Did I say Sunday for a new blog?! Because I meant a day that ends in -y. Tuesday. I meant Tuesday!
What day is it?
Who am I?
Oh wait, here’s my latest selfie:
I am a sloth. For real.
(My hair looks kind of like hers at the roots these days, too.)
My energy has been super low. I feel sloth-like.
That could be from the raw emotion and chaos of the last few weeks? My heavy-hearted COVID-19 stories? (I swear I have fun things to write about!) My butt indented on the couch from watching Netflix?
As an introvert who recharges in stillness, one would think I’d be relishing the opportunity. Only I feel a little stifled at times, like the air around me is closing in and stale.
Too much “togetherness” with myself!
I think that’s one of the many reasons I’m enjoying writing this blog (not that I “enjoyed” some of the experiences). Through my writing, I can expand my energy and push it beyond my four walls. I can evoke emotion from someone “on the outside.”
I miss the push and pull of the chaos. Usually, I have to force myself to slow down because I’m constantly running from one thing to the next, leaving just enough time and no room for errors in my day.
Now, I have to force myself to move.
And whether it’s forcing myself to move to the pantry to eat a handful of dark chocolate chips or logging onto Instagram live for the barre class I take, it all feels the same, like I’m doing it while wearing a lead suit (and at a sloth’s pace).
For years I loathed exercise because it made me feel worse. My entire adult life, probably since high school, I would feel MORE tired, MORE sick, MORE depressed, and MORE anxious when I exercised. When people would explain to me the effects of a good workout, my eyes would cross and roll. I didn’t understand those words they were saying: “feeling good,” “more energy,” “healthy,” “have to do it.” I thought they were crazy. I judged!
Fast forward to a few years ago.
Quick synopsis: Vague health issues for my whole life turned into more serious and scary symptoms that were undiagnosable. I went the medical route but remained a mystery. I went the integrative way, and we started making some headway. When I turned to holistic nutrition, suddenly:
I found myself at my local YMCA, and I got “it.”
I would leave class happier and energized. At times I would feel a physical release of emotions I had been hanging onto. And then there were days where nothing happened except I internally bitched and moaned. But there was never a time I didn’t laugh at least once, even when I didn’t want to.
Sometimes, you only need to see one familiar face and have one internal chuckle to get through the day.
I felt GOOD after exercise. I was one of them.
Finding the root cause of why I felt so shitty for so many years was liberating, and feeling strong was addictive.
You know what else helped?
Music and dancing.
I have always loved listening to music. It was a vital part of my life growing up with my dad, and most of my memories of him revolve around listening to music in his car while driving to Boston to visit family.
And just like my dad couldn’t make it through a five-hour car ride without the Traveling Wilburys or Simon and Garfunkel, I can not get through any exercise class without a song that has the word “butt” in it.
And my very fantastic friend happens to be way into music, and way into movement as a former dancer – which is why I take her barre class three times a week and have since my entry into the world of exercise.
She also knows a lot of songs with some variation of the word “butt.”
So it was a no brainer for me to start there once I felt better!
It’s not even “exercise.” Well. It is.
BUT! It’s way more FUN exercise (in my opinion) and feels less like torture 1) when it’s to good music, 2) when you’re dancing and 3) when it’s with a bunch of relatable people.
When I noticed that I was struggling with my new pandemic sloth-dom, I figured others were also.
So what do I do these days? I bring it to my blog.
And who better to ask about my transition to this new slow-moving animal life: my barre fitness (I know she loves that word) instructor slash sister-wife friend Stephanie, who also happens to be studying for her master’s degree to become a dance movement therapist.
As a holistic, integrative practitioner, I am fascinated by the mind-body connection. I think that we are living in an amazing time medically speaking, where what was once considered “new age” is now scientifically studied and proven. There are endless scientific papers on mindful meditation, yoga, and using movement therapeutically in a range of conditions and diseases.
So right now, because I am incapable of small talk or taking things at face value, I need to understand: 1) why I feel like a sloth and 2) why I should be forcing myself to move more when I don’t want to.
When I know the “why,” I’m more inclined to do something (I use the same motivation for my clients).
When the stay at home orders came, and our local YMCA closed, Stephanie, a barre body instructor for the past seven years, immediately went into action to keep her regulars connected. She began offering her class on Instagram live.
