the healing of wounds, resilience from stress, metabolism, sleep, and more.

“Serotonin transport” sounds like a dance inside the body!

Interestingly, exercise can raise serotonin levels in the body, so dancing itself reinforces dancers’ high serotonin levels!

I admit — I get into an altered state from ecstatic dance. That’s why they call it ecstatic dance, I suspect. 😉

The vasopressin receptor modulates social communication and affiliative bonding. Wikipedia says “…accumulating evidence suggests it plays an important role in social behavior, bonding, and maternal responses to stress.” It has a very similar structure to oxytocin (“the love hormone”), and the two can cross-react.

When the results were combined and analyzed, it was clearly shown that the dancers exhibited particular genetic and personality characteristics that were not found in the other two groups.

The dancer “type,” says Ebstein, clearly demonstrates qualities that are not necessarily lacking but are not expressed as strongly in other people: a heightened sense of communication, often of a symbolic and ceremonial nature, and a strong spiritual personality trait.

I know this is controversial, but I want to weigh in on the side of flexibility when it comes to genetics. For much of my life, genes were thought to be destiny, unalterable. Now it is known that the expression of genes is much more dynamic than previously believed. They can switch on and off.

I don’t know that much about it, except that stress tends to switch on the bad genes. I don’t know which or how many genes truly create destiny and therefore cannot be influenced, except that there probably are some. We just don’t know enough about this in our current level of understanding.

I want to encourage people who believe they don’t have the dancing genes to give dancing a try.

Two left feet? That’s a myth. If you can walk, you have rhythm and coordination.

If you think you can’t dance, try just moving to some music alone in your own home if you feel self-conscious. Play something catchy, like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

Start simple, just swaying your hips to the beat, keeping your feet in place. Do you like it? Do you feel any sense of pleasure? Play with it. Add your arms. Walk to it. Make it fun and goofy!

Those dancing genes may be just sitting there waiting to be activated, for all we know, and they might help you become happier.

Tao Porchon-Lynch: teaching yoga, ballroom dancing videos

I found more videos of Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world’s oldest living yoga teacher. I just can’t get enough of her! She’s my inspiration, my role model for wellness, because what she can do now is based on what she did when she was much younger: a lifetime of good habits.

She looks, sounds, and feels so healthy! She seems to be wonderfully sweet and so full of vitality! Seeing her living so well is very motivating.

In the first video, she talks about yoga, and you see her teaching a class:

In the second video, she displays amazing ballroom dancing skills. That was filmed in 2009, when she was “only” 91. Her partner looks to be about one-third her age, yet they are well matched on the dance floor.

If you didn’t know, would you ever have guessed she was even over 70?

She has her own website here: http://taoporchon-lynch.com/.

Also, if you missed them, see my earlier posts, The world’s oldest living yoga teacher and More from the world’s oldest living yoga teacher: she tangos!

More from the world’s oldest living yoga teacher: she tangos!

I found this 2006 YouTube video of Tao Porchon-Lynch, whom I posted about recently in The world’s oldest living yoga teacher.

This video was made in 2006, when Tao was “only” 86.

Isn’t she adorable? I aspire to be like her when I’m 86.

Oh, and she also likes to waltz, jitterbug, samba, cha-cha, foxtrot, and tango.

“It lightens up your spirit,” she says.

A reader shares her awesome trauma releasing experience; another TRE video

I checked my email this morning right before work and saw one saying that someone had posted a blog comment. It was in response to my very first post on the Trauma releasing exercises, posted way back in May of 2010, close to two years ago.

Jen wrote:

Learnt the TRE technique from a friend. After my 4th session (last night) I got up and my body started swaying at the hips, then shoulders went mad, neck went into awesome neck rolls (felt a lot like yoga) and then an intense feeling from the centre of my belly, rolling upwards. Went on for at least an hour before I eventually went to bed to sleep. Just the one hand kept doing a little shake.

This morning on my way to work, my neck started rolling. Once at work I was standing telling my friend about this when my entire body started swaying and all morning (at least the last 4 hours) have been spent with my neck going into involuntary neck rolls, shoulder rolls, back stretches. It has finally stopped, but I am just a bit concerned. What does this mean?

I got really excited reading this! The trauma release process is working for Jen very well. To have this response after only four sessions is excellent. Her body is releasing trauma! To have a release from the hara (belly center) like that is very liberating. Maybe her yoga helped.

When I was first experimenting with the TRE exercises, I remember feeling some fear around the idea of “letting go”. What exactly is being let go of, and if I let go (i.e., lose control), will I get my self-control back?

Then once I started shaking, trembling, rocking, and rolling, I wondered: Would I be able to stop? What if it was embarrassing?

I needn’t have worried.

