I am Jennifer, a 30-something New Jersey woman who, when given a blue sky, warm weather, and the Atlantic Ocean, loves to embrace the opportunity to use the waves as music and dance along the shoreline. In the words of Gabrielle Roth, I am “just a particle riding the universal wave.” Dancing on the beach, soft-shoeing in the aisles of the supermarket, doing a modified sun salutation in the bathroom at work…I’m always seeking small ways to get my blood and breath flowing.
Flowtation Devices is meant to be a kind of personal flotation device for me, a way to reflect on the tools that keep me afloat (sane) in the midst of dealing with an uncooperative hip—mainly dance, conscious movement, yoga, meditation, tai chi, African drumming, swimming, and long walks—while also seeing what devices others use to go with flow.
The more you dance, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more you pray. The more you pray, the closer you come to ecstasy.
~Gabrielle Roth, founder of 5Rhythms
Dancing has always been a part of my life.
My dad has video proof of me, age 3, twirling around the living room to his Moody Blues albums, and soon after that I was on stage in an orange tutu, performing “Me and My Teddy Bear” at my dance school’s annual recital. I took dance lessons through high school, minored in dance in college, and signed up for various drop-in and series classes once “real life” (read: working full time as an editor) began.
The journey to finding my inner dance (as opposed to dancing for an audience/teacher’s approval) was not an overnight trip, and it probably didn’t truly emerge until after college, when I started seriously practicing yoga and began to find a deep connection between breath, body, mind, and movement. The more and more I did yoga, the more I found myself longing to dance. It was a very deep desire to move and explore, but not in the traditional jazz-and-ballet sense. There was some kind of fire burning inside that wanted me to just move, no restrictions, just move to make sense of the emotions and thoughts inside of me.
The breakthrough came during my yoga teacher training at Kripalu, when, after 28 days of nonstop inner reflection and contemplation, I realized that my yoga was dance. I danced whenever I could–before class, after class, and after hours. My classmates would be asleep back in the dorm, and I’d sneak into the program room and dance in the dark, an unlit Shiva statue watching over me from the front of the room.
From then on, my dance changed. Of course, I still love a good structured class. But when I have the opportunity to just move, the result is something different. I guess the most accurate way of saying it is that my dance comes from the inside out (being satisfied when what emerges from me is authentic, regardless of how it looks), rather than from the outside in (being satisfied only when what I see [angles, height, lines] looks “good enough”).
All of this became especially significant after injuring my hip, when certain “words” of the dance language (splits, high kicks, straddles, explosive leg movements) were eliminated, and I had to find deeper ways of expressing myself.
In early 2010, approximately a year after starting a pretty intense running routine, I began experiencing incredible pain in my hip. Several doctor/massage/PT/Pilates appointments later, I found out I have a small tear in my hip cartilage, a femoroacetabular impingement, to be exact. This torn labrum cannot be repaired without surgery, but with certain lifestyle modifications and PT, it can become asymptomatic. I have met with an orthopedic surgeon, but at this time I have opted to forego surgery and try alternative means. If I avoid certain moves (outward rotations) and activities (high-impact sports), The Hip is usually OK, although I’m also struggling with a wonky sacroiliac joint that arbitrarily pops in and out of place. In short, I have periodically bum hips, which most likely stems back to my dance class days, when all my attention was focused on flexibility, flexibility, flexibility (splits! kicks! straddles!). I also have hypermobile joints, which means they are more apt to “snap” out of place without proper strength and core training.
What this all means now is that I’m finally understanding that modifications aren’t just for yoga practice. I’ve had to “use the yoga block/strap” and “rest in child’s pose” in my regular life: turning to swimming and long walks instead of running; expressing myself through movement modalities such as 5Rhythms and JourneyDance instead of booty shakin’ nightclub dancing; and discovering how to dance with my upper body on days when my hip is flaring up. Most important, I’m slowly learning to be comfortable just going with the flow.