15 benefits of a personal movement practice or how to keep it going when the rainbow isn't *enuf....
By: April Axé Charmaine [she/they] 1.26.2021
Whether you've been dancing your whole life, only did it when you were a "kid," have been out of practice for a minute, or want to reconnect to your truth, passion, zest, energy and clarity... Enjoy reuniting to your sound (not loco) body, mind and spirit with strength, grace, freedom, exultation and release. Institute a consistent movement practice and enjoy all these benefits!
1.DANCE FOR ANSWERS
If you really, really want to know the answer to something--you have to look no further than your closest open space and dedicated intentional time to exploring your questions to your life situations by moving organically in a grounded body trance. Keeping your eyes open, senses aware to your connection to the elements, your surroundings--play music or simply start walking, moving your body in any way that feels pleasing. There is no right or wrong. When you dance for long enough--the everyday matters of the mind have an opportunity to breakthrough and you can go into another dimensional space and retrieve your knowing by connecting with ancestors, spirit guides, your feelings and emotions. So go ahead... ask the question(s) and then just allow yourself to dance for however long it takes for you to receive the message through your body. No force. Just allow and be.
2. FIND THE SPIRIT
As a result of DANCING FOR ANSWERS, you will undoubtedly find yourself connected closer to spirit. The spirit of your heart, the spirt of the unknown, the spirt of all that is--it's a magical sensation that is one of the greatest natural highs you can ever imagine. Again, just listen to what your body wants to do and say. There you are. Connected. In your own way.
3. WHOLE SELF-CONNECTION
To be connected to your whole self aka EMBODIED, you simply need to be aware that you are a multi-dimensional being and part of your work is to navigate all of the different strings that make up your entirety. Call yourself in, feel yourself, touch, pay attention and bring total awareness and presence to yourself. Perform a body-scan meditation, ring the bells, burn the resins, light the candles and attune to the truth and power of you, this being, in this body. Love this. Be with this. Pay attention to this. You are absolutely whole and worthy.
4. ATTUNE TO BODY SIGNALS
Your body is talking to you all of the time. It is literally telling you everything you need to know about what's flowing and good and what needs attention and change. When you have a movement practice, you allow yourself to be brand new everyday; listening in for the signals; what arises in specific body parts when you think about a certain thing? Move and breathe through the areas that feel stuck, limited, challenging and/or in pain. Everything is ultimately connected. The more you practice this, the more you will understand the psychological and physical connections which can allow for a great excavation of emotion--somatics dear one.
5. PAIN RELEIF
Practicing moving in authentic ways that honor your capabilities, feelings and abilities is an excellent method for relieving physical, emotional and mental pain. This whole idea of listening to yourself is a radical act--and it's also wildly empowering to know that you don't have to suffer, numb, medicate or run away from yourself. Move it through. It may take time, it may be immediate. The more you stay in constricted body positions and do not practice what it means to explore the absolute majesty and ability of your body--then you contract, things close down, the energy and chi doesn't flow the way you need to feel good. It is imperative that you move in anyway that you possibly can. Moving energy rhythmically and in tune with your personal being is an amazing antidote for feeling stuck in the body, mind and spirit.
6. NO LONGER NUMB
Not feeling or wanting to feel anything? It may be a little more challenging to get it going from this space--I want you to know it is possible to excavate a numb state of your being, which of course is a natural state of grief. There may be times where nothing, no shit is working for you at all and that everything feels heavy. This is when you need to focus on one step at a time. One word, one thought, one move at a time. Feed yourself something different energetically. Sometimes to get out of a numb state, you need to change your environment, your schedule, your way of being, the music you're listening to. This is a classic switch it up type moment and it requires repetition. New habits must be practiced--so if you no longer wanna be numb, perhaps begin with the rule of 7's and do a slightly different thing (you can apply this to nearly any aspect of your life).
7. RELEASES ANXIETY
As you work through your feelings--those familiar heart palpitations, numbing forces, or rumination stations you've been visiting may be up--like you need to know how to process and let go of the feeling that stops you from being the super effective/balanced/beautiful person you crave to be. Moving through your anxiety by dancing organically is a magnificent way to change your perspective and help you to focus on what's good, clear and enlivening. You can add a lot of out breath and **staccato energy to really push this one through.
