As a young dancer, I was trained to look at my teachers to form an image in my mind of the “right way” to do something, then to look in a mirror, and form myself to that image. This is an extrinsic way of learning with very little reference to my own body.
Of course, I learned also from the feedback I gained from moving, but that was after I already had the image of the “right way” and somehow, the image of how steps looked remained more important than how I felt them in my body.
This happens in yoga too: we look to our teachers for models of what the poses look like. That is not wrong. Our eyes are a useful tool for learning. And, yet, that model image may override our own experience of the pose. This happens for many reasons—our bodies may not match the body style, shape, of the teacher. Our arms and legs may be longer or shorter relevant to our torsos, making the cues the teacher gives simply not apply to our shapes—and we may not even know that until years later. The cues for placing my feet for Bridge, for example, simply do not help me arrive in a configuration that helps me align for bridge--and that is true for more than 2/3 of the students I teach. Feet are either too far or too close to the sitting bones, too wide, or too narrow. The placement is based on canned cues that may not have been questioned even by a wonderful teacher (I have used them myself before I knew), instead of being based on the function of lifting the hips in the air--and how that works for us--and what that means for how we place the feet.
As an adult, and as a practitioner of Yoga, and most importantly, the Feldenkrais Method®, I now know that intrinsic feedback from my practice of yoga is invaluable to developing my own internal reference. This is something that I began to learn in Yoga, but have learned to do playfully, experimentally, and joyfully through Awareness Through Movement® (Feldenkrais group classes) and Functional Integration® lessons.
This idea of looking within for how I am aligned, how I feel, serves me in my life: I am much more aware of whether I am violating my own boundaries in my day-to-day interactions with others and with myself. I can feel it in the way I am breathing, feel a sensation in my gut.
I have built in more space to listen deeply to the voice within, and as I have made changes to my life, and my way of being, that voice has become much more easy to hear.
New Class: Chair Yoga at Om CUlture Greenlake
Thursdays 1:30-2:30 at Om Culture in Greenlake (formerly Yogalife)
Join a beautiful group for movement intended to nourish joints, and strengthen your connection to your whole body.
The parking is surprisingly easy--pick up something at PCC, and have your parking validated, or find street parking within about 2 blocks or less.
Sessions and classes at the COttage
A special rate for Yoga Teachers: $50/hr.
Heather offers Functional Integration®, Restorative Yoga, and Reiki at a lovely healing space in Madison Valley. Additionally, group classes that include mindful movement are available with pre-registration. Currently, some days are full; I am happy to begin another class. If you are interested email heather(at)heatherdanso.com.
What are the benefits? How long should I take Awareness Through Movement® classes? These are the questions my student asked yesterday. (New class starting June 4) Here is part of my answer:
Feldenkrais is focused on functioning and moving more effectively, with less effort (less effort often also means less stiffness and less pain as well). This happens though meditative movement with awareness, through sensing how we move. Feldenkrais is empowering, because it relies on growing our own experiences of ourselves as the basis for learning and becoming more effective in movement and in life.
I find in ATM class, I change the whole tone of my system, which used to be turned up to high all the time. I find it more powerful than stretching, because the change is deep within the brain, not within the muscles. I've stood up after lessons and been able to bend in ways that people spend years stretching to find. The way we move the bones helps the muscles find better organization and coordination. I find it more powerful than chiropractic, because except for rare events, I can reorganize myself so I don't get into trouble. When I do get into trouble, of course I go to the chiropractor. Otherwise, I do an Awareness Through Movement® lesson .
Functionally, what that a lesson might look like is this:
1. Example: I have back pain--upper, and lower.
2. I go to Awareness Through Movement class and we do some movements that have something to do with turning the head and eyes with the neck--seemingly disconnected from my back.
3. As we explore the movement, some of my habits that have tagged onto the way I turn, fall away. That means muscular tension, gritting teeth, holding my shoulders still, not breathing, etc. Some of what we do seems a bit ridiculous, and sometimes we laugh.
