20 Ways to Deepen Your Movement Practice

If you are like one of the many people who work with me, connect online or email me expressing your curiosity and confusion and delight at the interplay of your heart/emotions/psyche/narrative/life and the way you use your body, this post is for you. 

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My Doctor Said WHAT?!

When I knew I'd be moving away from Philadelphia, one of the hardest things to face was the fact that I'd developed a pretty great team for my health and now I'd be leaving it (btw, if you live around Philly and you need people, hit me up - I'll tell who to see).

I'd spent years seeking out and finding people who could help me on my journey toward experiencing life as I longed to: feeling safe and healthy in my body.

The last five years in Philly had a LOT of rough spots.

I had a traumatic cesarean birth.
I delved into childhood sexual abuse.
I faced immense grief, including my mother's death.
I went through two miscarriages.
I developed chronic digestive struggles.
I had pelvic imbalances.

Plus, all the things that came before and were never addressed.

I needed help.

So I worked with regular MDs, integrative/functional doctors, movement teachers, naturopaths, acupuncturists, energy healers, midwives, physical therapists, somatic psychotherapists and body workers.

And not just that, but I read books and blogs and listened to podcasts and consulted colleagues.

In hindsight, all of this exploration right before I got pregnant with my son in 2010. 

I discovered the work of John Sarno, who posits that a lot of physical pain we experience is psychosomatic. Emotional and psychic struggles lead to physical adaptations that present as pain and dysfunction.

While Sarno's prescription for addressing this is not something I make use of, his general theories blew me away. I'd had a lot of inexplicable chronic pain and dysfunction and what I learned through his work paved the way for just about everything that was to come.

And you know how I found Sarno? Meditation. I was meditating on my health one day and asking for guidance and felt the strong insight to google. It was what I now call "intuitive googling." :)

So then I had my son and the birth was rough and I wanted to understand it and again I just followed my nose, allowing my explorations to be guided by my feelings, to be guided by my inner sense.

And that work led me to Katy Bowman. Who taught me all about movement. (And certified me to teach you about movement.)

But I still had so much work to do in my own body. 

So I kept following my nose. I kept asking around. I kept expanding my boundaries and beliefs. I kept trying new things because it felt right and made some sense even if I couldn't reason it out.

Which led me to my heart, to meditation, to breath work, to combining movement with heart-centered practices, to all those practitioners I mentioned, to study with new teachers. It's what led me into writing and dancing and an amazing ability to navigate my life on different terms. It's what's enabled me to feel trust in my body, to know what is needed and to respond to those needs. It's what led me home to myself.

Which brings me to today.

We've moved across the country and so I've left my team of people that have been helping me with my health.

But I'm still not entirely clear about what's going on with my fertility. And the digestive stuff is definitely not settled. And besides, if you've been following along, you know the transition has been a wee bit stressful for me.

So I need a new team.

I asked around and found a functional medicine doctor who is also an applied kinesiology chiropractor. Now I don't know much about AK chiropractors, but that's never stopped me before. Truthfully, I usually know very little beforehand about the work I seek out...I learn it through practice and by reading/talking later.

All that to say, AK chiros test your neurological function. At my appointment with her, she had me move through a series of movements to determine what parts of me were "on" and which were not. Turns out I have low vagal tone (unsurprising to me and likely causing/contributing to the digestive problems) and that my left bicep is "off."

She also tested my core and hip flexors and pelvis for function, and it was all on.

But here's the MOST AMAZING THING (well, to me, anyway!):

She told me that women who have had c-sections don't have this kind of function.

Something is always not working, especially their hip flexors or parts of their core. She was really, really surprised (and seemed a little baffled) that my body was presenting differently.

It didn't hit me until later how absolutely extraordinary this is.

I'm not a fitness rock star. Half of you reading this can probably do more interesting/challenging things with your body than me, be it pilates roll downs (or is it ups?) or longer planks, or more pull ups or run marathons.

I'm not some spiritual/emotional/belief rock star. I am neurotic and fearful and disbelieving a full 30% of the time. I tend toward anxiety and melancholy. I have asked my husband a thousand times if he thinks I will ever be really done with this "fixing." In other words, I am incredibly inconstant.