8. IMPROVES YOUR MOOD
One of the ultimate things a consistent movement practice can do for you is make you feel good, help you to remember the spice of life, the passion and fire in your heart and being. Dancing makes you feel alive, so this practice that you can do alone or with others is a nearly immediate way to shift your energy and elevate your being.
9. BODY POSITIVITY
[CW: (trauma, abuse)]
The more and more you move your body and explore the different ways of moving--the more you have an opportunity to appreciate and deeply love your body for so many things. For carrying your soul, spirit, stories, baggage, trauma, and all of the happy memories-- there are so many people in this world who struggle with their bodies, feeling its not good enough--too big, too small, too this, too that--when in fact--every God Damn Loving blemish, spot, area of cellulite, blemish, whatever the fuck it is-- is a natural part of you are and were born to be. Now unfortunately, too many of us have gone through hard times and abuse in and of the body--and the fact is the body also holds all these stories and energies. Fortunately, there are ways to release the grip of these negative entities and feel solid in our bodies and beings.
See yourself with an eye of curiosity, see yourself as the one you want to make love to, see yourself as an object of desire, every part of you edible, yummy, your very special treat. No matter what state your body is in right now--there is something magnificent there--you are alive and if you're reading this, its somehow working. Give thanks to your beautiful vessel being. Let it be imperfectly imperfect and allow it to move and be appreciated. Your body is the container for your divine being--it's a gift, you are its owner, you are its caretaker, and it's built for passion, pleasure, power, and dancing!!!
10. ENJOY SIMPLE PLEASURE
A movement practice is actually quite a simple endeavor--one movement in the body follows another and so on and so on. It can change every time, it can be the same every time. The thing that matters is that you allow those movements to happen--simplicity can have the grandest awards even though it may get a reputation for being boring. It's not true. The more presence you bring to the simple things--the more you will discover in this fascinating body and world.
11. GAIN GREATER PRESENCE
This is the culmination of practicing moving and attuning to your whole being. You will see, you will feel clear, starry, sunny, sweaty, awareness, breath and beauty. It's simply the acting of being here now. So be here now. That's presence.
Super bonus is that when you dedicate yourself to moving your body in different ways and really listening to its needs--you will get more flexible. You will find that you are capable of more than you may think. Every breath, every day, every practice you take yourself a little further. Enjoy surprising yourself with your personal super powers of attuning to your body.
It's miraculous and one of the easiest ways to become stronger. Dancing. Not only the physical, but literally every part of your being gets stronger when you commit to a movement practice. A clear mind, a beating heart, and a grounded pelvic floor that allows your posture to stand high to the sky, because you have presence in your center which is lifting you up and allowing you to live in the majesty of galaxies. This is you being in your body. Strong as shit on all the levels.
14. CULTURE OF MUSIC
A super bonus of having a life full of movement is that frequently music is involved, and music just changes everything. So play whatever feels right, let it be weird, let it be risque, let it be funny, let it be crying, let it be cathartic, let it be emo, let it be wild, let it be lit, let it be hittin every bombastic beat, let it enrich your life and help remind you that there is so much more in this universe and world. The connections go far and the music will take you there.
15. SELF-CARE + MAINTENANCE AS A REVOLUTION
Ultimately, having a personal movement practice is a giant tool of self-care and maintenance. When we are well with ourselves, than we can be well with others. Taking the responsibility for your wellness and happiness can feel daunting, and also can serve as the greatest gift of all. You don't have to wait for anyone to make you happy, let you down, or anything else--you get to feel, you to get to know you at your deepest core, you get to fly to the sky, you get to hear and know what the lineages want you to focus and pass on. This movement practice business is super real.
THE DEFINTION OF A GREAT LIFE
If you have and practice all of these movement and attunement elements, you are inviting yourself into an amazing and impassioned life. Dancing and moving your body consistently says to yourself and the world--I'm here and I'm gonna get this life. When you take risks, attempt new things, push past your personal boundaries, you get to soar with your wings expanded and live the life of living dreams.
