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Five years ago on this day, I slept in till 7:30. It was Saturday, our day off during YTT, and I was woken by the howling wind and pounding rain, a Nor’easter banging on our windows. Breakfast was a massive indulgence–no aparigraha whatsoever: cereal, stratta, a scone, yogurt. I eat the entire scone even though I can feel my stomach getting full. I do some weights in the gym, feeling fat. My legs are huge. My pants are sticking to me. M and I complain about our weight and eating habits. Tonight happens to be dessert night. Aparigraha. ::sigh::
Ironically, I talk with S later in the morning. She is leaving. “I’m sick,” she tells me. “I have an eating disorder.” What a wonderful, bold young woman. She came to Kripalu to get away from her sickness, another distraction, but here she came to terms with her illness. She knows she needs help. Psychologically, she is ready–she now knows she needs the physical help. What an intelligent, beautiful 18-year-old. To admit, to share, to stand up and leave and get help. M, S, and I have a deep 30-minute heart-to-heart. I know S will make a great niche teacher once she is certified.
This day is our first “gloomy” day, but it’s so romantic too. The clouds are swirling low over the mountains, like stage effects for a Halloween show. Briefly, the sun emerges, casting a brilliant glow on the oranges and yellows. People flock outside and just stand there, amazed. They stand there like God himself just came off the mountain to say hello. “It rained so much that it erased the mountains!” a woman in the lobby says. “You just couldn’t see them.”
We all hug here. We talk very softly. We are supportive and nurturing. We nod and gently blink and offer love and compassion.
My Stage 3 in Grace’s class is incredible. After some standing postures, I sink into Plough, immersed, encased. I flow into Fish, my heart on fire. I stay, linger. My chest swells. I roll up into sukhasana and sink down into a forward bend. I melt. The energy is intense–through my closed eyes I see vibrating colors and shapes, like a visual boombox, pictorial soundwaves. I find myself in janu sirsasana, falling down and down. I allow my non-extended leg to sink into the mat; my bend deepens. No glute pain. Elongated. Free.
I take my first DansKinetics class at noon. Fantastic, Fabulous, Freeing, I write in my journal, followed by exclamation points, stars, question marks, and other random symbols of frenzy.
Live drumming, percussion madness. A gazillion people in our Shadowbrook room, so sweaty, so close, so alive. Megha is fiery, crazy, looney, bouncy, all smiles and compassionate intensity. She wears blue stretch pants, pink socks, and sneakers. We follow her movements, hoot and holler, pound the floor, do the ischial tuberosity dance (with lyrics!) in both dandasana and baddha konasana. We do choo-choo train “follow-the-leader” dances out into the hallway. The sound is maddening. Tribal. Primal. I become an animal. I am the music. I sweat, sweat, sweat. Glistening, then dripping. Have I ever sweated harder than this? The musicians get in the center of the floor and I move to the center, jam along with the drummers, allow their music to surge through me. I feed off their enthusiasm and vitality. I am the music. At the close of the jam session, I get the urge to run around the room, darting in and out of traffic jams, using people’s energy not to bump into them. I gather everyone else’s energy, I scoop it up like a skipping idiot and drink it in. We fall to the floor to relax, and my slimy skin picks up particles of dirt, fuzz, hair. I lie in savasana with my hands in anjali mudra, over my forehead. Ecstasy. Megha calls the YTT group over afterward to see how we were doing. “Are you in the right training program,” she asks me.
Five years ago on this day, I felt something that I haven’t felt for the past five days during my YTT: anger, impatience, and a hearty helping of STFU.
It all began with our morning sadhana, led by “R”. You either love this guy or hate him. His style is this: S……..L………..O………W. Everything is aahhhhhhh. How do you feel in thissssss?
