TOUCH

“She asks him to touch her, to feel her with his hands, because bodies always understand each other, even when souls do not.”

-Paulo Coelho

Lately I have been reflecting on the loss of “touch” – relying too much on devices, interactions with automated messages, exercise apps, using kiosks to check in at airports, online zoom exercise classes etc etc…as well as the loss of personal & physical touch when it comes to almost everything!     Since Covid, especially, we have adapted to more of a ‘touch-less’  way of life and although sometimes it has been out of necessity for safety reasons, and does have some benefit,  in excess, like everything else, this, “lack of touch” can have negative repercussions.  Human touch in particular is so unique because the physical contact alone allows both bodies to ‘feel’ and experience more than just being told something in words.  Words and devices alone can create unnecessary miscommunications and guide us to do something that is not right for us.  Whereas, the addition of purposeful  and communicative touch,  could better support what is said and explained through the words etc.  Furthermore touch can shine a light on places of tension we didn’t even know existed until we become aware of what we are doing from someone elses touch.  Investing in more experiences that encourage us to physically connect and listen to our body is priceless because the experience alone communicates and sheds light on so much more than just words could say.

The body is always talking to us and is constantly giving us signals to what is happening inside of us.  When we take time to feel and process what ‘that’ is through human experiences/touch we are able to make sense and understand more of what we may need on a greater level than just words and/or devices would be able to communicate.  Children can sometimes be great teachers for us adults as they do not have the words yet and rely on touching and listening to their own inner knowing to make sense of what they need or do not need.  They feel a lot and listen to what these feelings are telling them:).  Although sometimes their actions may be a bit overly dramatic, at least they are using their intuition, being instinctual, and releasing any stress that they may have in that moment instead of just doing something because something or someone tells them to act a certain way.

As adults, creating better habits while exercising or simply moving out of stress and into a state of calm takes work, and unfortunately throwing a tantrum isn’t the best way for us to achieve a better awareness and/or release an unwanted state.  However, with more human touch and human heartbeats to help us along the way, I believe we would drop inside ourselves quicker to both feel our inner body and then to consciously change our habits and release certain stress.  With all practice… the more you do it the easier it gets!

I, personally, was not raised to value ‘touch’ and my own inner feelings.  (I am not blaming ANYONE for this as there is always a unique dynamic situation at had and we do the best we can do…i strongly believe this).    In fact, I learned quickly that one’s feelings did not “really” matter.  This is one of the many paradoxes of being raised Catholic:)> .  My upbringing and catholic school environment, for example, did not allow excuses nor make exceptions for people when they did not do what they were supposed to do and ‘be.’ This narrow-minded, sometimes unforgiving attitude influenced me for several of my earlier years.  As a teen I could be pretty stubborn and proud and would hold my emotions inside.  Instead of seeking help I would isolate myself as I did not want to appear lesser than, not be accepted, or ‘weak. ’  I turned to drugs and alcohol at an early age I believe to numb these inner feelings.  I expected the same ‘unfortunate’ behavior of my peers.  For example, when I would witness someone else not responding to the disposition of my upbringing, I would often look down on them and think to myself, “Get a grip people!.”  Although, I can still be pretty stubborn and still catch myself saying this time to time in the back of my mind, I have definitely had many experiences and life lessons that thankfully have changed my view and have infused me with more compassion and empathy for not only myself but also people that are struggling and or going through challenges in their own lives.   

I believe the consequence of holding emotions inside, is unnecessary suffering/emotional tension in your body.   In fact there is more and more evidence that says our fascia or the webbing that holds everything together under our skin, is in fact a sensory organ and this intellectual organ can in fact hold emotion inside its structure.  Our emotions therefore can be stuck in your bodies tissues and create unnecessary blockages unless we are able to actively and consciously allow this held emotion to flow through us in a healthy way.  This is the very reason why I believe it is so important to forgive ourselves and others and to be compassionate and loving.  We simply cannot have a healthy free body if we are holding our emotional trauma and inner drama!  I feel that my own inability to forgive myself and others fully continuously have most definitely contributed to my own painful sensations I have been dealing with over the past 2 years.  Although I am doing so much better and I do have some physical issues which I have talked about in my previous posts, my healing is as much linked to my emotions as it is linked to my own physical state.   Paradoxically, touch plain and simple, I believe can help unlock tension and emotions in my body and support ones own connections and inner healing.

In fact, when I was just learning the practice of Yoga and Pilates, I was so drawn to both practices because of the sensations I would feel in my body.  I felt so alive and free practicing both disciplines, and especially when I had the support of touch cues from my teachers.  It was essential for me to not only visibly ‘see’ how a certain posture was carried out, but also, to be guided through the exercise usually with supportive touch cues from an experienced, knowledgeable instructor.   Even now, after practicing Yoga and Pilates for 20 years I have much benefit from not only seeing others practice, but having supportive touch cues to help me go deeper and experience more openings and spaciousness in my body.    In fact I love getting hands on assist from instructors! 