So wherever you're coming from, whatever part of dancer or non-dancer you identify with--just allow yourself some space to explore a movement practice--it can be yoga, house dance, mosh pit (dreams), capoeira, Afro, two-step, line dance, bachata, ecstatic, 5 Rhythms, ballet, breakdance, Flamenco, step-dancing--there are so many explorations to be had on this earth through the body. Commit to this life long learning. You're body wants to give you all the things. Keep your personal movement practice alive--there are so many benefits real and unseen!!!
Connection Points to improve your personal movement practice:
*Borrowed and inspired by Ntozake Shange
**See the work of Gabrielle Roth, The 5 Rhythms
I have been at battle with my ego and reconciliation with my shadow for this last bit of time. Something has felt like it’s been missing. I’ve been retracing my steps to see how I got here-to this dark place where I feel like not doing any of this, any of these things I know.
Quarantine fucked me up a couple of times.
Entering 2020 with the greatest faith and clarity--everything I thought I was going to do (like really committing to growing Ecstatic Dance QTBIPoC in the San Francisco Bay Area--that was gonna be my thing) and then we all know… we had to stay inside, no more social gatherings.
I got weird with covid. I couldn’t look at the images, I didn’t want to hear about the news and I got an obsessive compulsive disorder about antibacterial and bleach. It wasn’t until I came back to Colorado and got a taste of my family and lifelong friends that I realized how contained I had got and how many unnecessary limitations I put on myself.
There were things that kept me solid and purposeful this year. Amazing people in my life. The Art Gym. My training with SomaSource, having monthly teachings, caucus groups, seasonal dances and mentorship online saved my soul a few times over and helped remind me of what’s important.
Most recently, we danced on December 12… a shadow dance.
I’ve been doing this work for so long that I entered the space without expectation, I certainly didn’t expect to come to a full blown confrontation with my shadow. That dance sent me into a spell. For days, I filled up journal pages, asking myself so many questions--writing with black and red ink, filling in other parts with purple and orange (color therapy is real).
The messages I received from that dance were:
I went searching in my past--studying all my photos, selfies, posts from the past few years. I wondered what happened to the bright eyed, smiling, bold, brave and energetic being? Where did this joyous part of myself go?
I’ll tell you what I found… In the last couple of years, I gave myself over to people and causes that didn’t actually serve my highest self. Also… fucking COVID. Somewhere along the way I got it all wrong and misled. An ego trip.
As I took inventory of this year, I couldn’t help but feel like I failed. I got super disheartened producing virtual workshops, because attendance was low. It felt like rejection, it hit all my trauma points of abandonment, not being wanted, accepted or acknowledged.
I did have some incredible partnerships and projects this year, that were super fulfilling--testing the waters for the Movement Collective I seek to begin--The ER aka The Embodied Revolution, going live with my comrades on Instagram for #VoteNoMatterWhat, choreographing The Wiz for East Performing Arts Camp, co-creating Elevate the Energy was ah-fucking-mazing, and getting to direct 12 Angry Them, supported by a whole team was super supportive and taught me once again how much better life can be when you ask for and receive help.
It’s crazy though, I felt like I couldn’t share a lot of these projects because I couldn’t make sense of the difference between myself and SOL VIDA. I don’t know if I have or if I ever will, but I can see that I AM SOL VIDA and my heart and soul are bursting to share all of the parts of me.
At the end of November, I embarked upon a lifestyle cleanse with a couple of dear friends. We decided to go Full Moon to New Moon to see if we were able to change some habits. We gave ourselves a lot of grace for imperfection. My energy had been so low, feeling super lethargic, lazy and just ill because I wasn’t honoring my body.
This is when I stumbled upon and remembered there is an entire Ayurvedic path to eating for your life type-- I made a quick study of my dosha and realized where I was going all wrong. Since then, I have really reshaped my food habits--eating three times a day, cutting out snacks, meat, dairy, sugar and gluten for the most part. Warm foods and warm beverages for me. I thought it was gonna be hella fucking hard, but its been really soothing. And I have a new favorite recipe.
I guess that’s the ultimate gift of 2020- to live in a new way and to slow the fuck down.