I responded right away:

It means you are unfreezing and coming alive, Jen! Do it as much as you can when it feels right. Enjoy and know it will eventually slow and become “more voluntary” when you’ve released more of your stress. Awesome to hear from you!

She wrote back:

Wow, thanks for getting back to me so soon – you have put my mind at ease. My friend and I were laughing hysterically this morning as it just wouldn’t stop and then we started getting a little worried that it would NEVER stop. But this afternoon has been fine and when it starts again I will know it is normal and let it out!

Keep well
Jen

I haven’t blogged about the trauma releasing exercises for a long time, but I haven’t forgotten them. Once I learned them and began shaking, the process deepened. I released long-held tensions, especially in my shoulders. Every time I did them was different. I did them frequently for a while.

Sometimes nowadays when I am at Ecstatic Dance Austin or at home, I release tension in my legs and occasionally my arms/shoulders. I don’t think about it too much; if the thought pops into my mind, I never second-guess it. I just allow the release to happen. I’m standing, and my legs are shaking or my arm is writhing — something is moving, for sure.

And when I’ve had enough (again, without thinking about it), I dance (or rather, I do a more intentional dance, becaus release is dance) or go onto the next activity.

I’ve considered doing the training to become a TRE facilitator and may still do that when the time and money come together. For now, I’m happy to answer any questions that readers may have based on my experience and what I’ve seen and read of Berceli’s work.

I’m also happy to watch the exercises on video and do the exercises with anyone who wants to try them and prefers to have an experienced companion. There is something contagious about doing them with someone who already releases. It’s like permission to your body. (And a few people don’t need this; in my experience, it’s helpful to most newbies because releasing goes against the grain of what we’ve been taught, to be “in control” at all times.)

Also, I viewed David Berceli’s 2004 video, Mitchell Jay Rabin’s A Better World presents David Berceli Trauma Release, and I don’t think I posted anything about it.

Berceli tells Rabin the story of how he began developing the exercises, which I’ve read in abbreviated form but had not heard from Berceli before.

He was a Catholic missionary in the Middle East, living in Beirut during a civil war in the late 1970s. He was working with war refugees, and he himself became traumatized.

When he came back to the U.S., he was suffering from PTSD. He went to counseling (the only thing he knew to do) for two years, and at the end he realized he was still suffering very severely from PTSD, but it seemed to be more in his body than in his psyche.

That started him on the journey of exploring what PTSD is, how it affects us as human beings, how it affects the psyche and the body differently, and what healing processes need to occur to effect a complete resolution of trauma recovery.

He learned that the body holds in memory the contractions from trauma as a defensive behavior. He studied bioenergetics, tai chi, yoga, and other modalities, but was seeking a quick, body-based method of trauma release that could be taught in any cultural context to a large number of people even without knowing the language. 

Berceli then worked all over Africa and the Middle East with people traumatized by conflicts and civil wars. He discovered that conflict resolution is useless unless the underlying emotions can be released, that trust is impossible as long as the body holds the memory from trauma.

He worked with 150-200 people at a time, teaching the exercises to create neurogenic tremors and release the terror, anxiety, hurt, and fear of trauma, and then people would feel their bodies letting go of trauma behaviors embedded in their musculature.

Berceli relates the same knowledge that Peter Levine discovered and wrote about in Waking the Tiger, that animals don’t get PTSD because when they get out of danger, they shiver and shake and release the trauma from their bodies.

People tend to stifle the trembling after a trauma, and it remains embedded in the musculature. Berceli developed exercises to target the core muscles deep in the body affected by trauma (the psoas major, which impacts the energetic centers of the root and sacral chakras, the dan tien, the hara). Release of the psoas ripples throughout the body.

I love the psoas. It connects the legs to the torso and is the “fight or flight” muscle. We palpated it in massage school, getting to it through the lower abdomen.

I know that doing the trauma releasing exercises has been instrumental in releasing more trauma and defensive armor from my body. TRE has freed up my body and my dance! And in case of being retraumatized, however slightly, these exercises are good to do again.

There are more good stories on this video, even praise of dance as release, release, release. It’s inspired me to do the TRE exercises more frequently. Who knows what else can be released?

Dance: finding the play in the moment

Psychology Today has posted a slew of articles under the heading The Last Dance? You’ll shed stress, forget pain, amp up your brain–and your sex drive!

Now we know that in addition to all the other benefits of exercise, dance activates the brain’s pleasure centers. It certainly feels like that to me. When I think of the joy I get from dancing, there’s nothing that comes really close, except being in love and having really good sex. Especially when they go together.

Dancing is like joy unleashed. I was at Ecstatic Dance Austin this morning, a bit less energetic than usual because of recent illness but still there, to move, to connect, to get happy.

I took in the whole room — the music, the 60-plus people dancing their hearts out, the wide variety of dancers in age, skill, style — and it felt like being inside a huge heart, pumping bodies, music, laughter, play, freedom, silliness, sweetness, sweat, all with a dance-like-nobody’s-watching attitude.

