Coming Home Embodying Flow/Love

Hoop Path Flow/Love

Baxter hoops it up during the Hoop Path Flow/Love tour stop in Edmonton.

A week later and I’m still smiling after another amazing Hoop Path weekend with Jonathan Livingston Baxter, or Baxter (or Bax) as we know him in the hooping world.

These weekends are always magical for me. I love taking a whole weekend to delve into the subtleties of hoop dance. Baxter is able to share so much of himself  and the message he shares in these workshops are much deeper than just hooping alone. Every time I’ve taken a Hoop Path weekend, I feel like Bax is telling me exactly what I need to hear. This year’s theme was Flow/Love, something I can get behind for sure considering my word for 2015 is Flow and my last Halloween costume was a Love Bot.  Plus, there’s all the hooping too!

While many past Hoop Path weekends have spoken to me more on a deeper, spiritual level, I found what impacted me the most this year was the actual act of hoop dance. Who would have guessed? We played with techniques that I finally felt like I got after working with them here and there over the past few years. These techniques felt so foreign the first time Bax shared them with us. Off body stuff with no hands? Whaaaaa? This year I really felt like I found my flow with it though.

Baxter talked about embodiment over the weekend and while I know what that means, I feel like I didn’t really “know” it until now. I started off the weekend incredibly tired, still trying to recover from jet lag after returning from Thailand (or 14 hours into the future if you want to look at it that way) only a week earlier. My body was back in Canada, but my mind was somewhere else. My rhythms were all messed up. I don’t recall having such a difficult time adjusting last time I returned from the future, but I think age may have something to do with that.

What I found over the weekend though, was that the more I hooped, the more I arrive back in my body. My brain fog cleared up, the extreme tiredness I was feeling began to cease and piece by piece, I slowly arrived back home – in my body.

As I arrived in my body, I began to open and expand, which was my intention for the weekend. My body began to move more freely than ever before (in my life ever!), I experienced a state of flow where my hoop and I were so connected, there were no mistakes, even though I dropped my hoop. Instead of letting the hoop fall to the ground, another limb magically caught it, or bumped it and I moved in new ways that I never have before and may never move again. I felt as though I became flow and that I became love. I felt that I didn’t need to intellectualize what Baxter talked about, because I was experiencing it in my body.

What I love about hooping is that it has this way of bringing me completely into the moment. What I love about Hoop Path, is that throughout the process of the weekend, Baxter creates a space for us to be present in our bodies and from that state, flow emerges. That dance of mistakelessness only arises during true moments of embodiment, of pure presence.

Somehow, I have fallen in love with hoop dance even more. It is such a gift to use movement as an embodiment practice. So in addition to hooping meeting 7 needs I didn’t know I had, I now see it even more as a tool to bring me home, into my body and into my heart.

Thanks Bax, for delivering on your theme of Flow/Love. I can’t wait for my next Hoop Path weekend. To my readers, if you get the chance to take a Hoop Path workshop, do it! You won’t be disappointed.

Fascinating Fascia

I don’t know when this happened, but fitness and biomechanics have become interesting enough to me that I willingly chose to spend an entire weekend learning more about how the body moves at Fit Rendezvous, an annual conference through the Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA).  I learned so much I want to share, but what I found most interesting was all the new research that is coming out about fascia!

What really stuck out to me from the conference is that the fitness industry is moving away from a focus on flexibility and towards a focus on mobility. This means rather than bending yourself into pretzel like positions, it is more important to keep your joints mobile and experience full range of motion through them. Mobile people are healthy people, long into life. What struck me even more, is that hoopers and other prop spinners are regularly doing movement that allows full range of motion in many joints. We’re on the cutting edge of fitness and most of us probably don’t even realize it!

I attended a fantastic session on fascia from Michol Dalcourt that was quite fascia-nating (hehehe).   While ever expanding, my scientific background is quite limited, so this is the coles-notes version of the session. Michol proposed that new research is showing that it’s not just muscles that move the body, it’s also fascia and skin. What is fascia you ask? Well, it’s the connective tissue that forms a structural support matrix around our organs, muscles, joints, bones and nerve fibres. Now, why is this new research important? Because, the way people have been training their bodies is based on the concept that only muscles move the body, so repetitive motions of specialized muscles are all we need to be strong. If fascia and skin also play a part, the body should be trained differently and that means adding more mobility, functional fitness and rhythmical movements in your daily activities and fitness regimen. This will build strong fascia and as Michol says, will turn off the muscles so they don’t have to do all the work and will actually provide more stability in our bodies.

The body does not act in isolation. This is important in understanding fascia. It is also important to understand that fascia is constantly growing.

Healthy fascia looks like a spiderweb

Healthy fascia looks like a spiderweb

When we are moving a lot, it grows in a healthy fashion and looks like a spiderweb. When we’re sedentary and even when we’re sleeping, it turns into a glue like substance which does not provide the proper support the body needs for movement. This causes muscles to always be on and can create imbalances in the body as well. The best way to combat this is to move and stretch. I’m such a strong proponent of movement already, this is just more proof about its power to be healthy and happy.

