Conscious Movement Practice: On Unfucking Your Mind, Body and Soul
13th April 2020
As the world outside stands a little stiller than usual and I find some reprieve from the constant pressure, I am stretching and moving and reconnecting with parts of myself that have lain dormant for a while.
Nowadays, when I’m training, I am finally taking the time to focus on all there is to be perceived and I find nothing but hope and love between the fibrous adhesions of my muscles as I break them up, softening my body and heart once again into something more malleable, more receptive, more prone to healing and more given to move and bend in all the ways possible.
I’ve been reading studies about our physiology, about paralysis, tonic immobility1, trauma and the way we store it in our bodies.
I’ve been dancing and breathing and opening my chest, my heart, my lungs, to the world within and without and I am so endlessly grateful for this precious, introspective, moving time I found myself gifted with, in short, a moment to:
Unfu[c]k yourselfPadhia, street artist
Be who you were before all the stuff happened that dimmed your fu[c]ken shine.
This. It feels like it is finally happening and as I am unfucking myself, poetry spills out from between my ribs as I practice chest stands and contortion like I never have before; sometimes I dance and I still train hard, but I am beginning to see that even the physical progress isn’t just forcing and arduous work – it is also listening and observing more closely:
It lies in the breathing into a diaphragm that was tense for so long, into the adrenal glands that have been running on empty for years; in connecting the outside stimulus and the inside reaction and bringing the latter up to date in case it froze somewhere in its response2; it is weaving a web that connects all the experiences and stories that I often thought to be random, that I sometimes doubted held a deeper value.
Today’s exercise and movement culture so often focuses on the notion of “not enoughness” – attaining certain physical standards, poses, movements and patterns, sometimes leaving inner awareness behind physical struggle, turning the latter into some sort of modern-day status symbol.
And I get it. I love pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion and test the strength and capacity of the body I have the pleasure to live in, and that, too, is part of the balance. But here’s the important bit: so are the days of gentle stretches, creative movement, flow and limiting exercise to rolling over on the floor, the couch or the bed once more while the real motion happens deep in the twists and turns of our brains, our hearts, our guts and our lungs.
Less than two months ago, I was suffering from an injury to my left shoulder, held a lot of general tension in my shoulder girdle, often felt like my lungs couldn’t expand wide enough inside my ribcage, struggled massively with healthy eating patterns and carried a small brain tumour named Bob. Today I wonder…
What if our bodies themselves were the map to all that was to be discovered within? Would we trace every inch of their skin with the boundless curiosity of an adventurer, listen to their every response to our every action? Would we be more careful of what we put inside them, nurturing them with every movement, every thought, every meal and every gesture?
And what if, one day, we discovered that this was true for everyone around us? Would we treat them with tenderness, with respect for the treasures they guard inside and with a thirst to explore their maps?
Would we approach a lover the way we would a mountain trail, equal parts fearful and exhilarated? Would we draw their attention onto and along the paths we haven’t yet fully dared to explore by ourselves?
Would our fingertips trace the lines of their maps and would we allow theirs to do the same? Would we let our thoughts and sentiments carve rivers into our inner mountain ranges?
Would we dance again, like we did as children, without a care in the world, simply exploring the sheer possibilities of life inside a human body?
How could we not?
Mood of a Flow
Heart on my sleeve, I am cracking my chest wide open
Prying into the spaces in between
my ribs and my joints
in an attempt to heal
from the heartbreak
of all the dreams I tried to bury
as they’re clawing their way back to
the surface of my glowing skin
with every drop of sweat,
as they take flight on every longing exhale
yearning for nothing but to open
just a little wider
until my insides are touching
the invisible walls of the world
and I can no longer tell if
the universe encompasses me
- “T[onic] I[mmobility] is an unlearned, involuntary response to fear and predation that occurs after all volitional actions have failed.”
Marx, B., Forsyth, J., Gallup, G., Fusé, T. and Lexington, J., 2008. Tonic Immobility as an Evolved Predator Defense: Implications for Sexual Assault Survivors. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 15(1), pp.74-90.
“The bodies of traumatized people portray “snapshots” of their unsuccessful attempts to defend themselves in the face of threat and injury. Trauma is a highly activated incomplete biological response to threat, frozen in time. For example, when we prepare to fight or to flee, muscles throughout our entire body are tensed together in specific patterns of high-energy readiness. When we are unable to complete these appropriate actions, we fail to discharge the tremendous energy generated by our survival preparations. This energy becomes fixed (as a snapshot) in specific patterns of neuromuscular readiness or collapse (i.e., mobilization or immobilization). The person then remains in a state of acute and then chronic arousal and dysfunction in the central nervous system. Traumatized people are not suffering from a disease in the normal sense of the word—they have become stuck in a hyper-aroused or “shutdown” (dissociated) state.”
Payne, P., Levine, P. and Crane-Godreau, M., 2015. Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(93)