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Balance

Twenty years ago, Nia Technique Founder Carlos Rosas created the routine Bliss. I was a new Nia student at the time and remember the buoyant, powerful feeling when I danced the routine. I felt like I was flying.

In the intervening years, I come back to some of my favorite songs from Bliss but I rarely teach the routine as a whole. This week, Mary Linn and I will teach our interpretation of this classic routine together on Monday and Thursday* and I’ll offer my own Bliss-ish playlist on Tuesday and Wednesday**.

The original music of the routine is largely selections from Rae & Christian’s 1998 album Northern Sulphuric Soul. I love the variety of sounds and the rich, passionate vocals in these tracks which offer ears and imagination and bones a playground. Bracketing Rae & Christian are three pieces from Shantel’s Higher Than the Funk album, also from 1998. These have a meditative pulsing quality that help my thinking mind relax and my body to explore.

Carlos’ focus was on the balance between gravity’s grounding and the electromagnetic pull up. The image he used was the flame: fueled and rooted to the source while pouring energy up. After dancing this focus in different ways over the years, I think of this energetic balance as the way humans soar. The way we can fly is to push up out of the Earth itself. Earth grounds us and Heaven pulls us. In our bodies, the 1st and 7th Chakras create that even energy pull of rooted and expansive.

And, as Buddha Cat (that wise creature) reminds me, a simpler view of this focus is the balance between up and down.

Please experience Bliss this week — either with us in the studio or wherever you are.

* Bliss with Susan & Mary Linn
Monday, May 14, 1045am-12noon, acac albemarle square
Thursday, May 17, 840-940am, acac downtown
Thursday, May 17, 630-730pm, acac albemarle square

** Bliss-ish with Susan
Tuesday, May 15, 840-940am, acac downtown
Wednesday, May 16, 11-1215pm, acac albemarle square

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“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön

‘Tis the season of March Madness: the thrilling culmination of the college basketball season. March was once my least favorite month given its not-quite-spring-enough-with-the-winter-already damp, chilly grayness. But then I moved to Charlottesville and married a UVA grad and now I’m right there all month in my orange and blue pulling for the Hoos.

Over time, I’ve discovered that during March Madness (and, well, all year) I need to cultivate two things: the courage to allow myself fully into the energy and excitement and the skill to settle myself down.

It’s not just the way of college basketball. Shaking up and settling down is the way of life. Things pull in and spiral out. Our muscles contract and then lengthen. Breath draws in and relaxes out. My heart and mind and spirit get stirred up and then they quiet again.

Despite this reality, I often fear and resist the excitement, the turmoil, the uncertainty. It feels easier and safer to stay in control, in comfort, in habit.

This is, in part, why I practice on my mat, on the dance floor, and on the cushion. I practice getting stirred up and then settling down. I practice literally shaking myself and finding my center and ground. I practice remembering that this is the way of things and that happiness is rooted in my ability to move in and out of both.

No matter how much I want to avoid the tempest swirl, life doesn’t work that way. Inevitably, I get stirred up. Inevitably, I get activated. If not by March Madness or Wheel Pose or the latest headlines, then by a health crisis or a relationship rift or the loss of a friend. And when this happens, can I be in the swirling stirring with skill and then can I find my way out again to a state of peace?

Join me this week to dance with this courage and skill, to shake it up, shake it off and settle down…and then do it again.

 

How do I know that I’ve had enough sleep?
Enough food?
Enough movement?

I can feel it.
My mind might want to over-rule it, but the “enough” feeling remains.

Cultivate clarity with the sensation of enough.
It’s an important thing to be intimately familiar with.

Knowing the feeling of “enough” can help us avoid injury and stay healthy in our physical lives but it’s also helpful in the rest of our lives.

How do I know when I’ve had enough with a stressful job?
How do I know when I’ve given enough to a relationship?
How do I know when I have enough money?

I can feel it.
You can feel it.
Our minds might want to over-rule it, but the “enough” feeling remains.

Cultivate clarity with the sensation of enough.
It can support us in a myriad of ways.

At 5pm, my office window looks onto nothing but blackness.
In these so short days, I can easily slide into seeing nothing but darkness.