Some of the dancers are skilled. There are performers, teachers, yogis, and also, people who have issues with their feet, ankles, shoulders, backs. Some dancers stick to very simple moves and pretty much stay in the same place. Some move around the room.

Some dance every dance with a partner (same or different), some dance every dance alone — or with the entire room, who can tell the difference? No one is watching or judging — all dance activates pleasure.

I danced with an old friend, a woman, early on, and it felt like we were the two hottest chicks in the disco. A guy friend shared a yummy, slow, and tender dance with me — thanks so much, my dear. Another man and I playfully played, and he dazzled me again with his joy. I danced alone and with the room, and also was still and wept, and I did some handstands against the wall. It was all good. This dance is a large container.

Below, some excerpts from the articles that I found interesting:

“Dance allows people to experience themselves in ways they didn’t know they could,” says Miriam Berger, a dance professor and dance therapist at New York University. “You can change your internal state through external movement.”

dance boosts mood more than does exercise alone. In a study at the University of London, researchers assigned patients with anxiety disorders to spend time in one of four therapeutic settings: a modern-dance class, an exercise class, a music class, or a math class. Only the dance class significantly reduced anxiety.

Cardiac-rehab patients in a recent Italian study who enrolled in waltzing classes not only wound up with more elastic arteries, but were happier than participants who took up bicycle and treadmill training.

What accounts for the emotional high dancers experience? As a general rule, moving to music activates the brain’s pleasure circuits.

The brain’s structure may explain another important source of mood boost: Dancing bonds people, according to Robyn Flaum Cruz, president of the American Dance Therapy Association. MRI scans show that watching someone dance activates the same neurons that would fire if you yourself were doing the moves. 

For your pleasure and education: 

Berger speculates that the sense of achievement and well-being that comes from expanding and perfecting one’s movement repertoire may carry over into other areas of life. “One of the most important parts of psychotherapy is relearning things you learned wrong,” she says. “With dance, you have a great opportunity to do that on a physical level.”

In a study done at the University of New England, participants who spent six weeks learning tango’s fancy footwork recorded significantly lower levels of depression than a control group who took no classes, and results similar to those of a third group who took meditation lessons. Study author Rosa Pinniger credits the extreme focus—or “mindfulness”—of dance, which interrupts negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety and depression.

The physically expressive nature of dance also helps people release and thereby recognize pent-up feelings, the first step to dealing with them.

…if conscious communication through motion is the hallmark of dance, then we better call painters like Jackson Pollock dancers too. In his drip paintings, Pollock placed the canvas on the floor and moved around it rhythmically, flinging paint as he went. Painting was, for him, an experience and an expression of the moving body. His paintings might even be considered dance notations!

Dancers exercise every one of the universal thinking skills we explore in Sparks of Genius, The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People (Houghton Mifflin: 1999). They observe the movements of people and things. They image, or mentally manipulate, what they have observed and experienced, seeing with the mind’s eye the movements they wish to make, feeling the feel of these movements before they enact them. Dancers analogize, linking the human body to living forms and inanimate processes around them. They imitate or model the movements of these things. They abstract certain elements of these movements in order to simplify, to grasp the essential. Thinking dimensionally, they form patterns in space and through time. They play with these patterns, altering and improvising. Ultimately, dancers transform stories or pictures or sculptures or games or ideas into dance. They synthesize music, choreography, costume and setting into one coherent spectacle. But most of all and most specially, dancers empathize through role-playing. And in related fashion, they think with the body, exploring what they know about the world with muscle movements, visceral tensions, gut feelings, and emotions.

There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them. – Vicki Baum

Dancing: the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalized by music.  – George Bernard Shaw

If you’re interested in reading why dance is a radical act vital to our survival as humans on earth, read this entire article, which is too difficult to excerpt. Well, except for these:

To dance is to play with the movement that is making us. It is to cultivate a sensory awareness of how this movement is making us, and of how our own movements, as we shape and transmit the energy of life, are making us. To dance is to play with this movement in ways that allow us to discover and exercise our capacity to make our own movements—movements that align with our health and well-being.

One who dances knows: the reason we “exercise” is to play–to find the play in the moment, to release the capacity to play within ourselves. Dancing, we explore the possibilities for movement alive in the moment. We cultivate a receptivity to impulses to move as they arise in our bodily selves. We improvise. We imagine. We allow our bodily selves to guide us in new patterns. We follow a toe, a finger, a nose, the waves of our breathing into new spaces of sensation.

Dance, ecstasy, Pina, play

Today I had three dance experiences, which made it a wonderfully memorable day.

  1. I participated in Ecstatic Dance Austin this morning.
  2. I saw the film Pina by Wim Wenders, about the late German dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch, her work, and her dancers.
  3. My friend Peggy and I walked and played our way around Town Lake.