4. I stand up, and can turn my head much more easily, and strangely enough, my balance is also improved, and my back doesn't hurt as much, because a lot of my back pain is actually associated with how I hold my head.
5. I go home, noticing that I need to adjust all the mirrors in my car (and that after an hour class).
6. The next day, after a deep sleep, I find that some of it has stayed, and some has gone. I've integrated some of the work, and some of it has gone into the background. It will be easier to find later, when I've had more experience with it.
And lastly, when I get really good at it, I can tell what I am doing, and I can choose to use my neck and head in a way that doesn't cause pain. And, I do this without a lot of conscious work, but because my body has found out a way, through play and experimentation, to organize more successfully.
What is happening?
We are working on retraining the brain--deeply working with the connections our brain makes with our bodies, and that affects function. That affects rest. That affects how we stand, balance, approach life, and ourselves.
How long do people do this for?
I am insatiably curious--I will do this forever. When I taught last Tuesday, one of the students forgot to take her cane with her. She used it to get to class.
Sometimes it is like that. It really depends how much we are entrenched in a pattern that isn't serving us. But, what I also love is that what you learn is yours. You take it with you, and it becomes part of what you do, and how you use yourself, and that means that every little bit is a plus.
New work... "Waves" 48x38 and "Winter Sky, Road"42x51 and "Symphony" 16x16
These are showing at the Overlake Hospital:
And, this is in an online show entitled "Colors"
It's been a long time since I've felt really inspired to work. How long, I thought? Since the election. I am so disheartened that the tone of this administration can affect even this. And I keep working anyway, and trust that in some way it will matter, that putting positive energy out into the universe will make a difference.
And then, my friend texted me that she was wheeled down a hallway on her way into surgery, and she passed my work, and suddenly yelled "I KNOW THAT ARTIST"--and it mattered to her that my work was there.
And my work is up in a beautiful friend's office, and she says that it changes the whole tone of the place, and that her clients notice, and comment.
And so, I'll keep on going. More intentionally, regardless of inspiration, working with the intention of play, and joy, even now.
This is two sides of the same canvas--out of focus until I get my new phone!
Reflecting back as I see the call for 2018 Crow show. For those of you with a love of the social and loyal crow people, here is a link to the online catalogue from the 2017 Crow Show at the Studio Door. Some stunning, imaginative, and strange (yet cool) work is within the 76 pages. Art folks, here is the link for their call for art!
1. an optical instrument with two or more reflecting surfaces inclined to each other in an angle
2. a gathering of artists
The Miller School of Art presents the work of a kaleidoscope of artists: Larry Brown, Don Allen, Karyn Blasi Hellar, Heather Danso, Elva Francis, Devon Rickabaugh, Gretchen Wilkinson. Abstract, portrait, oil, and acrylic. Don't miss this opportunity to see the vibrant art of a Georgetown creative collective in their native environment.
Arts at the Port's "Resonance" Fine Arts display was full of imagination, skill, and beauty. I highly recommend seeing it--each artist had multiple works and the space is stunning. Water flows beneath the dock, high ceilings, quiet spaces, and art. Volunteers apparently spend a week repainting the port building, cleaning it up, and it is an astounding amount of preparation to create a serene and calm place.
The Sumi artist, Hiroko Seki (spider web black and white below) won Best of Show, and it was her very first juried show--so exciting to share this experiences with her. (This was my second.) We will both have work in the new high school.
The Juror, Pablo Schugurensky chose works through photographs--it could have gone so wrong, and instead the work is incredible.
Here are some photos!
Heather Danso wears many hats. As an artist, she playfully explores work in Acrylic, printing, and multimedia, creating portraits and abstracts that explore expression, playfulness, identity, and the possible. Her CV is here.
She is also a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Method® Practitioner, yoga teacher, Awareness Through Movement® teacher, and helps people design and manage their own websites.