It is not good. You know what? I am tired. I had five hours of sleep for the past four nights after moving from 6:30 a.m. to 9 at night. I close my eyes, I sleep. Why do you do a savasana-based practice at 6:30 in the morning? You have put me back to sleep. I don’t want to listen to your aaahhs over and over and over again. I don’t want to listen to your stereotypical Kripalu-isms like How and Why and Feel and See and Realize and Notice. I am lying on my back, falling asleep again. That’s how I FEEL. Tired. Pooped. Cold. We lie still for 15 minutes, lift our legs. There is a Cobra, Boat, and then, oh! It’s bedtime again. You make me so angry. I am tired, I need to MOVE and WAKE the [bleep] up. I want to take the microphone out of your hand, Mr. High and Mighty Kripalu, and beat you. Stop talking like a freaking hypnotherapist. You are trapping me, suffocating me. I want to break off this mat and do sun salutations, downdog…anything! I make faces, I grit my teeth, I make fists. I keep my eyes open during savasana because I’m a rebel and I need to WAKE UP. I don’t Om very loud or enthusiastically, and the room is weak, our Oms are pathetic and tired. Good. No swelling, sensual Om for you, Mr. Every Kripalu-ism in the book. Feeeeel that. Notice that. How does that feel?!?!?!?!?!
I realize this is the first time here at Kripalu I am angry and pissed. At Kripalu, the land of peace and harmony and happiness, I had been tired, sad, scared, happy, nervous, but never MAD. These emotions feel new to me, strange. Out of place here. Thank gosh the morning lesson begins with some harmonium and chanting. We chant So Hum So Hum, So Hum Shivo Hum, which translates to “I am that I am.” It is a pleasant melody and calms me down. During our anatomy lesson, we learn about moving with the spine in mind, the four types of tissue (connective, muscle, nervous, epithelial), and the importance of moving (inactivity shrink-wraps the muscles).
Later in the day, we have a chance to partner up and practice teach Cobra, Sphinx, Child’s Pose, Half Locust, and Boat. I pair with M and forget how to talk. I make up words like “clitch.” I have no idea how to get someone up in Cobra. When I did my mini-practice teach with M, I somehow lead her through tadasana–mountain–using all tree analogies. It was stressful but still good; M is already a teacher, and I liked working with someone who could give me tips.
THE FIRST WEEK (dah-dah-DUM!) is wrapping up. It’s Friday night, our off night. Some people did a yoga and art workshop; I opted to test my aparigraha at the Kripalu Shop but ended up getting two Kripalu shirts and a chocolate chip cookie. I have suddenly developed one hell of an appetite. I think I’m actually gaining weight, a mix of constipation, delicious buffet meals 3x per day, no intense cardio, no 3x/week strength training, and me constantly stuffing my face. For example, after dinner tonight, I indulged in a Kripalu cookie but then scarfed down leftover pretzels in our dorm room. I have a few bites of a protein bar before morning sadhana, breakfast, lunch, after-lunch pretzel stuffing, etc, etc. I have no energy to go to the gym anymore before lunch; today, I napped instead.
Roger’s class tonight was hyped-out fun. We danced around like it was dance night at Adelphia and then made fun of Jane Fonda workouts. Lots of downdog variations, killer utkatasanas, and some exhilarating spinal twists. Yoga is great with Moby and dance music.
Everyone in this program looks so amazingly young. I am delighted at how youthful the group is. L is 31 but looks 27 or 28. We are all yoga youth. I bet Megha is 85. Helga is actually 120.
R&R people are here for the weekend. It’s so weird. Suddenly our little nest of peace, love, and happiness is broken as these new people stop in. Well-dressed people with make-up and designer yoga gear. People who got just a little too pushy in the buffet line. They’re roaming the lobby, planning out their activities and hikes and massages. It’s reverse culture shock, new things coming into MY world.
There are new presenters here, too. Yoganand’s pranayama class is over, and now Cameron Shayne is in the corner room. There’s a Women of Color conference going on. It’s like living in the Hollywood of yoga.
After dinner, I plod around, eventually talking to Bryan and then calling my Kripalu “sponsor,” Yogamama (Kath). We share “Planet K” stories, and she makes me feel so much better. We talked Kripalian and discussed our intense dislike of s-l-o-w R–ugh! And crazy Roger and amazing Megha. BRFWA. Our little language.