There’s a steady and dependable rhythm that develops when you consistently go to an exercise class, no matter what that rhythm looks like. It becomes something familiar and comforting. So now, when I workout at home, I picture who should be on my left and right and who stands behind me – a mental exercise that makes me feel a little bit crazy up in the head, but comforted. So even though a two-pound weight suddenly feels like twenty pounds, I do feel somewhat connected.
As an unexpected bonus, Stephanie found that it’s also allowed former Y members who have since moved to different parts of the country, and her friends from her past life phases and travels, to be able to take her class.
It’s never just been about the exercise or the perfect body to Stephanie.
And that’s also not the vibe of her class.
At first, becoming a barre instructor was a way for her to get back to her creative roots in dance, having been a ballerina most of her life. Her thinking was that music plus dance plus friendship was an opportunity to create the ideal place to exercise and to connect. She’s a performer (and is she a performer!), but if we really think about what makes a good performer – it’s that ability to connect people.
Her classes begin with a warm-up stretch, move into weight-bearing exercises, a “barre” routine at the ballet barre, and then floor work… all choreographed to music that ranges from Metallica to Dolly Parton, to Panic at the Disco, to Lizzo to the musical Rent… and everything before, after and in between.
Interestingly, Steph and I are complete opposites in terms of our workout preference.
Whereas I love yoga and slow movement, she thrives on the intensity and sweating it out.
Yet I love taking her barre class, and she loves teaching it.
Ultimately, both preferences have one thing in common: how we feel after any type of movement.
And according to the future dance movement therapist, the basis of all movement is the breath.
We use movement to change our most fundamental life force (the breath) and our energy in the world.
Stephanie acknowledges that right now, we are all feeling “stuck” in this isolation. We are forced to be still, no matter if that’s how we recharge or not. The “space” we take up in this world is smaller, and we aren’t moving between any geographical or personal spaces, which is adding to why some of us feel so slow and sluggish (me, me!).
For many, this stifled energy and forced stillness is a source of added anxiety.
So how do we change this?
How do we take up more space in a world that has shrunk overnight?
How do we get through the physical limitations put on our bodies and our mind?
It’s simple: by moving.
Stephanie gave me the example of our kids. When they are studying in school, their space is their little desk and chair, they line up like ducks in a row to head out for recess, the doors open, and they run, straight into the wide-open space, in all directions, loud and full of life and activity—their energy shifts.
She says that right now, more than ever, we need to do the oppositive of stillness, we need movement so that we can change our energy and create balance in the world.
And right now more than ever is the perfect time to do it. Stephanie is noticing that we are a little kinder to ourselves. Without the outside world, there is no judgment.
Except for the judgment we put on ourselves.
But we don’t need to be achieving perfection in any way – we don’t need to be exercising for a summer body. We don’t have any pressure on what to wear to workout, or how we look, or the actual movements themselves and if we are doing them correctly.
“There are no rules. And when there are no rules, there are no expectations.”
The goal of Stephanie’s class hasn’t changed: we are moving for the connections it creates to both ourselves and others, and by default energy it creates in and around our space.
But our why has shifted in its necessity.
“Movement in any form should be a top priority.”
In her own words: “Be curious!”
Go onto Instagram and start searching. There are free workouts, dance parties, jam sessions, yoga, meditation. Take advantage of all the free resources to you right now.
And take advantage of the fact that no one is watching.
Personally, I think you should go and follow @letsdanceaboutit on Instagram and log into a Barre class.
(FYI – I am not a paid sponsored friend in this!)
It’s how I got started because it was fun. It was a way for me to listen to music, hear words of encouragement, and move my body because it felt good to do so.
Turn the music up. Maybe just do the warmup… pick and choose what you like. You don’t need sneakers (go barefoot, I do!), weights, or a band. You don’t need a mat. And you definitely don’t need a barre – at the very least we are all lucky enough to be working with four walls in a room.
You don’t even need to do all the moves the way she does it – I modify everything. There’s never a time that both of my feet are off the ground. Who the heck CARES?!
See what happens.
Take what we learned from Stephanie.
Make your world, and your energy, a tiny bit bigger.
You might feel a little less sloth-like.