Self Transformation and Bodywork, Part IV

I am in love with massage, acupuncture, dance, stretching, bicycling, hiking, and so on. I can’t seem to help exploring new possibilities. It’s truly amazing, really, when you think about it, how every cell in our bodies is linked with every other cell. Our bodies hold keys to our minds and our brains hold keys to our bodies. The ancient Chinese linked emotions with particular organs, and those linkages seem to hold for many, but it seems to go even deeper than that. Our bodies hold memories and emotions in odd and wondrous ways.

Today, I am thinking about movement therapies, so I’m doing a little overview of my own journey while introducing you to a number of approaches. What I love about some of these is that I get to ‘own’ them. I get to be in charge of my transformation, rather than laying on a table having someone work on me as in massage. To a certain extent, I don’t need to pay someone, and, within limits, I can push myself as hard as I want. If I am having an off day, I can be gentle, and if I am feeling like it’s time to have a break-through, I can push myself. That’s if I am doing them by myself, and not with an instructor, of course.

The first form of “movement therapy” I ever tried was modern dance. When I was in graduate school, I noticed that my Institute offered modern classes, and I decided it was the perfect thing to help with my back and neck pain. I figured the other students would be clumsy like me, and it turned out that I was mostly right, except for one Chemistry Grad student who had danced for years. I had a lot of fun, it helped with the pain, and I got introduced to a whole new world. I still take modern dance classes when I can find them (and I’m not as clumsy as I used to be. :)).

Toshiko Namioka - Japanese Modern Dance Choreo...

Toshiko Namioka – Japanese Modern Dance Choreographer/Performer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I lived in Santa Fe, dance classes could be pretty intense: we sometimes explored ourselves in ways which verge on therapy, such as imagining being just a sack of bones, or that we were babies and should explore our bodies and the world around us from that perspective. Group work might involve pushing our ability to trust others or to sense someone’s movement with our eyes closed (I recall being absolutely terrible at this and always wondered if the others cheated and opened their eyes). It certainly opened up a new, more creative and intuitive, way of approaching my life.

Lately I’ve been going to an ecstatic dance group that meets a couple of times a month. This is free-form dance, to music, where the idea is to go through a series of rhythms and movement types, somewhat following Gabrielle Roth‘s ideas about the Five Rhythms, that allow a person to open up and end up in a calm, happy, place. I love dance, so while I have not had any huge transformations yet from doing ecstatic dance, it’s fun and I finish happy and relaxed.

Anna Halprin at the University of San Francisco

Anna Halprin at the University of San Francisco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most profound dance/movement class I have ever taken was with Anna Halprin. I wish I’d had the guts to move to California to study with her and her daughter (I definitely considered it, and in retrospect I think I was afraid, not so much of giving up old ways, but of failure. I just couldn’t see myself having the guts to teach it and being any good as a teacher of movement.) In my two day workshop with Anna, we mixed meditation, drawing, and movement, looking specifically at parts of our bodies. I may have learned more about myself in those two days than in any other two days and it truly transformed my approach to life. It taught me to look at the dream-body, and by that I mean the images that come up when I visualize myself. I saw dragons, and a young boy, and chains and caves – you get the picture – which represented thoughts and emotions I had never dealt with. By approaching them this way, I got started on my healing path in a serious way.

Another type of movement therapy is more obviously about changing posture, healing an injury, or achieving better balance and ease. Some of these get incorporated, also, into dance classes. For example, simply finding your balance point by swaying, and looking for a more comfortable way to hold your body. There are many ways to approach the body. I’ve tried yoga and Aston Patterning, and a tiny bit of Pilates, but have mainly done Structural Reprogramming, aka The Vance Stance, largely because it suits my personality and Dr. Bonner who invented it lives in my town. Why not study with a genius, if you can? Plus, it seems to work for me. This journey deserves its own post, so I will reserve it for later.

Finally, I will just put in a plug for breathwork. For a brief period of time Tziporah Kingsley lived here and did workshops on Judith Kravitz’s Transformational Breathwork, which I found amazing. I suppose you can’t quite call it movement therapy, but still it is focused on the body. I still sometimes do my 100 breaths of joy, using the tape I got from her. It’s a way to open to traumas held in the body, and, eventually, to ecstasy, which teaches us how to feel happiness and heals the physical body.

Okay, so I have zoomed over a zillion ways to get in touch with your body, and also use it to heal not only obvious physical issues and find health but also affect thought-forms and emotional problems. I’d love to get your feedback on all of this, so leave your comments. What have you tried? What do you think of all of this? I’ve probably left out your favorite approach, so tell us about it and we can all learn.

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  1. #1 by Literary Tiger on May 3, 2012 - 6:11 am

    I never thought of dance in this way, Ann. I like the idea of dance therapy, especially how you described your classes with Ms. Halprin as a combination of drawing, meditation and movement. I think I would get stuck on the part of movement. You know, thinking “do I look awkward” (yes), do I care? (yes), why should I care (I dunno, I don’t want to look awkward). 🙂

    • #2 by annstanleywriting on May 3, 2012 - 7:45 am

      The thing about a class like that is that everyone is doing their own thing at the same time, and they aren’t paying attention to you. But, now that you mention it, I recall that it did take a few hours before I was able to let go of that fear of looking weird or awkward. |)

  2. #3 by Teresa Graham on May 2, 2012 - 3:35 pm

    I’ve only read this article and plan to read your others on transformation and body work. Great article. In addition to being a Massage Therapist I take part in tribal fusion belly dance (as a performer and teacher and eternal student) and find that has put me in touch with aspects of myself that I hadn’t been aware of before and allows me total freedom to explore how it “feels” to move the body parts I’m aware of because of the massage training. It’s an ongoing journey of transformation.

  3. #4 by Georganne Spruce on May 2, 2012 - 2:00 pm

    I, too, took a workshop with Anna Halprin years ago and it was amazing and currently dance with an improvisational group that uses Gabrielle Roth’s The Wave. I enjoyed your article and thanks for listing my blog.

  1. Power Wave Dance by Gabrielle Roth « Talesfromthelou's Blog
  2. Self-Transformation and Bodywork, Part V « Ann Stanley

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