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Autoimmune disease and Trauma: The Dailey Method Connection

Autoimmune disease and Trauma: The Dailey Method Connection

Written by Casey Hersch, MSW, LCSW

As I stepped into the gym for my daily workout, I looked around and saw how many people were staring at screens, listening to music, or lost in thought. I imagined many of the thoughts were focused on the end of the workout rather than a moment by moment experience of the workout. Some people looked at their clocks, maybe they were counting down the time remaining before the workout ended. Sadly, people didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves; I didn’t see people laughing while on the treadmill. I used to be one of these people. Exercise was a means to an end. It was a way I kept a lean figure, reduced stress, and maintained muscle mass. There were many days I didn’t feel like going to the gym, but I did anyways, because I was addicted to fitness. I loved how it made me feel as my brain’s happy chemicals flooded my body. 

Today, I view exercise very different than I did a decade ago. I am grateful my attitude and behaviors changed. Had I continued my intense workouts–deriving little joy from them, and straining my joints so I could feel surges of happy chemicals– I would have missed the health benefits I had yet to realize.

I discovered The Dailey Method at a time when I needed it the most. My passion for ballroom dance, and a desire to strengthen my body so I could dance with less injury, drew me to Dailey Method. But once I began, the reasons why I made a long-term commitment to Dailey Method were much bigger. Being truthful to myself, I needed to admit I could no longer sustain the high intensity, cardio blast, calorie busting workouts I was accustomed to. I had Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune inflammatory disease affecting the large and small intestine. While exercise was a big part of my healing, because it reduced stress AND inflammation in my body (the hallmark of autoimmune illnesses), my exercise approach was not in balance. I needed to care for my body and support its healing in ways that rejuvenated it from the inside out. It wasn’t until I discovered Dailey Method that I started to understand how structured workouts can be fun and productive at the same time. I also began to realize that it is possible to take care of one’s body and nurture it while accomplishing fitness goals. 

Trauma and Autoimmune disease separate me from my body

I had a long history of disregarding my body. I experienced childhood trauma that shaped my understanding of my relationship with my body. I didn’t know how to be comfortable in my body because as a child, I had to hide my feelings to keep myself safe. My childhood was dangerous and all I wanted to do was escape my body. This was compounded by chronic illness. I hated my body because it was a place of discomfort and unexplained symptoms. One way I coped with my relationship with my body was to over exercise and push my body beyond its limits; this made me feel in control. I had so many stress hormones pumping through my body from a natural response to trauma called ‘fight or flight,’ that I couldn’t manage the resulting anxiety and nervousness. Compulsive exercising helped me release and cope with an abundance of stress hormones. I thought this was a healthy way to cope. However, balance is critical in order for true healing to take place; this involves an integration of physical and emotional healing as well as incorporating one’s passion (what makes life worth living). Exercising too hard and depleting my already vulnerable immune system was not balance. A much healthier approach to cope with trauma and the stressors of chronic illness was to develop an authentic relationship with my body. This would allow me to understand my feelings, notice sensations and symptoms, and express them appropriately through mental health therapy, activities that brought me joy, and supportive relationships. Dailey Method provided one way for me cultivate this relationship with my body.

Strengthening my relationship with my body

A perfect transition for hard-core cardio fans, Dailey Method gets the heart pumping and the muscles working with varied intensities; it is empowering because there are many choices to make it one’s own. Dailey Method is typically not called a workout but instead is called a ‘practice.’ Language creates meaning, and practice suggests an experience beyond an exercise regimen. I wasn’t participating to get my workout done; I was participating in a practice that involved all parts of my body and self. This practice was my own and much like my dancing practices, it inspired growth and personal development along the way. For the first time, I accomplished my need to have a challenging physical workout BUT in a balanced, gentle, and mindful way. This was a foundation for self-care and moving through my life with body awareness. 

Principles of Dailey Method transfer to LIFE

Each exercise draws attention to the inside of the body and how all parts of the body work together to support each other. Through noticing one’s foot foundation, there is an invitation to appreciate how our bodies bring us confidence and ground us to ourselves and the world around us. Dailey Method emphasizes alignment but not only in the sense of our physical bodies standing straight. The focus on alignment expands to a holistic philosophy: Only once our bodies are aligned and our authentic selves participate in this collaboration with our bodies, are we able to be aligned in our greater purpose and day to day intentions. Our bodies are always communicating with us; sometimes the messages are subtle and we ignore them. But, Dailey Method awakens an awareness of the language of the body and this makes us more mindful of what it needs to heal and feel good. 