My language has changed. I say things like, “I haven’t had a hot water experience with that faucet yet.” My words are slowly changing, my speech becoming more deliberate. I hear myself talk to Bryan and notice I sound different. How long will this last once I get home?
One of the things a consistent yoga practice has helped me with is understanding the difference between responding to versus reacting to a struggle, especially on the physical level. How far I’ve come from those first months of yoga, when I’d approach Natarajasana with my brow furrowed, teeth grinding, and muscles tensed. And heaven forbid I fall out of the pose, when I’d curse under my breath, roll my eyes at myself, and immediately jolt right back into the pose without taking a moment to compose myself, regroup, and take a breath.
Balancing poses are no less easier today than they were 8 years ago, but the manner in which I approach them now certainly gives them a sense of effortlessness. I keep my face soft, my eyes focused but not burning an angry hole through the wall in front of me. I am mindful of every movement that goes into getting into the pose, aware of my foot planted into the ground, the leg muscles wrapping around the bone, the breath that carries me from rootedness to flying. I feel my wobbles before I tumble, so when I fall out of the pose, I do it with an air of grace, as though it’s all part of some yoga choreography. There is no cursing, self-berating. I inhale, exhale, and start the pose from the beginning.
This isn’t to say that I’m not struggling or being challenged. Just because I’m not gnashing my teeth doesn’t mean I’m not battling with a physical or mental conflict. I have simply chosen to respond with mindfulness and self-compassion rather than react with groans or frustrated, heavy sighs. (It’s also one of the reasons why Loud Yoga Guy grates my nerves so much.)
However, this response to struggle did not seem to be appreciated during a recent yoga class with a substitute teacher. Thirty minutes into the class, with the studio temperature just decimals away from three digits and several rounds of sweaty sun salutations under our belt, the teacher wondered aloud why the class wasn’t making any noise. “I’m worried—it’s too quiet in here,” she said. “Is the class not challenging enough? Do I have to make it harder?” She gave a snarky grin and made us squat into another Uttkatasana. As a joking kind of response, several people in the class groaned loudly as if to say “We get it! We’re feeling the burn!”
Why does it have to be that way? Why did the teacher need us to cry uncle for her class to feel validated? We were all bending low in our Warriors, keeping our arms tight to our sides during Chaturanga. We weren’t checking ourselves out in the mirror or letting our elbows droop in Warrior II. We were just focused yogis, ujayiing our way through the class…like you’re supposed to (well, except if your name is Loud Yoga Guy).
And believe me, my brain was crying uncle throughout most of the class. She was leading us through a wickedly intense standing series (the following postures were completed all on one leg before repeating the entire combination on the other leg): Warrior II > Reverse Warrior > Extended Side Angle > Triangle > Revolved Triangle > Half Moon > Revolved Half Moon > Standing Head-to-Knee prep > Shiva Twist > Tree > Eagle > Dancer > Warrior III. This is a challenging series for anyone, even without hip issues. I found the combination a bit ridiculous; I mean, by Standing Posture #8 the leg has pretty much gone numb and anything from there on is going to be compromised, lack form, and get plain sloppy.
I had to stop several times and shake out my leg so my hip didn’t lock up, even though the instructor kept reminding us not to drop the lifted leg, and if we had to rest to do so in any form of one-legged pose. Well, I broke the “rules” over and over again and stood in Tadasana to regroup. The Old Me, guilt-ridden about not executing a perfect yoga sequence, would have apologized after class: “Oh, I’m soooo sorry I couldn’t stay standing on one leg for all 13 poses (!!!). I have this hip thing, and I tried, honestly, but I’m just so sorry!”
I didn’t apologize this time, though, not because I was being smug or selfish, but because I had nothing to apologize for. I gave the class my all, breathing through the hard spots, and listening to my body when it was telling me that it needed a little break. I didn’t flippantly cross my arms over my chest and roll my eyes when pose #10 approached; I stood calmly in Tadasana, eyes closed, and re-centered.
