From the very first time I started dreaming up what my studio would look like, I knew I wanted the space to be a reflection of my story. I want everyone I work with to be able to see pieces of their own story within mine, so I’ve been mindful to include pieces of my journey in the space.
The journey of physical healing after my spinal fusion surgery.
The journey of learning to accept my body exactly as it is.
The journey toward feeling safe in my everyday movements.
So, when it came time to decide on some details for my studio, I called my friend, Mary.
Spinal Fusion…. Art?
Mary is a wonderful, generous, all-around lovely, person, and she runs Evelyn Rose Studio—a place where she showcases and sells her beautiful, original art. I fell in love with her style when she started posting pictures of her work, and I knew as soon as I saw my studio space for the first time that I needed an original piece from Mary to hang on its walls.
I wanted the painting to have an obvious nod to my healing journey, so I made a special request of Mary: could she include something that honored my spinal fusion? I sent her my X-rays, and she went to work. Of course, Mary created a piece that’s absolutely beautiful, and I cried when I first saw it (no, really).
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t just tell a piece of my story—it tells a piece of Mary’s too. Like me, Mary underwent spinal fusion surgery (she had two!) when she was 14. And like me, that journey has shaped Mary’s life in so many ways.
For me, this is much more than just a painting. I like to think of the sunflower in the painting as me, standing tall and soaking up all the warmth and joy that life has to offer—just as a sunflower would soak up all the sunshine it can. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had really tough weeks and months (and years) trying to learn how to live fully in a body with limitations. But even so, I can’t help but be overcome with gratitude for all those rough seasons. Because truthfully, my fused spine has taught me how to be resilient. And movement has taught me how to stand tall even if my “stem” behaves differently or doesn’t look like anyone else’s.
Resilience: Finding Joy Along the Journey
Resilience is one of the greatest gifts that my spinal fusion has given me, and I know Mary would say the same. Mary has worked tirelessly over the last year to get Evelyn Rose off the ground, and I can’t wait for the world to see her work. Like any spinal fusion survivor (and let’s be real, anyone who’s lived through the last year and a half on Earth), she’s had an up-and-down journey of her own. Her art is the stunning proof of how she’s looked for joy in the midst of pain. Besides wanting her to paint me something because she’s my friend and we both have a scoliosis spinal fusion story, I also knew that I wanted the studio to have nods to the strong women in my life.
Mary is one of those women— and there are MANY.
Little by little, I’m adding details to the space that remind me of my grandmothers, my mom, my neighbors, past clients, mentors, and friends—all of whom have walked alongside me at some point in this journey of life and encouraged me to keep going. Being surrounded by little odes to them is a sweet reminder that I am supported and loved, even on the hardest days.
So, to you, maybe this just looks like a painting with flowers. To me, it represents so much more. It reminds me that—with the help of some incredible people in my life—I’ve made it this far, and I’m only just beginning. It reminds me that even the toughest of circumstances can give way to something beautiful in time. It reminds me that no body—no PERSON—is ever beyond redemption or incapable of healing and finding all of the joy that life has to offer.
It’s my greatest hope for my studio that every single human who enters the space can learn to believe that about themselves.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve carried this notion that movement has to be such a production. This idea that, if I don’t put on the right clothes, drive to a studio, breathe deeply enough, have perfect alignment and form, and do a beautifully planned, seamless flow that my movement doesn’t “count.”
I still think that way– and often. I still work myself into a tizzy and think, “Well, I’d better head over to my studio and spend an hour on the reformer so I can get my movement in.” And then, if I procrastinate or for some other reason don’t get to to it, I tell myself it’s too late, and I can’t get in any movement today, and I’ll try again tomorrow. I do this for days, weeks, months on end, and then I wake up stiff and sad and wondering the last time I moved for myself.
Just Shove the Coffee Table Out of the Way
One morning, a few years ago, I woke up and– still in my pajamas– walked downstairs, shoved the coffee table out of the way, put on a favorite record, and just moved in the middle of my living room. I didn’t think about what muscle groups I was targeting. I didn’t have a perfect flow planned, and I didn’t try to think ahead and make one as I went. I just moved and let my body and how it felt be my guide. I don’t know what overcame me that morning, but I let go of my expectations of what movement looked like. It felt like a new frontier, and afterward, I felt freer than I ever had in my own body.
That morning taught me that movement actually doesn’t have to look like anything. And I don’t just mean that movement doesn’t have to be an “Instagram-worthy” movement flow. Movement can be whatever I need it to be. Period.
This morning, it happened again. I woke up and felt a tinge of depression. A hint of “I’ll never get it all done, so why even try. I don’t have time to move— I have to trudge through my to do list.” After a while of lying in bed and wallowing in that defeat (before I even GOT OUT OF BED), a switch flipped. I got up, put on some comfy clothes, shoved the coffee table out of the way, put on that same record, and moved on the living room floor.
Shove Those Limiting Thoughts Out of the Way, Too
Many times, I let my brain get in the way. “You have too much to do,” it’ll tell me. “You can’t get any relief from your pain unless you plan a program designed for that sticky hip,” it’ll say. “You need to get the house ready for this trip before you go up to the studio and move… you don’t have time right now,” it carries on.
But today, I let my body drive the ship. Today, my body didn’t hesitate to shove the coffee table out of the way. With it, it felt like I was also “shoving” my brain’s expectations and limiting beliefs out of the way. My body jumped into deep breaths and random movements I didn’t even know I could do, right here in my living room. If felt like a miracle that I was able to “get out of my head” and fully inhabit my body for a while.
Moving without a Plan
I often forget that movement isn’t just a logical, planned program I use to help correct a muscular imbalance or improve posture. Physical changes are NOT the only benefit of movement. Movement is also a spiritual experience, and it can often set free whatever has been trapped in my body. It doesn’t have to be pre-meditated to be intentional and freeing and wonderful and healing.
I want more of this “free of expectations and parameters” movement in my life. As a movement teacher, my professionalism and my “have a plan” mindset often overrides that deep “just move” prompting in my soul. But as I enter a new season of my life, I long for less rigidity and more intuitive, body-driven movement and action.
I believe there’s room for both, and my hope and intention as I enter a new season of life is to hold space for both. I don’t know yet what it will look like, but here are a few practices I want to incorporate for my own healing:
- Movement without a “plan”
- Hiking and walks in nature
What practices have you found to help you get out of your head and into your body?