Mind-body approaches enhance healing

For those of us with trauma, autoimmune disease, and chronic illness, it is easy to develop a detached relationship from one’s body. Movement is very important for healing. Our bodies express themselves through movement and this is an essential component in healing from trauma. Illness is never one dimensional. Healing is always enhanced with approaches that show how the body works for us and in coordination with each part of the body and our environment. Dailey Method honors these connections and because of my practice, I am making connections with myself that are furthering my healing.

Finding meaning in exercise

Today, I no longer view exercise as a means to an end. It is a process where I can be in the moment and enjoy the lessons my body teaches me about life. As I continue to develop my Dailey Method practice, it supports the other practices in my life. I feel confident and empowered as a woman. I know myself better than anyone else knows me. Because of this, I like my body, not only for its physical strength, but for the limitless potential it has to heal and enhance my life experiences. I feel subtle changes in my body as it learns to move with ease, but I know the changes that have taken place in the rest of my life because of it. 

 

Casey Hersch, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker, author, and founder of www.lightyoursparkle.life. She specializes in chronic illness, trauma, and integrative models for healing. Inspired by her own struggles with autoimmune illnesses and trauma, she educates about empowerment and how to build individualized healing plans.

“I HATE MY BODY”….. SOUND FAMILIAR?

While at a women’s conference earlier this month, we were asked to participate in an exercise called STAND UP FOR YOUR SISTER.  We were all given a sheet of paper with different challenges we might have encountered or experiences we have had and asked to check the boxes off for the ones that applied to us. After completing the exercise, we folded them up and passed them around the room of 7800 people until no one knew who had completed their form.  THEN, they read the questions out loud, and you were asked to stand up for anything you checked off the list.

There were lots of hard things on the list, and more things that applied to a vast majority of the room than I would have liked.  The one that broke my heart was I HATE MY BODY.

I swear, 90% of the room stood up.

I HATE MY BODY.  Note: It didn’t say, “I wish I could change something about my body.” it said, “I HATE MY BODY.”

First, it made me sad……sad that so many women could HATE the body in which they live every second of every day for their entire life.  THEN, it made me mad….DAMMIT media with your airbrushing and the 90’s waif epidemic where so many of the women in my circle were impacted by the idea that somehow not having ribs showing or (gasp) touching thighs somehow tells the world (and apparently ourselves) that we aren’t quite as deserving or strong as a woman thinner than we.   AND FINALLY, it made me excited. That’s right. Excited. Not because there are so many of us running around HATING ourselves….that part still makes me tear up…but because we can DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Yep.  We can do something about it, and it doesn’t involve a diet, an exercise plan (although I’ve got a recommendation for a kickin’ barre and cycle studio if you need one), or plastic surgeon.  We can DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT just lying down. We can DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT while driving in our car, sitting on our couch, or folding laundry. We can CHANGE OUR THINKING regarding our bodies.

Your body EVERY DAY…does amazing things.

YOUR BODY gets you out of bed, into the bathroom, and gives you the mobility to get through your day.

YOUR BODY lets you SEE and HEAR conversations with your loved ones and enjoy things you love and care about like music, a grandchild’s soccer game, or interesting lunch conversation with a dear friend.

YOUR BODY is the vessel where you open your arms and give and receive LOVE from your kids, your spouse, your friends.

YOUR BODY moves you from one place to another where you can LIVE!

Has your body…

Held the hand of a sick or scared friend?
Made a human being?
Danced in celebration of victory?
Felt the wind in your face as you rode to the top of a Ferris wheel and your stomach dropped?
Walked you down an aisle towards matrimony?
Crossed a finish line you never thought you’d cross?

Yes?  That’s YOUR BODY.  It deserves your LOVE.  HATING it is abuse.

What happens to an abused child, an abused animal?  It shrinks. It gets frightened and doesn’t feel safe to be who they are.

Did you know that there are studies that show if you speak kindly to a plant, it grows faster and thrives more than a plant that is spoken to negatively?  A FICUS stunts when you ignore it or mistreat it. What do you think is going to happen to YOU when you HATE your body?

So, what now?  Fine! Christina, I get it, you’re right! Thank you. But now, I just feel bad about hating my body, but I still hate my body. What can we DO? I am an action girl. I also realize that change doesn’t come without time and a lot of hard work. Work in self-talk can be the hardest work that we do. So, I have an idea. This week – when you wake up.  BEFORE you get out of bed, I want you to speak love into your body.  THANK YOUR BODY for THREE THINGS that it is going to do for you this day.  THREE THINGS that you are grateful for (for me, writing it down helps – but do what works for you.) THEN, when you go to bed, I want you to THANK YOUR BODY for what it DID FOR YOU TODAY.

