Monday, April 22nd, is Earth Day. Have you ever considered that how we treat our physical bodies is symbolic of how we treat Mother Earth? The more one learns about one’s body, the greater connection one can have with The Mother.
For instance, in Traditional Chinese Medicine the Spleen (not just an organ in the body, but a set of functions which are expressed in various ways throughout the bodymind) belongs to the Element of Earth and is anatomically expressed through the fascia and connective tissue of the body. Connective tissue expresses the support of the Spleen. In Nia, our larger movements become smooth and easy and we have a greater range of motion when the connective tissue and fascia are relaxed and unconstricted. We feel muscle tone and we feel “at home” in our bodies. “Being at home in our bodies is an expression of strong Spleen energy.” (– Daverick Leggett, from “Helping Ourselves: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics.”)
The Base (Toes, Feet, Legs) can allow us to bring attention the earth beneath our feet; we can become more aware of our groundedness and when we do we give support and strength to our Spleen.
The Spleen is also the organ of digestion. Mr. Leggett says, “Digestion is the process of converting food into usable substances within our bodies and sending them to where they are needed. The Spleen adapts food to nourish and support our system. This process is called ‘transformation and transportation.’ The stronger our Spleen function is, the better we are able to extract nourishment from any food to support our body’s needs. When we eat, the question is not so much whether a particular food is good for us but rather how strong and skilled our Spleen is at extracting the nourishment from it. The first step towards eating well may not involve changing our diet at all but rather strengthening and maintaining our Spleen.”
When we are in a Nia class, just the simple activity of moving our bodies with the 52 Moves of Nia puts us in direct contact with the Spleen. We connect physically with the Spleen when we move our bodies since we are moving the fascia and connective tissue.
We can support our Spleen from the emotional realm by transforming our need for “comfort food” into trusting that Life is moving us along a path of health and well being. Nia supports the emotional realm through an invitation to “let go” of perceived obstacles through emotionally expressive, creative movements. I have witnessed students who come to class weighed down by some perceived “negative” emotion in their lives, who suddenly get in to their bodies, moving muscles, bones, connective tissue, fascia, ultimately creating an opening for the release of the emotion. They sense and feel the release…I see it in the relaxation of their bodies and the expressions on their faces. The Spleen is happy.
Mentally the Spleen is supported by balancing mental work with physical exercise, being in nature and breathing fresh air. Too much sitting at the computer (as I raise my hand in acknowledgment) is detrimental to a happy Spleen.
The realm of Spirit — healthy expression of one’s UNIQUE character — one’s Life As Art — is conducive to a healthy Spleen.
“Trust Your Body — sometimes we crave our poison (food, what we watch on TV or read in the newspapers, our need for attention) but there is in each of us a deeper level of knowing. As we bring our awareness to…we can begin to feel what our true needs are, what truly nourishes us. At first we may need to be guided by more analytical judgments, but as we listen inside we can begin to make choices from our bodies, too. What makes us feel good at the deepest level is good for us. Over time we can cultivate this skill of separating our cravings and addictions from our deeper levels of guidance.”
Mr. Leggett speaks mostly to the framework of how food and one’s attachments, addictions and cravings for certain foods affects the Spleen. Food is certainly of great importance in the health of well-being of the Spleen and its functions.
Nia IS transformative movement. Becoming more aware of one’s attachments, addictions and cravings in the world (not just food) and using Nia as a lifestyle practice is paramount to “being at home” in our bodies.
GET IN YOUR BODY. DANCE FIRST.