I’ve been thinking a lot about how I experience being an embodied mind lately. This has really come from two separate types of experience. The first is from class the other day. We were working our Flying Angels, which involve a lot of engagement from a shoulder which is in an extended position. Throughout class, and certainly by the end of it, I was furious. And I couldn’t figure out why. No one said anything to me to make me mad. I was failing at the move, but I fail at lots of moves, and usually I just laugh about it, but I could not shake this anger. Once I got home and ate something (hanger was part of the issue, as it usually is for me. I’m gluten and dairy free, which means I am always hangry.), I realized what had happened because it has happened to me plenty of times before.
When I was at Cornish, I always did my best acting work in our physical classes. I also was prone to suddenly bursting into tears during plank or any other physical exercise. What I discovered then and remembered after pole class, was that I am extremely emotionally activated by physical activity. This is awesome in some respects. I can take on a physical form of any sort and fill it with whatever emotion is appropriate very quickly, but more often than not, this mind/body connection works like a super power that I have no control over. I hold almost all of my emotional tension in my shoulders, so doing shoulder work, like we were focusing on in class, gave me a really big emotional response. Working my shoulders is kind of like waking a very cranky sleeping giant. Fee, fie, foe, fum, motherfuckers.
The good news is that now that I have remembered this, I can be gentle with myself and mentally prepare for certain instances that I know have a tendency to activate strong emotions for me. When I returned to class the following week, we reviewed more Flying Angel stuff and I was able to tell myself, “Ok. This might get cranky.” And it kinda did, but I was ready for it, and therefore was more responsible with the feelings as they arose.
Seriously, I am amazed at what bodies are like sometimes, what they hold, what they remember. I can work my elbow and knee holds for days…okay, maybe not days, but until I am bruised so badly that I can’t put my elbow or my knee on the pole anymore, and not feel anything but joy to be dancing. The second I put weight into my shoulders or try to open up a hip, my mood tanks, my self-talk becomes negative, and hell fire rains over everything (or that’s how it feels, anyway).
Speaking of hip openings, the other sensation and phenomenon that I’ve been experiencing centers around flexibility and letting go mentally/emotionally. Some of you may know this, but I’m currently trying to get my splits back and I am so. Goddamn. Close.
Honestly, I’ve come farther in getting them back this year than I thought possible. A year ago, I was in a ton of pain. My hips were tight, my knee still bothered me almost daily, my left inner thigh was crunchy like you wouldn’t believe. I had no splits. Like over-a-foot-off-the-ground-no splits. And the above photo was from last month. That’s a shit ton of progress, so I’m super proud. What I’ve noticed in this journey to regain and hopefully extend my flexibility, is that the more open I am mentally, the more careful and kind I am to myself emotionally, the more stress I cut out of my life, the better my flexibility is. All of my big improvements in my splits have happened when I have made a drastic change for the better in my personal life. It’s actually a really amazing and rewarding experience to not only be doing something right and good for yourself, but also to get more bendy at the same time. #goals
So, I think most of what I’m saying here is:
- Your body knows a lot. Listen to it and be kind.
- Nothing happens in a vacuum, your body feels what your mind knows (or thinks it knows).
- I’ve said this before, but here it is again: The human body is amazing and can do more than we think it can.
Stay present. Take care of yourself. Eat good food. Drink a lot of water. Breathe. Remember to breathe when you’re trying hard tricks on the pole. And if you’re like me, be really, really nice to your shoulders.
That’s all I’ve got.