There is a shortcut to ecstasy. It’s called dance. ~ Gabrielle Roth

I am in love with Ecstatic Dance Austin, feeling so grateful that I have two hours every Sunday morning as an outlet for my energy, movement, physicality, playfulness, experimentation, and connection.

Today it occurred to me that if I didn’t have this, I’d curl up in a ball and die, or at least be really depressed. When I’m struggling over relationships, finances, work, decisions, politics, life, this is a place where I can give all that heaviness over to Spirit and just move, feel, connect, play, and be present. Life becomes a dance.

It is joy to walk into a big dance studio with a great sound system playing the kind of music that invites movement. I move out onto the floor. I begin moving.

Because there’s no talking, I connect with people using eye contact, smiles, and sometimes hugs. Sometimes I create my own space by closing my eyes and dancing.

I smile a lot because I feel so radiant and happy. There’s joy in the present moment, of course. My more personal joy is that I’ve worked on my health for years with bodywork, yoga, and a clean diet, and I feel great. My stamina is good — I stay moving, even through the burning fire of dancing all-out chaos. My creativity is good — there’s no end to discovering rewarding movements that morph into new grooves. My capacity for living and dancing from joy is good — although I have moments when heavy thoughts arise in my awareness during dance, I can move through them and return to joy.

I find ecstatic dance to be a great healing antidote. If I’m suffering relationship woes, I can dance with men who appreciate me, move with me, play with me, honor me. They don’t know my story, and I don’t know theirs. We just dance. A couple of dances can restore my sense of being valued as a woman by the other sex.

And for days when I’m fed up with male egos, I can have playful, fun dances with women.

And of course, I can have dances with men or women, or men and women, any time for no reason at all except that we’re together in the studio, there’s some great music playing, and we share the joy.

The physicality of it, the improvisational nature of ecstatic dance, the freedom and goodness I feel in my body, the wave of rhythms that peaks somewhere in the middle just clear me out until nothing is left but sweat, breath, and oneness.

Afterward we sit or lie spent in a big circle on the floor and give ourselves a couple of minutes of silence. We say names. We have announcements. We mingle and leave.

 

Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost. ~ Pina Bausch

Pina, the film written, directed, and produced by Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Buena Vista Social Club), is showing at the Violet Crown in downtown Austin. The film has been nominated for Best Documentary for the Academy Awards. (Click the link to view the awesome trailer.)

Pina Bausch worked with Tanztheater Wuppertal in Berlin from 1973 until her sudden death in 2009. Rather than being a biographical documentary, Pina shows her choreographic work and the dancers who danced her work speaking about her.

Here’s a clip (it’s in 3D, by the way — first dance film in 3D, that I know of — thanks, Wim Wenders!):

And here’s another:

And another:

She painted with dancers, movement, costumes. Her dances are not ecstatic dance — they are choreographed — but from what I could tell, she started with improvisation, asking for instance for a dancer to show her joy. Although some of the dance is highly structured, it retains its aliveness.

The film is a revelation — about life, love, pain, loneliness, longing. And creativity and playfulness.

WIM WENDERS ABOUT PINA BAUSCH
No, there was no hurricane that swept across the stage,
there were just … people performing
who moved differently then I knew
and who moved me as I had never been moved before.
After only a few moments I had a lump in my throat,
and after a few minutes of unbelieving amazement
I simply let go of my feelings
and cried unrestrainedly.
This had never happened to me before…
maybe in life, sometimes in the cinema,
but not when watching a rehearsed production,
let alone choreography.
This was not theatre, nor pantomime,
nor ballet and not at all opera.
Pina is, as you know,
the creator of a new art.
Dance theatre.

I loved seeing the dances, dancers, costumes, settings. This film inspires me. I want colorful, flowing, sexy evening gowns to dance in. I want to play with movement, to experiment, to have fun.

 

I can trust my friends. These people force me to examine, encourage me to grow. ~ Cher

Peggy is a dancer and choreographer and a dear friend of mine for years. Having just seen the film and danced our way out of the theater, we walked around Town Lake incorporating playful movements — stepping stylishly between two trees, walking on benches, doing asana on bridges, mimicking the arm gestures we saw in the film, striking poses, waving arms, adding twirls and hops into our walk.

We made our walk into a dance, and you know I’m such a sucker for dancing in unlikely places. The hike and bike trail is as good a place as any, maybe better than most.

It was a beautiful cloudy cool winter afternoon, and people were out enjoying themselves on the trail, walking, running, biking. Our play gave them a little extra enjoyment. People can be so serious, it’s like an illness. We put smiles on their faces.

As we played, we talked about creating dances. We shared some hilarious, outrageous, fun, engaging ideas for dances.

I hope we do them. I’m moved!