Did you catch that flight JUST IN TIME because your body hustled, albeit super ungracefully while knocking a tall guy’s coffee out of his hand in concourse B, and got you to the gate right before the flight attendant closed the door?  Say, “I’m thankful for my legs and their ability to jog in business casual apparel.” Did your body sweat and get sunburned while you weeded your garden to make it beautiful for a BBQ your hosting tomorrow for friends?  “I’m thankful for my ability to move onto the ground and create beauty.” Did your body provide a soft shoulder for a co-worker to cry on while you learned of her recent marital trouble? “I’m thankful for my body and my ability to physically support someone when they need me.”

YOU ARE LIVING INSIDE YOUR BODY. …and you deserve to love that space.

I’d love to hear how this goes for you – and if you have ideas to share that can help us cultivate feelings of appreciation for these amazing tools that let us LIVE, I’m all ears.

Christina Vance is The Dailey Method Studio Owner in Colleyville Texas, mother of three, and passionate about empowering people everywhere to be their best selves. 

Word of the Month: Transcend

The purpose of life is not to transcend the body, but to embody the transcendent.

-H.H. Dalai Lama

The word Transcend is a little esoteric, I know, but when it is embraced it has the potential to be transforming. Life is beautiful and amazing, but it also can be difficult and overwhelming. To be able to transcend is to be able to overcome; to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects in our lives. To transcend is to be able to rise above and go beyond limits – further than we could ever imagine possible.

This is a very relevant word for The Dailey Method right now because we have been incorporating Dailey Meditations into our practice to help ourselves and our Students continue to find more balance in our day to day lives. And meditation is an amazing tool to help us transcend the circumstances in our lives. Our teacher, Lorna Bennett, has years of experience with teaching meditation as well as being a Life Coach. She’s recorded albums for us to use in class and at home and now has recorded videos for our online streaming platform that will be available to view and practice this month.

Lorna says: “For me, meditation is a tool for both Transcendence (recognizing I am bigger than this body, this age, this experience) and Embodiment (feeling grateful I get to be alive IN this body, this moment, this sensual experience right now!) Being in meditation is like a delicious dance between those two realms (Consciousness & Embodiment) — being-with everything that’s happening, and at the same time recognizing I am the witness not the experience. I love the way meditation lets me feel unconditionally peaceful and ecstatically alive —Both at once.”“Meditation can be sensual — a way of turning ourselves ON mentally, physically, sexually, spiritually — every day.  And, meditation can be transcendent — a way of connecting with the part of us that is bigger than our body, the part of us that is the eternal witness not the human experience of embodiment.”

There are other ways to work on incorporating the power of Transcendence outside of meditation.

A practice that I have recently incorporated in my life is the act of future journaling. I was inspired to do this while attending The Brunch Series with Danika Brysha: (Which I highly recommend by the way!) This is one of my favorite evening routines. By writing about how I envision and imagine my future, I am able to Transcend past where I am right now and focus and direct my energy towards the positive direction I want my life to take. It also helps me stay focused on continual self care during the process.

Here are some ways to Transcend in your Dailey Method practice life:

1) MUSIC: When a song comes on in class that you love – allow the melody to carry you to a place that transcends your workout. When the music softens, have your movement match that energy – when the music reaches a crescendo, see if you can feel yourself on that heightened journey with respect to how many more repetitions you can carry out in an exercise. Build and Transcend on the intensity of the experience.

2) INTENTIONALITY: Welcome  a positive belief or a comment into your practice–a belief or meaningful phrase that lifted you up in some way once in your life. Allow this thought or idea to become an action by saying it to yourself several times in class during challenging sections. I promise you that your mindful focus will allow you to Transcend a potentially mundane practice or class into an AMAZING journey! Let’s go!

3) ATTITUDE: Transcend what you believe to be possible by tackling every challenge we give you in class today with an “I CAN DO” attitude. Take that self-empowerment with you as you walk out of here!

Happy 2019! I hope this year allows us all to transcend towards all the beauty we deserve in life!

Jill Dailey

There are many ways to be free. One of them is to transcend reality by imagination, as I try to do. Anais Nin

 

Word of the Month: Connect

WOM Connect

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.  Herman Melville

One of the things that I appreciate the most about The Dailey Method is that it’s an environment that invites and nurtures connection in a number of different ways. We all desire and crave connection. Connecting with our students and our communities is something that we value and is at the core of our training. Here are different ways we train our teachers and staff to connect, and can help you to focus on connecting with others and yourself this month.

