Introducing our new series, MOVEMENT AS MEDICINE – a space where our MISFIT teachers and community can share their experience of how movement has supported, nurtured and healed them through life and its challenges. Today, we're so honoured to have Lindsay, MISFIT teacher, sharing her personal journey of using movement to find herself and discover inner peace.
Being a teacher of movement was never a clear path for me and my love of movement didn't happen overnight. In fact, there was a lot of negativity surrounding “exercise” in my mind. I only moved my body when I was in a bad place, leading an unhealthy lifestyle or forcing myself because of the shame I carried around about my body. I never finished moving and thought, “that felt great”, I mostly thought things like “you need to do more” or “how do I get to a place where I look like that other person?” Etc.
Anxiety has been a recurring theme in my life. From a very young age I struggled with Body Dysmorphia Disorder and depression – it was from these early experiences that my anxiety was born. Let me explain what anxiety feels like for a moment. At least for me, my anxiety makes me fearful for no reason, foggy, confused and compels me to question a lot of what I do. I have experienced frightening panic attacks where the space around me felt like it was closing in, as though I was peering through a pinhole. Then comes the clammy sweaty feeling, shortness of breath and a impression of being frozen in time.
It is through movement that I began to take control of my anxiety and irrational reactions to situations I wasn’t able to command. Classes that valued breathwork and deep meaningful movements taught me to slow down and listen closely to how I was feeling. I started to think of movement as not only a physical thing but a challenging mental and emotional experience, too. The more I approached classes and personal practice as a manner of well-being, the more I was able to take some of that mindfulness and infuse it into all aspects of my life. I found connections between what was happening on my mat with day-to-day occurrences off of my mat. It was easier to channel fears and insecurities into physical practice with mental focus so that I could emotionally release.
MISFITSTUDIO had a tremendous role in my healing as well. When I found the studio I was in the beginning stages of exploring a career in movement, but was having some serious doubts about whether or not I had the courage to follow my dream. The emphasis on tuning into sensations and remaining present in class inspired me to pursue my new love of movement – all I wanted was to be able to provide the same experience for others and hold space for those who shared my experiences with anxiety and depression.
I won’t pretend that it was easy to change my views on “exercise” – there were times in my life that were pretty dark. Depression and anxiety have ways of making you feel worthless, invisible and unmotivated, so it would be true to say that I have had to pick myself up many times.
I have collected some pretty helpful tools along the way (which I will list below) to bring me back to myself, to ease my nervous mind and smooth out the tension. It is the change that I felt in myself using some of these tools that really pushed me to chase a career in movement. I wanted nothing more than to be able to pass on what had helped me get through some pretty bumpy times in my life.
Below is a list of activities that I find helpful when I am feeling uneasy and anxious. >All can be done in class and off the mat.
Intention setting: Pick something you want to focus on. Maybe it’s as simple as breathwork, or maybe you tell yourself to move without expectations that day, maybe you set the intention to notice your strength or celebrate that you took an hour or however long just for you.
Grounding: Grounding is a practice used to bring you back to yourself. It can help you feel centered, balanced and remind you that you are here now, in the present moment. My favourite ways to ground are jumping to feel the solid surface under my feet, long slow deep breathing, and placing my left hand on my heart to acknowledge my heartbeat and connect to a powerful life source.
Eyes closed: Try closing your eyes while moving your body, do a few reps of whatever movement you are doing and then when you've got the move down, let your lids get heavy or close your eyes completely. This is a practice in trusting yourself and relying on intuition and proprioception.
Sweat: I’m serious – dance, jump, shake, run, be determine to push through it and when it’s all done let yourself feel damn good about your strength and grit.
And finally, CELEBRATE! Celebrate that you showed up.
“The willingness to show up changes us, it makes us a little braver each time.” - Brené Brown