Hoopers and other prop spinners are adding mobility and functional fitness into their lives all the time. Every time a hooper does a lift off the body, we’re likely promoting full range of movement in our scapula (shoulder blade). If we’re hooping around our waist (in both currents) we’re getting a full range of movement in our hips and the list goes on and on. One caveat Michol talked about was that to build a strong web of fascia, there must be different loads (weight/resistance etc.) with different speeds and different angles. I would say that an average hooper would be able to meet most of these criteria in an average hoop session if a wide variety of on and off body tricks and were performed along with jumps and varying speeds of movement. With that being said, to gain the most benefit in terms of building fascia, it would be beneficial to try a heavier hoop to ensure that there is enough load (weight). I actually tried this during a hoop session after the workshop. Off body moves didn’t feel quite as fluid as they do with my 5/8″ polypro hoop, but it felt good to challenge myself with a heavy hoop, especially knowing the benefit I was getting from this practice. I value being fit, but do not enjoy traditional workouts so knowing that hooping can do even more for my body is so exciting! Check out this video of the ViPR in action. This is a piece of equipment Michol created to help bring functional fitness into people’s lives and this rhythmical movement demonstration looks a lot like a prop spinner in flow. The big movements also reminded of our warm ups in Baxter’s Hoop Path workshops. He encourages big movements in our joints to heat up the body, but I wonder if he knows that he’s helping create strong fascia too?

Movement is not the only way to train and optimize fascia. Hydration and nutrition also play a role. Hydration of fascia is important for this system because the vast majority of its structure is water. The more hydrated the fascia is, the stronger it becomes. Water absorption occurs through an osmotic process which occurs with movement, so drinking water and sitting on the couch all day will not allow for proper hydration. Nutrition is also important for strong fascia. Fascia is a protein made up mostly of collagen. Foods rich in glycosaminoglycans (like home made meat broth) will naturally support collagen production. Chronic inflammation and congestion, on the other hand, will produce collagenase and cause fascia to deteriorate. Two major causes of fascial deterioration are sugar and vegetable oil. To combat this, it is important to eat anti-inflammatory foods, something I talked about when I was following the anti-inflammatory diet.

There are lots of ways to build a healthy system of fascia and I think it’s so cool that with a few tweaks to our practice, hoopers and prop spinners can build a healthy fascial system. You probably didn’t need it, but now you have one more reason to spin all the things!

The power of movement

I am constantly reminded of the importance of moving my body and how quickly it can change my mood. Beyond the physical benefits of an active lifestyle, movement lifts me up, shifts my mood and reduces stressed.  I really don’t move my body to get a workout, but am happy get one in the process. I mainly move for enjoyment. Hooping, walking my dog, dancing or practicing yoga give me so much more than a fit body.

Movement Manages Stress

Hooping in the sun, always makes me feel better.

Managing stress is incredibly important. Like most people, I can get very busy “doing” and life can get overwhelming. Before I know it, that stress turns into anxiety and I can be a bit of a basket case but a 15 minute hoop session can change that almost immediately. My mind becomes clear, I can focus and I feel like I can take everything on. I truly can, too, and I’m more motivated to keep on going.

I’ve tried different ways to deal with my ever increasing workload; working through lunch, after hours in the evening and even on weekends. Working all the time was successful in that I got through everything I needed to but was so run down by the end of it, I became sick and was bedridden for two weeks – during my much needed vacation. I realized pushing through it and not taking time for myself wasn’t working. I’m going through my busy season right now and feel much more balance and healthy with lunch time hoop sessions, evening yoga classes and regular walks with my dog.

Movement Manages Mood

When the blah’s strike and I can’t be bothered to do anything about it except wallow in my sorrows, I often pick up my hoop, sweat a little and my frown is instantly turned upside down. My disposition completely changes and I begin to view things through a sunny lens rather than a cloudy one. It’s so easy to change, I just wish I would always remember this.

Movement is a catalyst for altering your mood. Emotions (energy in motion) are just chemicals and energy in our body, waiting to be expressed and released. If we don’t move our bodies, the emotions get stuck and build up. When we move and breathe, these emotions are un-stuck and our subtle energy, also known as chi or prana, flows through our body freely. To me, this is the whole purpose of the physical practice of yoga. That’s why you feel so great during savasana at the end of a yoga class, you’ve made space for all that prana (life force energy) to flow through all of your cells.

Think about it like this – when there is a kink in a hose, water gets backed up and pools and if there is too much pressure, eventually it could burst – ever blow up at someone when you’re mad? As soon as you release the kink, there is a spurt of water and it flows freely once more. Moving the human body is like unkinking the hose and letting our energy escape and flow free. If we don’t make space for the energy to move through us, over time, it will create dis-ease in our bodies, also known as disease. So many physical ailments can be prevented simply by moving. For me, movement is essential to remain healthy on the physical, mental and emotional levels.

The next time you’re feeling stressed or feeling down, get up and get moving. Find something you love to do that makes you breathe deep and sweat a little. Going for a run, a swim, a bike ride – even dancing in your living room or doing a few stretches will work. Take that time for yourself and give that energy inside of you a place to move. I can almost guarantee you will feel better than you did before you started!