I’m not sure if that’s what the teacher wanted; maybe she was hoping for more curses under my breath or a frustrated stomp of the foot on my yoga mat. But in yoga, when the going gets tough, sometimes the best way to move two steps forward is to first take one (mindful) step back.
Last week I posted about getting back in the flow of the universe, which for me is evident when I start experience a lot of coincidences/moments of synchronicity. The three I mentioned were all positive moments, like dreaming about iced coffee and then it manifesting in real life on my desk at work. Another uplifting moment of feeling “plugged in” happened this weekend, starting when my friend Carrol’s e-mail went haywire and sent out a bunch of old messages, so that on Friday night I opened my inbox and found an e-mail from her dated October 2010. I was perplexed but shrugged it off as an accident…and then the very next morning, Carrol calls me and asks if we can get together, because she has a gift for me!
The gift was awesome–it was a metal spiral pendant Carrol bought at Kripalu during her recent R&R. It’s made by Allison (http://www.prasadaspirit.com) from the KDZ drum ensemble at Kripalu, so Carrol noted that it’s nice to wear something made from the hands that play a djembe all day. The sounds of a drumbeat will play along with our heartbeats whenever we wear our pendants!
The next moment of synchronicity happened as Carrol and I were chatting about her training as an art therapist. I was trying to describe to her a drawing that I had made at the end of my yoga teacher training (the result of being asked “Draw what your future looks like”), when suddenly it dawned on me that one of the recurring elements of the artwork were spirals. As soon as I got home, I texted Carrol a photo of a portion of my drawing and the spiral pendant she had just brought home from Kripalu for me.
It’s really wild when stuff like that happens, but not all synchronicities are necessarily ones that you want to acknowledge. For example, when I wake up on Thursday and my hip feels weird and wonky, I do not want to come into work, pass my coworker’s computer, and see a medical photo of a torn hip labrum displayed all big-ass on her monitor for an assignment she was working on. It could have stopped there, but no! Then I find out this particular coworker’s brother is having hip surgery the following week for his busted cartilage. And then–oh yeah, there’s more!–I read the latest posting from The Happiness Project blog on my Google Reader, and it’s an interview with author Meghan O’Rourke. What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?, the interviewer asks. “Taking a walk,” Meghan replies. “I used to run a lot, and that always made me happier (even if I was unhappy lacing up my shoes to do it). But I tore the cartilage in my right hip and need surgery – so I can’t run anymore.” Womp-womp. So it didn’t surprise me later that night when, during hot yoga class, the teacher decides to lead us through upavistha konasana, which, after pigeon, is one of the most painful and nearly impossible poses for me to do with my hip issues.
What made this super-weird was that, on top of all the hip stuff I had been encountering earlier in the day, I had just been thinking to myself, “Man, I’m so glad the teacher never does upavistha konasana in class!” Because seriously, for the past nine months I’ve been taking her class, never–NEVER!–has she done this pose. We’ve done prasarita padottanasana (difficult, but easier than sitting poses)…
I struggled during the pose. I used to be able to flatten my chest to the ground, stick my arms out in front of me, and slide through a straddle position, ending with my legs straight out behind me. Now I was barely able to lean forward. Sometimes I like that it’s a hot yoga class I go to, so when I feel my lips start to tremble I can grab my hand towel and wipe the
tears sweat from my eyes. After what felt like 20 minutes in the pose, the teacher guided us into the next pose.
Pigeon, of course.
I was thisclose to leaving the studio for a
crying bathroom break. I have struggled many times in class but never to the point where I used the bathroom as an escape. I thought back to Kripalu and the whole Breathe-Relax-Feel-Watch-Allow prescription, and here I was, totally attempting to bail out of the Watch and Allow elements. So I stayed, lying on my back for my substitute pose for pigeon, draping my ankle over the other bent knee and drawing the legs toward the chest. I took deep belly breaths, focusing all of my efforts on inhaling and exhaling, trying not to let the mind take over. Living in the moment, even if the present is an uncomfortable asana that punctuates a day full of sucky synchronicity.