I’ve been in a self-imposed ritual for these past weeks working to unearth my whole self, to get clearer about my identity, purpose, desire, boundaries, and to repair my self esteem. I’ve spent weeks not living my purpose ("taking a break")--not doing anything, ruminating, clearing, dancing, excavating and writing.
Then came last Friday, an Embodied Divination workshop with Amara T. Smith--someone I’ve wanted to experience much more of since I met them at a Rosangela Silvestre workshop at University of Berkeley in 2019.
I was super reluctant to go, didn’t even turn on my zoom camera which is pretty crazy for me (cuz I’m a Leo, lol), and because most of the time, I really am willing to be super present and seen. Anyway, I got over myself when we had to go into breakout rooms and put in small groups. I turned my camera on with my divination group--you see Amara did a reading for groups based on personal objects in correlation to the Orixas --that got me, that's what I needed to get my mind blown and to wake the fuck up again! Her reading for our group felt so right on--it was the permission I needed.
Messages from the workshop included:
OMG! The permission to write was huge for me. Hence this big ass blog.
And the teaching… wow… earlier in the fall I also received spiritual guidance to create more of a video platform. Burnt out on virtual workshop production--I’ve been enlivened to think about creating more videos that are actually useful and hopefully inspirational.
People seem really surprised when they hear that I am afraid, anxious and scared to be myself.
This reconciliation and reclamation of myself has a lot to deal with being all of me. I get really overwhelmed by how much I want to offer to the world. I get lost in the multiplicity of all of my identities, my projects, my names. It makes me stop stone cold and want to not do anything.
As I looked back on the rebirth of SOL VIDA from 2018, it was clear that it wasn’t just about dance. The original intentions had a lot to deal with alternative lifestyle, healing, wellness and manifestation.
This dark period has felt like no dark period ever before and I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to come out. Coming back to myself has felt really, really difficult this time. Feeling pulled in many directions, hearing too many ideas and not having clarity put me at a standstill.
I’ve had to return back to basics. My personal development journey began with affirmations. The Artist's Way, setting intentions. I’ve had a strong morning ritual practice for a long time, but adding an evening one has been helpful too. Limiting my social media consumption, limiting my Netflix consumption and taking a break from cannabis.
Lots of habits changing. Awakening more and more and more.
The night of the great conjunction, I was willing to sit out another ritual/ceremony until I started reading about it and realizing how potent this portal is. I got out my shekere, sat at my ancestral altar, began to hum and sing. The ancestors gave me very clear messages. Since then, I feel different, more accepting of myself, and more willing to be all that I am even if it’s not who I thought I was or who you think I am.
While I may not be able to tell you exactly what is to come, I know that my guiding force is to RETURN TO EARTH and STAY IN THE LIGHT. I’m going to trust myself more. My original ideas are pure. So are yours.
Don’t be afraid of your darkness--it’s actually where the light comes from.
Soundtrack for my shadow work.
P.S. Trust me--there were a million amazing things (no matter how cray it was) that happened this year and I am incredibly grateful for my whole life and experience on this wild and wondrous planet. Gratitude is my first go-to when I feel far out.
Much Love forever and a day 💜
Please ask questions, comment, like, share and take care.
April Axé Charmaine (she/they)
(ah-shay / I feel the spirit/ it is so)
Creating a safe(r) space is an art form.
It is an intentional practice.
Below is a short culmination of some of my go-to methods for creating a sense of belonging, acceptance and liberation in educational and transformative spaces--particularly keen to dance, expressive arts, embodiment and arts integration settings.
It's been studied, written about and I have learned from some of the greatest masters. The person who I accredit much of my current work to helping me know and how to do this, is my esteemed mentor and global leader, Dr. Melissa Michaels.
Her book Youth on Fire: Birthing a Generation of Embodied Global Leaders is a tribute to the system which I seek to implement in all of my programming. It is a must read for anyone working to also break systems of oppression and facilitate transformative embodied experiences and events for people of all backgrounds and cultures.
I've created many of my own systems which have been refined over time. From running a dance studio, to getting theatre kids to dance and be comfortable in their bodies, working with youth whose first language is not English, and getting a lot of hesitant, afraid, reluctant young and older people to find freedom of expression through their body is a huge part of my life's work.
