Saturday, January 2, 2010

Day 147 - Adhere to the Pleasure Principle

January, 2nd, 2010

The body doesn’t lie. Even if we tell ourselves that we’re the masters of deluding our emotional wellness, physical symptoms and mannerism are telling when it comes to the state of our truest selves. As an improv teacher, I am constantly telling students onstage to uncross their arms. This position closes them off to other players on stage and most likely to other people in their own lives. I’ve found that how we are on stage is often a mirror to how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives. I’ve also learned that students with poorly postured hunched over shoulders are generally shutting their heart down and having a difficult time attaching and detaching to and from people or circumstances.

Our body loves holding onto tension. Journaling, using Native American rituals to remove “spirits” from our house and 12 step programs are helpful to clear mind and emotional baggage, but physical release needs to be given equal footing. This is particularly true in my case as I am cognizant that I must deliberately take more action to squeeze some tension out of my physique.

Luckily, I’m off to a good start with my goal because my New Years has been spent teaching improv workshops at Lake Austin Spa and Resort, a fancy destination spa in Austin, Texas. I have a variety of tools at my fingertips to aid in my goal of disposing this physical tension. So far, I have found that a unique dance-like class, some ritzy spa services and a steam room challenge have commenced my journey to attain this goal.

When I was seven years old, I took ballet and my poor brother had to suffer through a 5 hour “Nutcracker” performance where I was on stage for a “blink or you’ll miss me” amount of time "jogging" around the Sugar Plum Fairy with other prepubescent aspiring ballerinas. He might have been a little more engaged (and humored) if he had seen me in a Nia Class this morning. Standing for non-impact aerobics, Nia was established in 1983 when the fitness industry was overloaded with strenuous muscle-building high-impact aerobics classes taught by sweatband wearing Jane Fonda wannabes in high cut electric colored leotards. Emphasizing creativity, self-expression and enjoying movement for its own sake, Nia urges people to adhere to "the pleasure principle" and draws from nine movement forms from martial arts, healing arts and dance arts. More specifically:

Martial Arts - T'ai Chi, Tae Kwon Do and Aikido
Healing Arts - Feldenkrais method, Alexander Technique and Yoga
Dance Arts - Jazz dance, Modern dance and Duncan dance

The end result was that I found this class shook out some stress while being fun and gentle. I'm a big fan of consistent low impact exercise and I welcome the built in physical activity of the constant walking that comes with living in New York. I agree with Deepak Chopra’s theory that Western society has it all wrong because the purpose of exercise is to gain energy. Not deplete it. Granted, I am aware and grateful that genetics are a significant component that has allowed me to maintain my health and weight under the low impact umbrella. Thanks mom and dad. You’re tops.

Next up on my “physical tension be gone” agenda was to take advantage of my two complimentary spa treatments. I’ve always seemed to resonate with acupuncture so I had an hour with a guy who, along with using needles, burned an herb called moxibustion (moxa) directly on the acupuncture points to stimulate circulation to induce smoother flow of blood and chi. The fact that moxa smells like the love child of sage and marijuana explains why I felt so creative, profound and hungry after the session. For my next service, I went with your basic Swedish massage. I was a little concerned when my masseuse gave me a weak handshake when we were introduced. I thought that could be telling in regards to her strength of massage and character. Side note, if you’re on a date, see how your potential romantic partner treats the wait staff. That’s how they’ll treat you in 20 years. Back to Sweden. Luckily, my instincts were proven wrong about the masseuse because I felt some notable relaxation as she was quite good at her craft. Only downside, she was a bit of a heavy breather.

My final attempt at making my body feels like Jell-O was a self induced steam room challenge. I had only been able to last a measly 5 minutes for the last few days…and that’s just embarrassing. I can perform on stage, run a marathon and be on day 147 of my 365 day blog entry challenge….I should be able to be steamed longer. I mean, my toxins aren’t going to remove themselves. My new spa friend Elva was in there to coach me. She suggested that I put some eucalyptus spray under my nose for a kick. I put it on my entire face right before I poured my thermos full of half water/half tea on my head and neck. I was afraid that I would turn into a puddle and be unable to write today’s entry so I crawled out as if I just unwillingly spent a few years in the Sahara. Final time: 15 minutes.

Overall, I do feel I have released some stored up physical tension and hope to maintain new and improved flowy and toxin free Jax when I return to the real world tomorrow. Let’s just gently overlook that tonight I'm going out to party in downtown Austin to wreak some havoc on my mind, body and spirit. Like Nia, I adhere to the pleasure principle.


  1. Hey,
    I am a Nia Teacher in Milton Ontario(Canada) and I stumbled cross your blog. I enjoyed reading it..especially the bit about "our bodies don't lie."
    Good luck on the next leg of your 365 blogging journey!!!
    Mary Baxter

  2. Hi Jax! I'm a Nia teacher in Wisconsin...came across your blog. Very cool! I loved your last paragraph! I trust you partied with the best of them and also listened to your body's signals when party-time was over. There are some wonderful Nia teachers in the Austin area, let alone Texas in general!!

    Although Nia can certainly stand for Non-Impact Aerobics, it is SO very much more than that, as I'm sure you know. It's the best fitness fusion/lifestyle practice of which I am aware...I've been teaching Nia for 8 years, practicing Nia for 10. The changes in my body, mind, heart and spirit over these past 10 years all happened without a big fuss -- as you say in your blog -- gentle and fun.

    I'm delighted to know that you enjoyed your class!!