I've moved my active blogging to my Plug Into Power blog - join me there!
When I talk about performance, I mean every time the body is used to do something. Athletics and sport, yes. But also the traditional sense of the word as in acting, dancing and making music. Running, taking a Pilates class and mowing the lawn are all physical tasks. A successful performance, one where we don't get injured and we accomplish the task with efficiency and power, means we must make adjustments based on sensations like muscle tension, exertion levels, and fatigue. But this is only a small small part of the data being delivered by our nervous system.
Last week on WHYY's Fresh Air, Terri Gross interviewed Audra McDonald who was nominated for a Tony for her performance as Bess in "Porgy and Bess". In discussing a duet with a co-star, she describes using other senses in guiding her performance:
Terri Gross: You know what I've often wondered? When you're singing at full throttle in a duet like you do with "What You Want With Bess" in Porgy and Bess, and you and Crown are singing opposite each other, I think the airwaves must be pulsing ... because you're physically close together, you're both singing full out and with ... volume to fill a theater. Can you physically feel each other's voices?
Audra McDonald: Absolutely. Not only that, it's a strange sensation because your head is filled with so much sound... For me, when I'm singing with (Crown) because he's got such a big, ginormous rich voice.... this is not going to make much sense, but I can't hear. It all becomes sensation. I physically cannot actually hear what is going on, (hearing) becomes just the sensation in my body and around me... Because of all that sound, and the blood pumping and ... the sounds vibrating, a normal sense of hearing kind of goes out the window and it becomes more about sensation.
If Ms McDonald clung to a rigid concept of "hearing" she would really have to struggle to isolate her own voice from the tidal wave of information pounding her nervous system. Instead she has expanded her awareness to include everything that might help guide her performance.
When you work out or play your sport or do your activities, are you open to all the data out there? If you automatically filter it OUT, you could be missing out on a sea of valuable information that would help refine your performance. Next time you have the opportunity, open up your awareness and check if you've been missing anything.
The scene Ms McDonald refers to is below.
An About Me page should be brief and to the point.
Don't be too talky or complicated.
However, in a few paragraphs I must confirm that our pasts are compatible
and connect our futures.
Distill. Distill. Distill what I love and my life's work
knowledge wrestled from the ether
compassion for frailty
the precious potential of movement
into one or two sentences.
An About Me page should be brief and to the point.
Don't detour or wander.
But I need to tell you
I'm an apprentice to a long-dead magician
his commandments committed
to my solar plexus and absorbed by the soles of my feet and the tender thin skin between my toes
Fractal wanderings and branching meanderings
spill across a webpage with virtually no limitations on length or luminosity
These intangible edges
are not real
the page just grows every time I add a line
but an About Me page should be brief and to the point.
The tools of my trade inspire musings on the illusive edges of humanity
temporal and spiritual
I'm a dancer whose quest for knowledge
began and ended with my mind
for that was all I knew
that was all I could know
the need to understand
led to the question
led to understanding the answer
led to dancing the conversation
I just needed to wrap my thoughts around my body
and taste the idea of movement.
I'm taking a seminar on Fitness, Vitality and Well-being and many people are interested in calculating their heart rate without having to buy or wear a heart rate monitor. Here's the solution from the American Running Association: how easily you can carry on a conversation will tell you about your heart rate. Very convenient!60-69% max heart rate: you can carry on a conversation70-79% max heart rate: you make an audible "huff" between phrases in conversation80-89% max heart rate: audible heavy breathing and you can't carry on a normal conversation90-99% max heart rate: labored breathing and general discomfortDetails:Mild intensity occurs at 50 to 59% maximal heart rate (mhr) and is your slowest jog. Your heart rate at that pace will be 10 to 15 beats per minute faster than at a brisk walk, though both paces are the same in minutes per mile. (The increase reflects the additional energy needed to get airborne between steps.) It’s best to take short, quick steps at this pace.Light exertion allows you to carry on a conversation while running at a very comfortable and slow tempo that feels “held back.” That is, you consciously prevent yourself from moving at a faster pace. This pace is the bedrock of your training; the fairly high metabolic activity (60 to 69% mhr) that you can nevertheless continue for a very long time allows you to put significant mileage on your legs with each outing. These long runs are the base upon which faster running is built.Steady state feels quick and relaxed with deep, slow, inaudible breathing and a discernable “huff” between phrases of conversation. It occurs at 70 to 79% mhr.Threshold running is characterized by audible, heavy breathing at 80 to 89% mhr. The tempo is rapid; you feel that you are pressing yourself, but the intensity is tolerable. Someone next to you will be able to hear each exhalation. You won’t be able to carry on a normal conversation because you feel yourself concentrating to maintain the pace.Ragged edge running occurs at 90 to 94% of mhr. This is a fast, forced tempo with labored breathing and general discomfort.Maximum exertion is the type that occurs at the finish of a 5K race. At 95 to 100% mhr, breathing is hyper-fast, and you strain to maintain the pace against extreme discomfort and fatigue.
The NYTimes has an interesting article discussing the findings of a Parkinson's Disease researcher.