Becoming a master facilitator has taken a good three decades with a lot of learning curves along the way. I've created spaces for all ages and levels of movers. From women's empowerment experiences, to ecstatic dances, flash mobs, retreats, conferences, and festivals in different communities and parts of the world- I take pride in being able to create an energy where people feel totally free, protected, accepted and able to shine in their truest forms.
It is also imperative to me that my spaces are devoted to inclusion and representation. As a bridge builder and light bringer, it is a gift to the Universe to be intentional in how we create the spaces we seek to inspire, inform and educate within.
After decades of trial and error, routines and rituals, light and shadow work--I've discovered many majestic ways from myriads of teachers to help people be more at ease within themselves and within a space.
I'd love to share my top 11 ways to create safer spaces to help people reconnect to their authentic selves and build community. May these methods be of use or serve as reminders for your sacred spaces of learning and transformation.
1. State the intention(s) of your space. This is for you and the community and/or classroom culture that you are building. Ask yourself what you want to see, feel from this? What kind of outcomes are you desiring? State intentions for the people who are participating. Explicitly accept people and let them know that they are welcome as they are. People go through so much. Give them a chance to be what they need to be in their own way.
2. Acknowledge people. See people. People who enter creative and expressive arts spaces tend to carry vulnerability as it is--it takes a lot of courage to say yes, to show up, or sometimes even being forced to do something. A simple hello, warm smile, or ask for a hug can go so far with someone feeling safety and acceptance.
3. Accessibility. Acquaint people with the space. Be explicit in asking what will help them feel more comfortable. Let them know there are gender neutral bathrooms, where water sources are, where they can put their belongings, etc. etc.
4. Create a vibe. Really imagine and feel what you want people to experience when they enter your space--whether its a classroom, conference room retreat space, or dance studio. Use all of your senses to create the energetic flow you want people to feel. Think about the five senses.
5. Circles, Circles, Circles. Create a container for your space. Always begin in a circle where everyone in the room can see and be seen. It also helps to end in circles with some kind of individual expression/reflection/offering.
6. Allow space for people to share parts of their identity. Whether it is the name they like to be called, pronouns, likes, dislikes, culture--depending on what you are leading, think about what is important to be shared, what knowledge about each other will make it more helpful for everyone to feel welcome, seen, heard and appreciated. It really helps people to know whose in the room and something about them--whether this is shared through words or improvised expression--Name + __________ does miracles for comfort levels.
7. Lead by example. Be goofy. Be willing to take risks. Push your own limits of expression and communication by doing things that allow people to see that its okay to make mistakes and be imperfect.
8. Bonding Activities. It's a huge part that never gets old--incorporate icebreakers and community building activities into the mix of anything you're going to do with a new group of people.
9. Smaller group pairings. If your class or workshop allows time, get people paired up or in smaller groups--give them a prompt that allows connection.
10. Group risk-taking. Bring everybody together to do something improvised through a shared prompt. E.g. sculptures, sound ball, mirroring, etc.
11. Be intentional about inclusion. Always ask yourself whose in the room, whose not and why or why not? What kind of space do you want to create and is it inclusive to people of all backgrounds, genders, and cultures? What language are you using or not using? How do people know that they are entering a safe space that includes them? At this point in the 21st century, holding space in the U.S. requires facilitators to go above and beyond to create explicit safe spaces--this includes language around gender and racial classifications. If you are not sure, please ask how to do this. Language is a fluid form, is ever changing and we are all living and learning--its okay to make mistakes.
If you've made it this far. I just want to say that you are awesome. I hope you get the chance to create spaces that offer people a safe space to express themselves. Whether or not you are in the arts, these concepts can be applied to your organization or business.
Let me know how it goes or if you have any questions in the comments below.
May these tools to aid you in your process.
Axé (ah-shay / I feel the spirit / It is so)
she l hers l they l them
Founder/Leader of Sol Vida Worldwide
Sol Vida Worldwide is shifting normalcy from systemic oppression to radical freedom leading transformative dance and wellness experiences online and across the globe. Tune in to tune in.
April (Axé) Charmaine, CEO/Founder, Sol Vida Worldwide