I also didn't follow some detailed prescription. No one said, "Hey, women like you don't have function here and you need to do x, y, and z in order to fix yourself." No one said that because, truthfully, it doesn't exist. Or it exists for some things in some ways, but not for all things in all ways. Health is, in so many ways, an n=1 paradigm. I had to cobble my own thing together

As I was meditating this morning (but not for the last 36 mornings - see I'm inconstant!), I realized the power of this.

I realized that I had done this. I had created the conditions through which my body could regain full function after major abdominal surgery. And I did this against the odds.

I had taken myself seriously. I listened to my body, I believed my heart, I paid attention where I had been taught to ignore.

I had explored every avenue that called to me, be it finding a new acupuncturist or exploring vaginal massage or creating a ritual or sleeping on the floor or touching the earth with my skin. I opened my mind and my heart and became willing to go new places.

I had worked my body. I put my hands on it. I moved it more and in different ways. I studied it and slowed down the movements and found where I get stuck. I worked at the edge of my boundaries. I did this over and over and over again.

I had gotten help. A lot of it. I spent a lot of money. I invested a lot of time.

I changed my life. My relationships, my habits, my geography, my food, my beliefs.

Most of us are going around with lots of ourselves in the "off" position. This is hard on our biology. Not having full function requires adaptations that can turn into disease and dysfunction. This happens because of stress, because of surgery, because of injury, because of sedentary living, because of too much blue light, because...

But here's the thing about my story: I didn't stay in the off position. Even though that's what normally happens. 

After meditating this morning, I felt so enlivened by my own story! I felt such excitement about the possibilities for what happens when you follow your intuition, when you move forward even though you aren't sure what you're doing, when you change your life even though you can't always see an immediate benefit. I felt so excited about MOVING.

For years I've been tuning into my body, getting support, educating myself, changing my habits, taking on new exercises. But you can't always see what's happening IN the body. And there's only so much I know about the body, only so many of its languages that I speak, so I haven't been able to quantify all of the changes, even if I've noticed them.

To have it reflected back to me in this doctor's visit was a delightfully validating experience.

I beat the odds.

I created something unusual.

(This is what Restore Your Wild is about. I literally can't give you a prescription that's going to take your ailments away, that's going to fix your life. What I CAN give you is a pathway to your wild self - a pathway of movement, a pathway of reflection, a pathway of inspiration, a pathway of belief work, a pathway of creation. Because it's never going to be me or anyone else who makes this happen for you. It's your wild self who is going to guide you down YOUR path to the life and health and movements you need. I'm here to bring you into contact with your wild self.)

I've taken my journey as an act of faith. I've done all of this as an act of intuition. I've kept going as an act of integrity.

Turns out, it was the right choice.

What Choices Do You Really Have?

I've recently written about the miscarriage I experienced last week. You can read about it here if you missed it and would like some context for this post, which is coming to you as part of your interest in some element or another of HeartBody Method.

Because most people on this list are interested in the deeper stuff, I want to explore a deeper element with you.

At some point in this miscarriage, I didn't feel like I could keep going. It had been well over 36 hours and I was in a long stretch of intense cramping. I didn't know when this round of cramping would end, and more than that, I didn't know if this would be the last round.

I felt demoralized and drained and totally, wildly, out of control.

I started to feel like a victim. Not a victim of having a miscarriage. But a victim of having this miscarriage.

I tend to go on high-alert when I am moving through a physical process and victimhood feelings arise. When it comes up for me, it speaks to a total lack of self-efficacy. It speaks of an absence of choice. It’s me, being in a one-down position with something outside me. It’s me, having lost my connection to self and to Life.

And so I noticed that I felt like a victim.

And I noticed that this was familiar space to me.

And I loved on myself, grieving for the ways that I WAS a victim, grieving for the ways that I AM a victim.

And then I noticed that I was not, in fact, chained to having this particular experience. That I had the absolute power of choice to walk into any hospital and request (and receive) a dilation and evacuation so that this could be completed quickly. That I could drug myself up if I wished to hurt less, feel less. That while I couldn’t - and wouldn’t wish to - prevent the miscarriage, I still had choices to make in how I experienced it.

Ah, choices.

A really difficult fact of life (at least difficult for most of us) is that so much is outside our control. Life is a series of things working out and things not working out and we can see this so clearly in our bodies. They are really responsive to what we consciously give them (good food! exercise!), but what we consciously give them isn't the only factor in play. There are the unconscious gifts (like the beliefs we hold about safety or about sitting) and there are our genetics, and there are chromosomal flukes and there are physical accidents and deep traumas experienced at the hands of others. 

