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Running back to myself

dance embodiment running yoga Apr 06, 2017
“For years, I’ve loved dance and yoga, but my new running practice awoke something totally unexpected in me,” writes Stephanie Simpson.

By  Stephanie Simpson



 If you would have told me that I would be signed up to run both a half marathon and full marathon 6 months ago, I would have laughed at you and walked away. But here I am….

 
“Running is bad for you”

Being a dancer my whole life, I was always told that running was bad for me. As a result, I never really did it, especially once I stopped playing sports and officially chose dance as the priority in my life. Over time, that imposed belief turned into my own limiting belief. I truly believed that I couldn’t actually run and the “not good for me” became the excuse I used to justify this story I was telling myself.

Dance has and will always be a major part of my life and at times my identity. Because of this, my relationship with dance is always changing. Dance has given me some of my most joyous memories and has brought me to exciting places, physically and emotionally. It has taught me to be curious and how to express myself in multiple ways. But dance has also been the catalyst to some of my darkest feelings and moments in my life. Growing up in front of the mirror, having to always look at yourself with a critical eye, and constantly being compared to others can take a toll on your psyche.

Yoga provided me a different perspective and helped me to shift my lens about my body. I discovered a new way to connect with my body, my curiosity was piqued in a refreshing way, and I began to appreciate what my body could do and was doing for me. 
 

Wrestling with my body

Throughout college, I wrestled with the way my body looked and how it was changing. I continuously compared myself to my classmates and even participated in a graduate study about body image. As a dancer for a professional basketball team, the pressure to stay “fit” became more intense. I felt I was never skinny enough, didn’t have the 6-pack abs, or just the right amount of tone in my arms. As I continued on my path as a professional dancer in Los Angeles, my body image began to affect my mental image of myself and ultimately my confidence in who I was as a person.

Being a performer is not an easy path at times. You deal with rejection on a daily basis. It was hard to sometimes separate the “job” with my identity and self-worth. I started equating my value as a person with the judgments I had of my body and appearance.

 

Yoga? No thanks!

Yoga had presented itself a few times in my journey and was usually met with a lot of resistance on my part. I always had an excuse as to why it wasn’t “good” for me, when really I just didn’t like it because I couldn’t execute some poses as easily I thought I should be able to. It wasn’t until my last year of grad school that I decided to take a “Yoga for Dancers” class. To be honest, I took it because I thought it would be easy and give me a break while writing my thesis. I am so thankful for this decision!

Yoga provided me a different perspective and helped me to shift my lens about my body. I discovered a new way to connect with my body, my curiosity was piqued in a refreshing way, and I began to appreciate what my body could do and was doing for me.

I loved that one of the fundamental beliefs of yoga was to not look outward and compare, but to instead look inward. It was OK if one day I couldn’t hold dancer’s pose in the same way as I did the day before. It was OK that I was modifying a pose because I was listening to what my body needed at that moment. It truly was and is about honoring where I am in each moment and engaging in the process of the journey, something I lost many times when engaging in the dance and performance world.

It became very clear to me that my dance practice and my yoga practice informed each other and supported each other. They allowed me to connect deeper not just in my physical practices, but also my spiritual and creative practices.

Being a dancer and performer is not an easy path at times. You deal with rejection on a daily basis. It was hard to sometimes separate the “job” with my identity and self-worth. I started equating my value as a person with the judgments I had of my body and appearance.

 
A major life shift

At the end of 2016, I was going through a major life shift. For a while, I wasn’t feeling like myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I found that most of 2016 I was resorting back to limiting beliefs I thought I had worked through and had overcome. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, again beginning to shame myself for how I looked and allowing that to dictate how I valued and saw myself. I knew I needed to make another major shift and decided to take a huge leap outside of my comfort zone and commit to myself in a way I had never done before… I began to run.

Running has changed my life! It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys and resistance creeps in all the time. When I first started, my confidence was pretty low. I would easily get tired and parts of my body would hurt in ways they never have before. It was a very humbling experience being someone who considers herself fit and active, but could barely get through 20 min of consistent running. One of my knees started giving me trouble and I thought at that point I should just give up. The story I was telling myself was true… ”I couldn’t run.”

It was at this moment I had a choice to make. Was I going to give up on myself or was I willing to do the work and change my story?

There was something inside me, even though it was faint at times, that told me to keep going; to literally just take it one step at a time. I began to reach out to friends and family for support realizing that I needed help and advice if I was really going to achieve my goals of successfully running a marathon.

I also began to change how I spoke about myself. In the past, when asked if I was a runner, I would immediately have responded with a “No.” All that this did was to mentally perpetuate my story. Slowly, I shifted my language to “I’m becoming one,” and now I confidently state, “Yes… yes I am!”

 
Deeper in love

Every run, I learn something new not only about my body, but also about my mind and the relationship between my mind and my body. There are literally times when I want to cry while out on a long run, but I remind myself how strong I am, how far I’ve already come in my training, and how empowering it feels to be committing to myself in this new way. Then there are the times when everything is just in rhythm and it’s awesome. I’m in this beautiful dance with my mind, body, and nature. I feel free, clear, and inspired.

This mind/body relationship has become so strong and so deep; I am continuously astonished, amazed, and appreciative of it. I always teach my clients about the importance of a healthy mind/body relationship, but I can now truly attest to its power and magic when this relationship is cultivated and supported.

As I continue to train for my first half and full marathon, dance and yoga have been wonderful cross-training practices. In addition, the strength I have found through my running practice has made my dancing and yoga practices even more powerful and connected than ever.

With each of these practices, I have fallen deeper in love with myself. I look at my body in a completely different way. Instead of noticing all the “imperfections” and things I need to “fix,” I now see strength, flexibility, grace, and love.

I have so much gratitude for my body and all that it provides and does for me. This mental and physical shift has also affected the way I view the world around me and has changed the way I approach my entire life. I feel more confident, empowered, balanced, and connected to my true being, my authentic self.

Stephanie Simpson

 


Stephanie Simpson is a personal Life + Business Coach/Speaker, artist, and educator living in NYC. Using her background in dance, yoga, mindfulness/meditation, Reiki, self-psychology, and sports psychology, she guides people to achieve their greatest potential by connecting the mind, body, and spirit, working through their fears, and empowering them to overcome obstacles. She holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Emerson College, an MFA in Dance Performance/Choreography from Smith College, is a RYT-200 Certified Yoga Instructor, and is currently finishing her Reiki I and II certifications. Stephanie has presented, led workshops, and consulted for many businesses and schools all over the US including National Dance Education Organization, National Council of Teachers of English, The Lovett Learning Institute, and several wellness retreats.

www.stephanie-simpson.com

 

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