  1. Connect with someone through eye contact. With a store clerk, the local barista and definitely with people that are important in your life. This is my absolute favorite way to connect with people. It lets them know I’m present with them, I see them, and that I am truly listening to what they’re saying. It’s even better if a smile accompanies it!
  2. Connect to what it takes you to get to class in light of your busy life. Notice the steps you took to be here 1, 2, 3, 4  or 5 times a week. Thank and appreciate yourself for taking those steps.
  3. Connect to one to two steps you can take in class to deepen your practice versus doing an exercise the same way you’ve always done it. Try holding the depth in thigh work a little longer than you normally would, resetting plank by going onto your knees to find deeper engagement, or self adjusting in back dancing with your hands on your hips to sense the squareness of your pelvis and achieve better alignment.
  4. Connect to your breath. Only by leaning into challenge or adversity do we ever see it through. Breathe and lean in so that you can meet physical challenges in class today in a new way. Let it help you find length and depth of engagement or push you through a difficult section of class. Take this breath and connection with you into the remainder of your day.
  5. Connect internally with your mind and your body. At The Dailey Method we work on cuing micro adjustments so you can achieve better alignment and get deeper into a position. This focus can also translate to a much needed meditative focus on your body and breath. Connection to oneself requires that we carve out the space to be present with ourselves and get out of our head. It can feel overwhelming, I know, but it’s as important in creating a more balanced and peaceful life. Just think how your might be affected by this small shift!
  6. Commit to connect with or to say hi to someone in the studio today, before or after class. It could be a person you’ve seen in passing, have always thought was interesting, or that you just happen to be standing next to. We spend so much of life with our heads down and on our to-do list and while you may not know this person, it’s possible you could be missing opportunities to meet amazing people you were meant to become connected to in this lifetime. The more we can connect with our communities the more potential support we can both give and receive in our lives.

 

With eye contact and a smile!  Jill

 

The Dailey Method Fit Tip/ Parallel Squat

Fit tip/Parallel Squat

Knowledge is power! At The Dailey Method we understand that the more knowledge we can give you, the more power you each have to continually evolve within and deepen your practice. Education is a primary key to changing the way we all move for the better.

Take Parallel Squat as an example:

This is an exercise that has been around for a long time and it is highlighted in many different types of fitness classes because of its effectiveness. It’s primarily thought of as a thigh exercise but at TDM we consider it one of our “thigh/seat” combos because there is tremendous strength to be gained in your gluteals and hamstrings on the upward part of the movement. These muscles live at the base of your spine and help you stabilize in all movement. They assist you in achieving better balance and do a huge job with respect to supporting a healthier spine as you move through life.  

Like all of the exercises we teach, Parallel Squat is a functional exercise. While aligning and maintaining neutral spine during the movement you are training your body to bend and lift in its most supported state. This translates in so many practical ways and applies to your everyday activities in life. Picking up your kids when they need you, or sitting down and getting up off of a chair are only a few notable and integral ways to understand the importance of the health and strength of these muscles. Your mind and body will work together to create this movement safely and efficiently because you’ve already practiced the training in our classes, online videos or on your own.

Parallel squat is also an exercise that provides you with the tremendous benefits of strengthening your knee joint. This can help offset or rehabilitate knee problems, especially the more common ones that are medial or lateral to the joint.

It’s pertinent to know that there are subtle differences in the location of the acetabulum (the socket of your pelvis where your femur inserts) and the length of the femur (thigh bone). This results in making different squat variations more or less challenging in different bodies. Always prioritize alignment and active muscular engagement over depth and range of motion. Your neighbor may be lower but you’re both doing what’s ideal for your own body type.

Here’s how to do the perfect Parallel Squat.

  1. Feet are parallel and hip distance apart. This can be visualized by lining up the center of your foot with the bony protuberance in the front of your pelvis (ASIS).
  2. Feel your weight distribution evenly through all four corners of your feet, bend your knees as deeply as you can. Your knees will come forward of your ankle joint but must stay behind your toes.
  3. Lift your torso as upright as you can, maintaining neutral spine. It will be a parallel angle with your shins but the more you focus on lifting your torso upright the more capacity you have to
  4. While extending your legs focus on the energy of pressing upright from your gluteals and the energy of dragging your heels behind you to engage your hamstrings. On the lowering position envision the elongation of your quadriceps. This will keep them engaged throughout and help encourage a longer, stronger muscle.
  5. As you bend your knees, keeping them aligned over the centerline of the foot gives you the support of both the inner thighs and the outer thighs. Pay attention to hugging your inner shins towards one another while pressing your inner thighs away from each other at the same time throughout the bending and lengthening. This action is referred to as “shins in, thighs out’ and helps you maintain engagement of both inner and outer thighs so you’re hugging muscle to bone and optimizing stability and power – front to back, side to side. 
  6. Stay present in your movement. Use your mind to focus on how your body feels and your teacher’s words to help you achieve optimal alignment in order to get deeper into your position.

In future fit tips I’ll visit a wider squat stance in a turned-out squat so that you can note the difference and determine what feels best in your body!

Happy aligned and engaged squatting!

Jill

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