We are all dealt “unfair” hands. We all are living with some elements of the luck of the draw. 

For me, this past weekend, I started to push against this "unfairness." I started to freak out as I encountered the way my body was not under my control, the way the baby who left was not under my control, the way this experience was unfolding in ways that I didn't want it to unfold.

Have you experienced this in yourself?

Have you found yourself pushing against the reality in your body, trying to get it to stop, feeling like a victim, resisting feeling like a victim, believing you have NO choice in the matter, believing you have every choice in the matter? Have you found yourself unwilling to be with the feelings of victimhood, pushing against them, too? Have you been trying to "just keep it together" or "stay positive"? 

I imagine that all but the enlightened among us frequently run into our desire for control and experience the panic that ensues when we realize we're not, in fact, in control.

In my practice, I notice two things about this:

1. We forget to be with our pain around the fact that our bodies are not controllable. That our lives are not controllable.
2. We forget we have a choice about how we show up that deeply impacts the entirety of an experience.

One of the (painful) choices I made in the course of my miscarriage was to postpone delivering the first module of HeartBody Method. 

I emailed my course students, explained what was going on, and went back to bed. 

I mourned the fact that I wasn't going to creating this content that I love RIGHT AWAY. I mourned the fact that I might be perceived negatively. I mourned the fact that I wasn't keeping my commitment. 

But continuing on would have kept me in that victim loop. It would have fed me a story that my body and its needs were a victim of productivity, of my creativity, of my deadlines and, god forbid, of my students.

I realized I had choices that would honor my body's and heart's needs and I made those choices. It was sad, but empowering.

All of these experiences left me deeply appreciating the HeartBody work I've done. 

My experience of this miscarriage was profoundly altered as a result of the methods I'm sharing in HeartBody Method. The miscarriage I had last year was deeply healing, too, and I could tell I was even more different for this one, that I had new ways of showing up, that I could make different choices and that those choices impact how healthy I am coming out of an experience over which I do not have control.

It's powerful stuff.

I had hoped to write more about HeartBody Method last week, after the course started, because I know more of you are still thinking about it. 

But I set communicating aside so that I could take care of myself.

I'm back to it today BECAUSE of my miscarriage.

I'm back because it profoundly showed me the power of this work, the amazing strength you have access to when you connect your heart and your body.

It showed me that HeartBody work flows through all areas of life, deepens the experience of life and gives you new tools - really practical tools about how to use your body in ways that lead to cellular health and really intuitive tools that lead to better decision making on behalf of your body.

I deeply believe in this work and would love to know that the people who want it and need it have access to you.

My Body Failed Me

For a few reasons, I've been thinking lately about my son's birth. 

My son was born on a rainy August day after a 54 hour labor. I had prepared for birth as best as I could and felt confident in my body and in my support team. But what I encountered was beyond my capacity. His birth was long, it was painful, it was really, really hard. After nearly two days of laboring - at hour 40 - I found myself being transferred from a birthing center to a hospital to have an epidural and pitocin. Fourteen hours after that, after two midwives and one obstetrician said there didn't seem to be another option, my son was born by cesarean section.

I can still feel the pain inside me as I right this. The deep, deep fear. The absolute sense of failure. 

And in the YEARS following, the certainty that my body had failed me. 

Have you felt this way?

Have you experienced something in your body that fills you with fear and pain and a sense of failure?

Have you felt so angry at how your body has betrayed you?

Have you felt so hopeless and demoralized?

I write about my birthing experience because it's big and perhaps easy to imagine the sense of failure. Yet most of us experience this with other, less apparently epic events, too. 

It could be your recurrent arthritic flare-ups. It could be your digestive woes. It could be your pelvic organ prolapse. It could be your chronic headaches or your bunions or your hip pain. 

It could be that you can't do a pull-up. Or your core is weak. Or you can't run without peeing your pants. 

It could be that your skin is loosening, your knees are stiffening, your weight just won't stay where you want it. 

It could be that any of these leaves you with that sense of pain and fear and failure. 

It's so painful, isn't it? It's so painful to be with yourself in this way, to have these thoughts and feelings about your body. 

And yet what is there to do? When your body is effing up in serious ways, how is it possible to not be so hurting, to not believe these things about yourself?

