ride like a star

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I have become convinced that life, among other things, is a continual process of posturing and re-posturing.  I am currently undergoing a major re-posturing myself.  The horses are helping me.

What I discovered after a visit to a brilliant dentist who specializes in TMJ issues, was that I had suffered a kind of postural collapse over the past two years.  The cause was the trauma of losing a daughter.  It was almost as if the internal structures of organs, fascia, fluids and glands had fallen in on themselves. The first place to fall was my heart, and then other parts were dragged downward and inward.  The TMJ was just a side-effect – painful, but not causal.

Fortunately, I had also been doing some physical research into the endocrine system from a Body-Mind Centering perspective, which I wrote about in Riding from the Glands.  Things got really interesting when I reached the solar plexus area.  From the BMC perspective, the adrenals and pancreas (an organ and a gland) begins to shift our center from earth (coccyx, perineum, gonads) to air and the upper body.  Bonnie describes the pancreas as creating a six-pointed star relationship among the six limbs – head, tail, arms and legs.

So what does that have to do with riding?  As it turns out, everything.  In the drawing above, the darker green triangle represents the relationship of the tail (coccyx) to the arms and hands.  The lighter green triangle is the relationship between legs/feet and head.  Riding with a sense of feeling the connected and inter-relationship of those two triangles was a revelation.

The first thing that I noticed was how I was NOT feeling the relationship between head and feet.  Bringing more weight into my feet and actually opening the bottoms of the feet to create a more spongy connection with the stirrups immediately set up an electric connection that was both horizontal/widening through the feet and vertical/rising through the head.  The surprising and lovely result was to greatly increase the stability in my seat and hands – the other triangle – without bracing. While the glands are physical bodies, they are also intensely energetic, and engaging the specific consciousness of each of these centers can have a profound effect on the body-mind as a whole.  Like turning on the lights.

Back to the re-posturing.  Horses are generous, kind, patient.  They tolerate with greater equanimity than any human I know, our imbalances and distractions, both physical and emotional.  What we can do for them, besides the best care we can afford, is to pay attention to the ways that we are falling out of balance, to make re-posturing a practice.  Posture is a tricky word that can summoning up military images or a “shoulders back and soldier on” kind of mentality.  That is not the kind of re-posturing I am talking about.  What I am looking for in myself and in my clients is something more fluid, more subtle, even mysterious.  A way of undoing and opening that is revelatory and vulnerable.  Give that to yourself, and then to your horse and see what happens.

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Winter Wonder! Come and dance!

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I will be teaching a repertory class during Winter Wonder Festival at the Dance Complex in Cambridge from January 2-5.  I am planning to teach parts of Circo Folle, a dance I choreographed that was recently performed at Roger William University.  It is a bizarre and wonderful circus world set to music by Tom Waits.  This from Gary Shore, head of the dance program at RWU:  “Thank you for a marvelous residency. The work you created for our students is potent, passionate and fascinating. Through your classes and rehearsals our students became bold and fearless performers in a sumptuous circus of dreams and fantasies.”

The WWD schedule is a rich mix of perspectives and teachers.  I hope you will join me for some wild play!

 

 

save this date!!

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I will be performing this year at the Booking Dance Festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center.  It is a part of APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) annual big do in New York City. Jodi Kaplan puts together an evening of about five hours of dance running the gamut from Flamenco to ballet to my transgender dance theater.  Viewers come and go, eat, drink and are generally merry.  Come and join us!

This year I will be performing SPEAK, part of Little Fictions, Ragged Memoirs, a program of solo work that I am building.  For those of you who may have seen it in progress, I will be doing Part 3, which is new and spicy.  My piece will go up sometime between 8-9 pm.  Tickets are available HERE.

riding from the glands

 

steffen-peters-ravel-world-cupSteffen Peters and Ravel

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In my ongoing somatic research into the art and sport of riding, I have been watching Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s videos on the endocrine glands.  I have had bi-lateral hip replacements, and prior to that was in pretty significant, limiting pain for about twenty years.  As a result.  I am always curious about the relationship of my body – in contact with the horse primarily through my hips – and the horse’s body.

Even with my beautiful new porcelain/titanium hips, I could feel that the old holding patterns resulting from that pain were there, and that I could never seem to fully unravel them.  Over the past year, I have been strongly drawn to re-investigate Body-Mind Centering, the brilliant, transformative work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen.  In the videos, Bonnie goes through the glands starting at the root, with the coccygeal body, the perineal body, then the gonads and the adrenals.  She demonstrates how tucking the pelvis, or attempting to straighten the back by curling the tail under,  closes off and deadens the coccygeal body and the perineal body and those chakra centers.  I can often feel that in my riding (or sitting at the computer) I am doing a subtle version of that in a mistaken, habitual effort to protect my lower back.

Instead, in the rising trot, think of an action somewhat like the fluid pumping of the jellyfish:  feel a narrowing of the pelvic quadrants as you rise and a widening of the space between sitz bones and coccyx/pubis as you sit.  Soften down each time in a supported way as you sit.  Engaging the gonadal line  (ovaries or vas deferans) creates an energetic relationship between the head and the feet – a kind of bow and arrow countertension.  So as you rise in the trot, ascend through the head and descend through the feet with an elastic feeling.  Visualize the adrenals adding power and support to both actions.

In my ride yesterday, I consciously integrated all of those actions with my lovely, patient horse Sanne.  The result was astonishing.  His trot had a buoyant, floating energized feeling that I have never fully felt before.  I realized that unconsciously, I had been holding my hips, still in that slightly braced, protective position, even as I tried to loosen and open them.  Working from the glands, moved me away from the musculo-skeletal focus into a more energetically amplified relationship with myself and my horse.  The other thing that I found helpful was to feel how each pelvic half is actually a part of the leg, with the sacrum – a part of the spine – floating between.  This gave me a greater feeling of both balance and freedom in the walk, the trot and the canter.  Applying the jellyfish and the bow and arrow actions in the canter was amazing – I truly felt that I had joined up in my horse’s movement – more air than earth!

I chose the photos above of rider Steffen Peters because I saw in them something I rarely see so clearly and consistently expressed in riders – a beautiful energetic alignment  – as if the chakras are all open, illuminated, engaged. The second photograph perfectly captures the “bow and arrow” feeling in the rising trot – a breautiful relationship between earth and sky!

As I write this, I am reminded of Linda Tellington-Jones’s words during a workshop.  Whenever she would encounter a “problem” with a horse, whether physical or behavioral, she would say, “Isn’t that interesting?”  Those words invoke a sense of curiosity, play and improvisation.  Opening to possibility rather than contracting around a difficulty.  The same has to be true of ourselves.  It would be too easy to become frustrated or impatient with my own limitations as a rider.  Maintaining an attitude of willingness, curiosity and playfulness is my goal for each ride, each rehearsal, each day.