Ever since having to give up running last year, I’ve turned to swimming as my main workout. My gym has an indoor, heated, salt-water pool with 25-yard lanes, and there I do my laps. In the year and a half I’ve been swimming, I have definitely progressed. I don’t fatigue as easily, my lap times have improved, and I feel more “in the flow” when I move, rather than just chopping furiously through the water.
I see my husband and friends competing in all these 5Ks and races and stuff and have been bummed that there’s nothing like that for swimming. (Typical triathlon relays don’t count, because swimming in the open water is nothing–NOTHING–like doing solo laps in heated, aquamarine pool.) So when I saw an advertisement for a duathlon (swimming and running) (a) with a relay option and (b) that took place in a pool, I felt like I couldn’t turn it down. My husband Bryan agreed to be my running teammate, but then once it came time to send in the entry form, I got cold feet and let it sit for a while. I don’t consider myself a competitive swimmer! I may swim faster than the 50-year-old man in the lane next to me, but then along comes a 17-year-old girl from her high school’s swim team, and she butterflies my ass out of the water. I swim because it’s a good workout. Because it doesn’t bother my hip. Because on 90 degree days it just feels darn good to leave the hot car and jump into the cool water.
Finally, I talked myself back into doing the event, mostly because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite for whining about there not being any pool-related competitions, and then when the opportunity arises, for me to turn it down. Also, Bryan sent in the check and kind of bypassed me in the process. 🙂
After a week of above-average temperatures extending into the 90s, Saturday, duathlon day, started out a chilly 56 degrees with only a high of 79 predicted. I reached into the back of my dresser to pull out the sweatpants and hoodie I thought I had tucked away for good until at least September. Even though the swim event was taking place in a pool, the pool was outside. Outside, unheated, and chlorinated.
This picture pretty much sums up my feelings about how things went:
That’s me, after my 500 meters, panting like a dog, dubious that I had really only swam 10 complete laps and not the 25 like it had felt, and way disappointed at my time. In my practice runs at the gym, I clocked in between 7:12 and 7:38 for 10 laps; however, the lengths between the two pools are not exactly equal. My time for this 500m was 11:02.
It started off the moment I jumped in the water–it was COLD. Not Atlantic Ocean cold, but much colder than what I was used to. I instantly felt my chest tighten, and I bobbed up and down trying to warm up. Once I started swimming, I felt OK for the first half of my first lap…and then I looked to see how close I was to the wall, and there was a lot more space to go. My body was so used to hitting the wall after so many strokes, and in this bizarro pool everything was just a tad longer. The gap in between where my mind said “wall” and where the actual wall was felt like miles, and with that thought my brain went into full-blown panic mode.
The sensation that resulted was probably akin to a panic attack…not being able to breathe, feeling like you’re going to die, just wanting someone to end your misery. It wasn’t exhaustion or panting, just more like someone flipping an “off” button in my lungs. I attempted to keep swimming at this time, but it didn’t last very long. I had stop several times in the middle of the pool, stand in place, and regain my composure. Then I’d swim, swim, swim, STOP AND BREATHE FOR DEAR LIFE. I heard Bryan on the side of the pool shout my name for motivation, and that made me feel worse, because I just could not get my act together, not even for my husband.
The first five laps were a mess. At the gym, I normally follow a stroke-stroke-stroke-breathe pattern; now it was stroke-breathe, stroke-breathe. Just focus on your breathing, my yoga mind told my floundering body. Visualize that oxygen pumping throughout your body, and the rest will fall into place. I could have done an hour of pranayama practice before this event; none of it would have made a difference. (Also, it’s a bit hard to do alternate nostril breathing while swimming.) I totally lost count of what lap I was on, and because I had my mondo earplugs in, I couldn’t hear what the timers on the side were saying. I could have been on lap five, maybe lap 15. I had no idea. I just keep on swimming.