I've spent the last six years exploring these very questions. And not just exploring them, but devoting myself to healing body and heart so that I could find another way to BE in the world, to BE with myself without believing I was a victim of a punishing body. 

~~~

Yesterday, I drove past the birthing center where my son was supposed to be born. Across the street is the hospital where he eventually was born. 

And I felt a twinge of sadness. The longing for a peaceful, gentle birth and the memory of all the pain.

But mostly? Mostly I was excited to look in the rear view mirror at my four year old and tell him how excited I was that he was born. What a special day it was. How we worked so hard to get him here and how THAT was the very place where he finally came into the world.

Absent from this conversation was a sense of failure. Absent was the presence of fear of and alienation from my body. 

The truth is that I can now be with feelings of body failure. 

When they come up - and they DO come up - I can stay with them, listen to them, honor them. But they no longer consume me. They no longer define my body reality. 

I've stepped into a larger truth - the one that knows that my body has done everything right. It's done its best to protect me, take care of me, give me what I need. 

This larger truth that tells me that the ways my body has adapted are ingenious (even if painful), that my symptoms are evidence of this wise adaptation.

This larger truth that tells me I am not powerless in relationship with my body, that how I use it, what I feed it, what I believe about it - that all of these things impact it's function, impact its adaptation. I have conscious choice about these things. 

And also the larger truth that tells me I am not in control. That there is my history and there are genetics and there is the luck of the draw. 

This is what HeartBody Method is about. 

 

HeartBody Method is about stepping into this larger truth about your body - it's about changing the foundations of the relationship.

No amount of telling yourself to believe differently will help. 

You need to be IN your body, playing, exploring, expanding - if you want to have a different relationship with it. HeartBody Method is the process for getting you IN your body so you can encounter this larger truth.

And you may need other supports, too, things like bodywork or medical care or therapeutic processes. HeartBody Method also helps you identify what else you need.

Following are the modules of the course, and they are infused with Heart Workshops, Movement Explorations, Movement Essentials, Embodied Shifting, Movement Meditations, Artful Expression, Movement Coaching and Daily Inspiration:

I would love to know your questions. I would love to hear any concerns. I want to make sure you have what you need to decide whether HeartBody Method is for you.

For now, I mostly want to reinforce that your body loves you. That it's doing it's very best. That you're in this together. 

And so are we!

Want Better Sex?

Read just about any fashion/cooking/fitness magazine and someone will be there to tell you what good sex looks like and how you can get it. 

I don't read magazines like this anymore (because it always creates some sort of existential crises that leaves me feeling inadequate - does this happen to anyone else?). But my recollection is that it's generally about how to look, how to position yourself, what to say, what not to do. 

What if better sex was about better connection. With yourself.

Over the last few years, I've noticed that physical intimacy with my partner has deepened and at the same time, gotten more explosive (if you know what I mean).

But I'm not having better sex because of some tricks I've played.
 

I'm not having better sex because of some affirmation I keep repeating. 

I'm not having better sex because of some vaginal weight I've worked out with.

I'm not having better sex because of my partner. 

I'm having better sex because I'm in better relationship with myself. I'm in better relationship with my body. 

Over the last few years I've opened myself to the practices that bring me deeper into my own HeartBody. I've done deep therapeutic work to unravel childhood trauma. I've gotten support for managing elevated cortisol levels. I've gone to pelvic floor physical therapy to help me deal with hypertonicity and lax ligaments. I've received Maya abdominal massage and visceral manipulation and craniosacral therapy. 

But I've also learned to allow myself to cry in my husband's arms after having an orgasm. I've given myself space to tremor and shake. I've placed my hands over my pelvis and imagined light and ease. I've done vaginal self-care massage. I've danced and have shaken my booty. I've felt the fear and panic when things don't "feel right" in my pelvic floor.

And I've moved. I've wept through piriformis stretches and TVA contractions. I've felt pleasure and peace as I've lengthened my inner thighs. I've expanded the flow of blood as I've allowed my psoas to release and my iliacus to lengthen. I've released countless endorphins as I've logged mile after mile. And I've felt power as I've worked to strengthen my glutes and hamstrings. 

In other words: I've re-ignited an essential relationship with a part of myself that I had lost. 

Whatever it is you are after - less pain, more function, better sex, more self-confidence, I am on your side, cheering you on! And I know that your body can be your ally in this and the more you offer it loving movement, the more it will support you in moving down your beautiful path.