Self-Transformation and Bodywork, Part V

Over the past couple of months I’ve been writing about my personal journey through different forms of bodywork, and the ways they have helped me. I hope that my stories have been entertaining and useful. Here’s my last and final word on the subject, at least for now.

In Part IV of this series I talked about movement therapies. I deliberately left out the one I use the most these days: Structural Reprogramming. This form of postural retraining is the invention of Dr. Vance Bonner, who wrote a book called The Vance Stance*. (Somehow the name she prefers of Structural Reprogramming hasn’t taken among her devotees. We all call it The Vance Stance (sorry Vance, but it’s just a lot catchier!)).
Cover of "The Vance Stance"

It’s summer, which means I am teaching while Vance herself is in the D.C. area, hanging out in a swimming pool, enjoying the heat. I fell into this work after one of my massage clients took a one day class with her and showed up for her next massage raving about it. I liked it so much that I trained to be an instructor, but my classes pale in comparison to Vance’s.

Vance reminds me of stories I have heard about many pioneers, especially Ida Rolf. Vance is fiercely focused on her students, endlessly curious about how to fix things in their bodies, and she has a keen eye that picks up on things us lesser mortals miss. She’s also quite the cheerleader who pushes us far harder than we ever think is possible. It isn’t easy being one of her students, but we’re not in her class to be pampered – we’re there to change.

Portrait of Martha Graham and Bertram Ross (19...

And change we do. Through a series of exercises that seem to combine ideas from  yoga, Pilates, karate, modern dance (think Martha Graham for those of you who know how precise and tough some of those exercises can be) and even gymnastics, all tweaked majorly by Vance, we push our bodies towards an idealized posture. In the process, every once in a while, I find myself having “breakthroughs.” These are moments where there is often physical pain, followed by a real shift in some aspect of my body and often an emotional release. I’ve been so angry that I never wanted to see Vance again. I’ve cried and I’ve been nauseous. I’ve had thoughts like “I can’t stand straight because I will be too vulnerable.” It’s absolutely fascinating how interconnected my body is with my emotions and my thoughts about myself.

Likewise, when I’ve done effective self-help or therapy, my posture improves and the exercises get easier (until she pushes me to the next level). Talk about interconnection of mind and body! I don’t think one can change without the other changing. As I’ve grown more at ease with people and more confident, especially this past year, my shoulders opened, my chest lost its sunken look, and my back (finally!!!!) reached the point where I could flatten it on the floor. I might wish that I could have clicked my fingers twenty years ago and instantly had all of this, but then I would have missed important pieces of the journey, a journey that certainly isn’t finished.

What about you? Have you found a connection between your body and your mind? Have movement therapies or movement in general helped you? Do you blend? For example, I also get massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic therapy from time to time, I don’t just rely upon movement to change and help my body.

*Please note that I’ve linked to Vance’s WEB site for the book because the person who is selling them for a penny on Amazon somehow got a bunch of her books when Workman Press decided not to carry them any more. Vance supposedly bought all the copies they had. She doesn’t even get a penny for those, which just doesn’t seem fair to me.

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