On the flip side, when I was enrolled in “the Work”,  a Pilates graduate program  in 2017, under the tutelage of Jay Grimes, we were instructed, NOT  TO TOUCH, (except for some very specific exercises, as the method is exercise!! Not therapy or massage!).  Some reasons why I believe touch cues were not encouraged, 1) – touch cues done several times a day is hard on the teachers bodies, 2) –  it can make the student too dependent on the teacher, etc etc, and 3) – sometimes when the intention behind the touch is not thoughtful and purposeful it can be too much and even confuse the client.   “The Work” was all about feeling and trusting.  We had to do the work, feel the work, and decide whether or not it was right for us.  Although a great program in theory, the instructors of the work, still did have and voice their own opinions and as a student of the Work , although you were instructed to listen to your own intuition, we were also fed the teachers insight, usually without the support of their touch which was confusing at times.  Reflecting back, I wish they also supported us with more hands-on assists so we could have better understood how to relate their verbal feedback to our own inner experience and contemplate for ourselves if their opinions carried much weight for us or not. 

Considering the negatives with touch cues, I still believe that actions ‘speak ‘ and resonate louder than words.   Furthermore, purposeful touch from someone or even ourselves can help bring more awareness and possibly unlock held unconscious tension that may be causing blockages.  As a teacher myself, I still benefit immensely from touch  cues as I am still exploring, learning and desire more continued growth, expansion, and inner awareness in my own body.  I am constantly growing and changing in my own body, so there is always something more to explore, and learn from:).

I would like to encourage us all to recognize and understand that our bodies are constantly transforming and communicating to us!  Our bodies are also directly connected to our emotional well being and vice-versa.  Lastly, the right touch, in my experience, can resonate deeper and give one much clarity and freedom.   “What are some practices we could both add and let go of to make our emotional and physical bodies live more harmoniously?”   Perhaps we will all be our own best observer, listener, and do things with more kind gentle awareness. 

Thank you to all who continue to take agency and ownership of your own life and body. 

Pieces

Pieces

Trusting myself enough to let go, in an effort to better connect and grow.

 

I returned from LA a few weeks ago.  What a fantastic time with The Vintage Pilates staff, and other “Work” participants.  I feel so blessed to be a part of this beautiful like-minded yet diverse community. My understanding of how I can use the method of Pilates to better myself in “The Work” is coming together and I know this is just the beginning.  In this post I will be reflecting on the idea of connection; how can we better connect all our pieces to what or whomever we are interacting with, to better understand ourselves?

Jay Grimes, Pilates elder, along with the amazing Vintage Pilates Teachers for “The Work”, will usually never end a session without first saying; “do not neglect your ‘partner’” (meaning the apparatus; whether that be the reformer, the chair, barrels, cadillac, guillotine, ped-a-pul, etc).  Jay would then typically follow this statement by saying “KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT and JUST MOVE.”

Although not a Jay Grimes nor a Vintage Pilates saying, this next quote(also a favorite of mine from the movie “EAT, PRAY, LOVE”) complements what I believe Jay and my teachers for “The Work” are saying…

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person that you will ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. Soul mates, they come into your life to reveal another layer of yourself to you.”

I think Jay and my other teachers of “the Work” would agree that their idea of a ‘partner’ is our ‘soulmate.’  We should then treat the apparatus we are using with that awareness and allow it to teach us something about ourselves.   The more connections  we make with our ‘partner’ the more lessons we should receive.  Hopefully, we come away from our workout or our interaction having learned something about who we are.  Perhaps also discovering something we need to work on.  Can’t have one without the other.

I believe finding more connection is different for everyone.   Perhaps for some of you, the struggle lies in concentrating on connecting to your “partner”; for others it is trusting what your partner is revealing to you and giving in to this trust as you continue…   Personally, after this past trip to LA, I am discovering that when I trust more in my “partner” and act more instinctual I am able to make stronger connections and learn more.  Listening and trusting what I feel is right and acting accordingly is definitely hard work, but I believe a challenge worth fighting for.  Be persistent and listen to yourself!

How about you?   How do you stay connected to your “partner?”  Do you need to trust more in yourself to connect all your pieces like me?  Maybe you just need more of a steady effort?  Some need more of one than the other.   We all need to find our own ratio.

I hope you all can trust your “partner” and continue to strengthen and make new connections that bring meaning to you.  Every day is a new day and another opportunity to expand your awareness and your connections and put the little pieces together one by one.  If you feel disconnected and loose your pieces trust your partner more!  Can you trust and listen to what your connections are telling you and act accordingly?  Takes a lot of courage to follow through!   You can do it!  I believe in you:).

Do it right, keep it tight!

Brooke

ps – check out the song “Pieces” by Andrew Belle