Things began feeling slightly better somewhere between Lap 6 and 7. I frantically thought of a mantra I could repeat, and I stuck with Om Namah Shivaya, the only one that came into my head at the time. It would work for a few strokes, my mind would drift off, and then I’d have to corral it back in again. I also tried to focus on fluidity–You’re dancing! I told myself. Just move with grace through the water, approach it like the Flowing portion of 5Rhythms.
It was some of the crappiest dancing I’ve ever done, but the pep talks and visualizations helped me complete all 10 laps without dying, giving up, or requesting to finish the race in the baby pool.
As I said, my time was 11:02. I pouted and moped, but then I saw someone swim without once putting her head in the water, and I felt a little better.
An hour later, it was time for the 5K portion. Bryan started off strong, but the less-than-ideal road conditions (being forced to run on the sidewalk and dodge yard sale-goers) slowed him down and flattened him out mentally. He still ran a relatively fast 23-something, but it wasn’t his normal time.
We both sulked back to the clubhouse with little gray clouds over our heads and the Charlie Brown Christmas Song playing in the background (sorry, had to throw in an Arrested Development reference there!).
However, despite our mediocre times, we came in first place for the team category of the event! Alone, our times wouldn’t have gotten us any prizes, but together we took home a $20 gift certificate for the local running/sports store.
There’s no “I” in duathlon…teamwork rocks!
There is no better time for early-morning walks than this time of year. Each morning the sun rises a smidgen sooner, and there is something so satisfying about standing in the bathroom at 5:20 a.m., brushing my teeth in the faint glow of the sky starting to illuminate without the need to flip on the light. The sun is my beacon, and as soon as it starts to rise, I feel like an anxious kid who needs to get outside an plaaaaay already.
I have been sleeping past my normal wake time this week and thus haven’t had a chance to fit in a walk with all of my other morning prep rituals, but yesterday (and today) I was up in time. However, once I was up and stretching and preparing my lunch and stirring the coconut milk creamer in my coffee, I decided to switch things up and leave the house for work 30 minutes early and stop at a nearby park, to do my walk immediately before going into the office. That way, instead of going right from sitting in my car to sitting at my desk, I could come into the office fresh from a sunny walk!
Yesterday morning was just the epitome of a beautiful spring day. Temps in the low 60s, white puffy clouds among a bright blue sky, birds chirping, planes descending into the nearby airport, and cows (regular one, not those punkish Scottish Highland ones) from the adjacent farm mooing. A quick 20-minute walk in surroundings like that–plus my coffee and a bowl of Kashi Go Lean with fresh strawberries at my desk–was a great way to start the work day. (Note: I did the same routine today but it was overcast and not as Disney-esque. And I needed a jacket.)
Speaking of walking, I recently realized that I am obsessed with watching other people walk. Like, really watch them walk. I don’t know if it’s the dancer in me, the fact that I practice yoga and understand the art of good posture, or that I have so many issues myself with my feet and hips, but when I’m walking around the mall or downtown or behind someone at work on their way to the bathroom, my eyes immediately zone into their feet, hips, and back, and not in a “Wowee-wow-wow, look at those Shakira hips!” way but in a “Wow, those high heels are making your ankles collapse in, and your shoulders are all hunched up by your ears! You’re going to be in so much pain when you get older!” way (says the wise, knowledgeable 30-year-old).
Maybe in my former lifetime I was a salesperson at a specialty running store and watched people’s gaits for a living and determined whether they were pronators, supinators, or neutrals. But seriously, I love looking at feet. (I recently declared to my husband that I should have been a podiatrist…to which I responded, “Ahh, nevermind. Then I’d have to clip old people’s toenails.”)
