Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Physical, Emotional, Energetic Signature


I want to talk about Fascia. It is a smart sleeve. Sometimes being smart backfires.

Fascia knows that its job is to wrap me and hold my contents tight. Fascia is excellent at doing its job. So good in fact, that it holds onto all my contents: physical, chemical, energetic, emotional. And in doing so, it casts my body into a physical signature.

This signature is also known as posture, and it served me at one time. When I needed to close myself off, to not risk being open and vulnerable, my fascia knit together tightly, rounding my shoulders in to protect my heart. Yet as I evolve and become ready for change, the fascia, reflective of our Western culture, doesn't know how to "take time off" from work.

As a Nia student, I thought it was fun when we played with emotions in class. Later, as a Nia teacher, I began to recognize that exploring different emotions as I moved could give me access to trying on different physical signatures related to emotions that I had not expressed as my habit. These experience of trying on new postures gave me a taste of what I wanted to change, how I wanted to evolve, desiring more physical and emotional space and range of motion. In terms of my body signature, I wanted to trade up, in order to access more.

But sheer will is no match for the strength and intelligence of the fascia. I can't simply reorganize and shed off fibers so tightly woven and intent on holding together what I had feared "spilling out" for so long. When the movement is over, and the tensile stress and expansion releases, the fibers return to their previous pattern.

Transformation of tissue is possible: it just takes patience and dedication to expanding one's range steadily over time, and with repetition. Linda Hartley reminds me that, "appropriately applied pressure, stretching and the warmth produced by touch and movement can positively effect the the connective tissue, breaking up or dissolving the gluing and solidifying that so often occur when patterns of chronic tension set in." This phrase could sound like a rote approach taken by many physical therapists. Yet we do the same thing in Nia and have a lot of fun doing it! Over the years, I've learned to integrate props like blocks and bolsters, support from gravity, the floor, the wall, the mirror into cycles 5 and 6 of my Nia practice and my Nia classes, as well as my own self care practice. I learned these techniques by self-research: I played and explored and I listened to the language of my tissues, which is sensation.

Beating myself up for the sculpture I've erected is not useful. It could lead to set backs, including pushing too hard on integral fibers, expecting to force change. Good thing I have Nia to remind me to celebrate the body I inhabit at every moment along the path by choosing pleasure. With Nia, I change my shape through movement incrementally and organically in natural time. This past fall, I attended a vigorous yoga class led by a close friend, Robin Shaw for the first time in about 8 months. I have not been practicing yoga regularly, but integrating Yin yoga stretches into my Nia classes and my daily practice. On the way home from class, Robin remarked how much increase in my flexibility and range of motion she noticed in my body by witnessing me moving. Yoga and bodywork are lovely component to include in my journey into expansion. And yet, all I really need is the variety, curiousity, awareness, compassion and patience that Nia teaches me to embody, in order to transform my physical, emotional, and energetic signature.

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