A favorite song for decades, I’m reminded of Cat Steven’s Moonshadow.
The simple light melody tells the ultimate silver lining story.

“And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won’t have to work no more.”

So on the week of the Winter Solstice, I’m allowing myself to be followed by a moonshadow.

Even the darkest of days aren’t only dark.

Listen to Moonshadow here. Maybe put it on Repeat.

While we were traveling, I kept having this both-and feeling.

How could I feel so much love, see so much beauty, experience so much joy and yet at the very same time, feel grief and fear and deep sadness about what was happening in Charlottesville?

Both. And.
Every day was a practice in opening up to both-and.

It sometimes feels like it would be easier to go with either-or. To go all in with one and ignore the other. But that’s not the way life works.

Life is light and dark
Life is joy and grief.
Life is beauty and ugliness.
Life is both-and.

elements interconnected 041816

Art in Action is a weekly post: a simple, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

Earth.
Water.
Fire.
Air.

The basic elements of life are inextricably interconnected and intertwined. We may look at a boulder and think “Earth” but the stone was born of Water and Fire and Air, too.

Since they are of this planet, our bodies are made of the same stuff — all the ingredients blended inseparably together. The brilliance of this design is that in any moment, we can choose to emphasize whatever element is most needed.

Like a sound system mixing board, we can turn up the volume on whatever track needs to be highlighted. Use sensation and awareness to guide yourself toward healing and well-being.

Earth

Feeling over-excited or anxious? Have you been up in your head solving a problem or analyzing a situation? Feeling spacey or zoned out? Grounding with Earth energy can get your feet back on the ground

  • Drop in. Stand up, lift up onto the balls of your feet and firmly drop your heels down to the floor several times. Relax your hands and jaw and shoulders.
  • Get on the ground. Lie on the floor (or extra bonus points for lying on the actual Earth) and relax into the support (without going to sleep). You can roll and stretch but whatever part is in contact with the floor, let it soften.
  • Focus on the exhale. Extend your exhale as long as you can to relax and integrate the energy.

Water

Feeling hot or irritated? Been in an argument or had someone pushing your buttons all morning? Feeling jagged and sharp? Smoothing out the edges with Water energy can help calm your prickly pointy parts.

  • Move smooth. Roll your neck and shoulders, stand up and circle your hips, rotate your ankles and wrists. Imagine your body flowing especially in places where you tend to hold tension.
  • Get in touch with water. Take a shower or wash your hands. Drink a big glass of water or a cup of tea. Listen to a recording of ocean waves, rain, or (my favorite) water running over rocks.
  • Breathe evenly. Inhale and exhale for the same count (say, 4 in and 4 out) with no pause between them.

Fire

Sleepy or bored or distracted? Feeling lethargic or low energy? Sparking the Fire element can wake you up and get your attention.

  • Shake. Do some jumping jacks or simply shake your hands, feet, shoulders or head. Literally shake yourself up.
  • Fire up the iPod. Listen to your favorite up-tempo energizing music. Two of my favorites are Sandstorm by Darude and Raging Fire by Phillip Phillips. Dancing is optional, unless the song is super good and you can’t help it.
  • Bellows breath. Sit tall and forcefully exhale and inhale using bhastrika breath or bellows breath. Find instructions here.

Air

Feeling tightness in your muscles or your mind? Find yourself in a contracted position on a plane or around an issue? Been slumped in front of the computer or TV for a while? Opening up space with the Air element can release tension and offer a broader perspective.

  • Stretch. Lengthen your body along the bones. Let your whole body find length from feet to spine, from legs to fingers. If you’re on a train or at a meeting, stretch what you can – maybe your hands or sit up taller or imagine yourself in a big open space reaching long in all directions.
  • Look at the sky. On your way to the car, take a moment to look up and see how much space (even on an overcast day) there is all around you.
  • Breathe in. Expand your internal spaciousness by breathing deeply in. Let your ribs expand to the front, sides and back.

* The mind is a powerful tool. If you can’t move due to injury or circumstance, move what you can (e.g., shake out just your right hand if your left hand isn’t available) or imagine yourself moving. Just using your imagination will have almost the same effect!

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