I was horrified last weekend when we were walking through town and I noticed a woman in front of us wearing those damn Shape-Ups. With each step she took, the woman’s ankles were completely rolling in. It was so significant that even my husband, who doesn’t care in the least about other people’s biomechanics, noticed. Just another reason why I think Shape-Ups are the Devil’s sneakers.
All the time, I see people running with the most awkward strides and foot motions, and I feel the need to comment (to myself, of course. Or my husband). One time we passed a guy with a knee jutting out, his foot all floppy, and his torso all loosey-goosey. “How is it that he’s not in physical therapy every day?!” I asked incredulously. “Just wait!”
On the flip side, my heart flutters when I see someone with perfect posture and balance. Take the famous yoga teacher Angela Farmer:
She was a presenter when I was at Kripalu; I didn’t take any of her classes, but just passing her in the hallway was satisfying enough for me. Angela was as poised as a Greek goddess, her body practically floating down the corridors. Even the way she lifted her hands at the cafeteria buffet was a dance, each finger curling and extending with the most graceful act of mindfulness. It wasn’t pretentious either—not the least bit of “holier than thou” attitude. It was pure elegance and total body awareness. I never once spoke with her, but man, I totally want to be like Angela when I grow up!
I try hard to maintain a steady posture and stance when walking (forget sitting…I turn into a slumped sack of potatoes when proofreading),
to the point where several people have asked me “Are you a dancer?” in non-dance settings, including on the weight floor at the gym and in a pizza shop when I was 13. I had always taken pride in being asked that, even as recently as last year, when I wasn’t taking technique classes anymore but I guess still maintained that “look.” So I was devastated when, after I first busted my hip last year, my yoga teacher watched me walk across the room and told me I have a limp. ?!&$*&@&!! Now *I* was the one with the goofy-looking gait! And then, during my physical therapy sessions, my PT noticed that I tended to walk with my hips shifted to one side. Who am I?!?!?
It is reassuring, then, that one of my coworkers in the marketing department, who works specifically with PT textbooks and several on gait analysis, told me that no one has a perfect gait (except maybe Angela Farmer). There are a million factors that contribute to gait (toes, ankles, knees, hips, core, shoulders, so on and so forth) and when just one is “off,” there goes the picture-perfect anatomical model who walks with everything in line. What that means is that even in my dancing heyday I was never perfect, I’m not perfect now, and I never will be. Even so, that won’t stop me from being overly curious and fascinated with other people’s bodies and the way they carry them. And I’ll never stop hating Shape-Ups.
This weekend will mark my first 5Rhythms class without one of my favorite props: my hair.
Although I was rockin’ the Lady Godiva look by the end (and its pure weight was what finally drove me to get it cut), I truly loved my My-Little-Pony-tail-on-steroids head. My untamed hair was like a dance partner in 5Rhythms classes: It flowed when I flowed, bounced when I staccatoed, and clung to my sweaty face, neck, and arms during chaos.
Sometimes during 5Rhythms I’ll pull at my hair like I’m a psychiatric patient. Or I’ll very deliberately unravel it from a braid during Stillness, very aware of each individual strand.
During one particular Chaos set, I remember releasing the braid from my hair and using my wild-woman locks as a fifth limb. I felt very Alanis Morissette at the time, and moving like that wanted me to keep my hair growing longer and longer, even though I kept talking about needing to get it cut. But that night it felt like part of me, like energy and blood and prana and all that good stuff was running through it as much as in my arms or legs.
It’s kind of funny that I allow my hair to be so wild during dance these days. Back in high school and college, I hated the feel of loose hair on me as I danced. I was constantly on a quest for a rubber band strong enough to turn this:
By my senior year of college, I had had enough of constantly readjusting my hair after each pirouette and chaine turn. I only knew of one way to keep my hair in place:
Chop it all off!
The old dancer me was about neatly packaged buns (That’s what she said!), meticulous French braids, and slick ponytails. My hair was to be unmoving, proper.
Now I understand that my hair needs to dance the 5Rhythms as much as the rest of my body. After all, isn’t 5Rhythms about “letting your hair down,” so to speak? 🙂