The Body Resilient

https://thecore.balancedbody.com/?s=breast+cancer+awareness

“This is the room”, I thought to myself. A seascape painting on the wall, a sofa, a desk, a box of tissues. “This is the room where they tell you that you have cancer”.

When I left the house that morning, it was a typical day in the life of a working mother of four. I made lunches, dropped the kids off at school, and went to the Pilates studio for a couple of hours before heading to my mammogram.  Life was full and I was busy.

“We won’t get the results for a couple of days, but from my experience, I am 99% sure it is cancer”, the doctor said in his unwaveringly calm manner.

In that inconceivable instant, my entire world shifted.  I was a healthy 39-year-old woman. I ate well, used natural medicine, and was a Pilates instructor for goodness sake! Health was my identity. Did none of that matter?  How were my kids going to handle this? How was I going to survive financially? Was I going to survive at all?  The tension crept into my neck and shoulders and my breath caught in my throat. My chest felt alien.  My thoughts were scattered as I drowned in disillusionment and chaos in body, mind, and spirit.

Fast forward now, to where I made the most significant realization of my journey. The human body is astoundingly resilient.  Humans adapt. In fact, our ability to adapt is the greatest evolutionary advantage we have used to survive the millennia.

Our fascial network – our interconnected malleable matrix, which supports and entwines all of our biological bits and pieces – functions as a system of resilience and responsiveness.  My body was going through a lot, chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiation- but the body is designed to respond to any stressors and forces it encounters.  Armed with this reminder, I turned to the essentials – movement, breath, and community – to guide my slow and sometimes discouraging journey to feel whole again.

Along with Pilates, I practice Qigong, an ancient form of movement designed to move energy (qi) through the pathways of the body (meridians).  Modern movement science suggests that through patterns of compressing, tensing, and releasing, our fascia squeezes and pumps these meridians, along with our tissues and vessels, and provides the hydraulic action to move lymph. The harmonious flow of energy and fluid hydrates tissues and removes cellular waste. Simply put, movement heals. By focusing on restoring the resilience of my body, I also nourished resilience in my spirit.

Here are some tools I use to restore tissue resiliency and mobility of the upper system for myself and other breast cancer survivors.

Keep the breath slow and smooth, through the nose, and without force.

Upper Axis Release

Position: “Goal Post” arms. *opt. elbows can lower to “W-shape”

 

Drawing the Bow (from Eight Silk Brocades Qigong)

Opens the lungs and benefits neck, chests, and shoulders.

Position: “Horse stance” *opt. seated

  • Index finger points up while the middle and thumb connect. Other hand pulls in a fist as if drawing a bow. Eyes focus on index finger.
  • INHALE- Tense and hold
  • EXHALE- release the hands and relax, soften.
  • Glide the arms to the other side.

*repeat 3-5 slow meditative reps

 

Meridian-Stretch Mermaid

Enhance traditional mermaid with meridian stretches! This variation massages the liver and spleen, while stretching the meridians in the hands and side body

  • Look at extended arm. Flex hand down and up
  • Palm up, bring fingers towards the ear, like holding a tray
  • Shave across the head and imagine pressing the palm into the opposite wall. Stretch the pinky and hold the tension before stretching to the other side.

Jennifer has been teaching Pilates since 1997. Intrigued by the variety of approaches to the work, Jennifer set on a quest to study with as many master teachers as possible to solve this “pilates puzzle.” All these teachers, both classical and contemporary, influence her work and build her Pilates toolbox, along with strong influence from modalities such as yoga and qigong, and the resilience and perspectives derived from breast cancer survivorship. With a strong background in musculoskeletal and fascial anatomy along with eastern body-mind modalities, Jennifer views each individual body through a holistic lens. She believes the spirit of any movement system lies in the understanding of the person rather than the exercise. Jennifer is a certified White Tiger Qigong instructor and is currently pursuing a degree in Biocultural Anthropology, with a focus on human evolution and health. She believes, “By looking to the past and to the ways different cultures throughout history have viewed human health, we can understand the evolution of the human body and what it means to live at our potential”. Jennifer is an experienced presenter, sharing her passion for movement at conferences and platforms such as Pilates Method Alliance, Pilates on Tour, and Fusion Pilates and in publications ( PilatesAnytime.com, Pilates Style, and DisneyFamily.com). As a mother of 4, Jennifer is grateful for the physical and mental strength and flexibility her movement practice has helped her to achieve. You can contact her or schedule a class at movementweb.net.

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