"Scientific discoveries can be serendipitous, and so it was when Jay L. Alberts, then a Parkinson’s disease researcher at Emory University in Atlanta, mounted a tandem bike with Cathy Frazier, a Parkinson’s patient. The two were riding the 2003 RAGBRAI bicycle tour across Iowa, hoping to raise awareness of the neurodegenerative disease and “show people with Parkinson’s that you don’t have to sit back and let the disease take over your life,” Dr. Alberts said.
But something unexpected happened after the first day’s riding. One of Ms. Frazier’s symptoms was micrographia, a condition in which her handwriting, legible at first, would quickly become smaller, more spidery and unreadable as she continued to write. After a day of pedaling, though, she signed a birthday card with no difficulty, her signature “beautifully written,” Dr. Alberts said. She also told him that she felt as if she didn’t have Parkinson’s."
The article goes on to propose "forced" exercise, that is exercise that is performed at an intensity higher than the patient would normally have chosen, may have significant beneficial effects on Parkinson's Disease characteristics. I think it is important to recognize that this probably has nothing to do with the patient's internal motivation and whether or not the patient is willing or unwilling to do the exercise. This isn't an unethical use of force by any means! But this *is* a wonderfully intelligent and elegant study design that examines the benefits of the least expensive and yet most effective therapies available to us: exercise.
Didn't know the interior of your lungs was like a shag rug? Oh yeah, we're talking David Cassidy and Jell-O recipes. This fascinating photo shows it all! The shaggy pink threads are the alveoli filled with blood and the blue tubes/channels are bronchioles, which carry in the oxygen and carry away the waste products like carbon dioxide, water and, if present, alcohol vapor.
Now, here's for the imagery: imagine how these shaggy filaments look as air comes rushing into the space, eddying and swirling like the fluttering of leaves on trees:
A deeper and more vigorous inhale/exhale might bend and sway enormous stalks of alveoli like this. (Yes, it's windy where I live!)
This fluttering & shimmering is happening inside your lungs with every breath. Your lungs are more than a bellows or a pair of balloons sitting statically in your chest. They move, ripple, undulate, flex and respond to the wind currents.
Now soften your back muscles, your neck muscles, your chest muscles. Breathe in and out, in and out..... in your mind's eye visualize this responsive rippling inside your lungs. The next step is a bit more advanced but still quite do-able: if you could feel this rippling undulation of the lungs within your rib-cage, what would it feel like? Stop. Think about that for a few seconds. Imagine it. Take a few minutes to just breathe and imagine feeling the lungs shimmering in your ribcage. The crucial part is the imagining of the sensations. As you get familiar with the tools of imagery, you will transform the way you relate to your body.
The above is the flyer for my upcoming August 25 workshop being held in the Monterey California area. I will be covering the upper body: shoulders, neck, spine, and upper back muscles. If you've never attended a Franklin Method workshop, you will love it. Have you ever heard of the Adventure Education course called "Outward Bound"? Where teamwork and adventure come together in high-ropes courses, ziplines, camping in the wilderness and rock climbing? Well, this is the equivalent workshop that goes inward instead of outward... this is an "Inward Bound" Workshop!! You will explore, discover mental skills and simple techniques to improve your movement, play games, learn imagery for relaxation and improved musculoskeletal skills. Drop me an e-mail if you'd like to attend, I'd love to have you there!
OK, I don't intend for this to become a cooking blog, but I am a bit of a foodie so it's still representative of my interests. This is a fantastic hot-weather dish, vegetarian with Mediterranean flavors. YUM!
Mediterranean Salad with Garbanzo Beans, Feta & Mint
1 can Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Scant 1/4 c. chopped fresh mint
1/4 diced red onion
1/4 peeled and seeded cucumber, diced
.5 oz crumbled feta cheese (~1/8 c.)
1.5 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. chopped black olives
1.5 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove (pushed through garlic press)
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients and serve!
I offered my gluten-free Almond Cookie recipe to some friends on Twitter and now I realize I don't really have a place to post it.... except here. So forgive me, my readers of somatic-ness. But perhaps you will like a wonderful cookie recipe too. And it doesn't have to be gluten-free, you can use regular flour. It's a lovely cookie, crispy on the edges and chewy in the center. Keep some of the dough in the freezer for cookie attacks.
11 ozs (3 cups) Almond flour (sometimes called Almond Meal)
1.5 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free All-purpose Flour (or regular AP Flour if you don't care about gluten)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4.25 ozs (1/2 cup plus 1.5 tsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup (13 ozs) sugar
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
2 XL eggs (4 ozs total)
1 cup (4 oz.) whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (sometimes I use Trader Joe's toasted sliced almonds and just crush in my hand)
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the almond flour, AP flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until smooth. Add the lemon zest and eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl. With mixer on low, add the flour mixture, scraping sides as necessary. Fold in the chopped almonds with a spatula until incorporated. Put the dough on a big piece of plastic wrap and pat into a 9 x 6.5" rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in freezer to firm up, at least a few hours and probably overnight.
2. Preheat over to 375 degrees. Take out your frozen dough and place in front of you with the 9" sides at top and bottom. Cut the rectangle vertically into 3 sections of 3" x 6.5", then take each section and turn so the shorter 3" sides are along the top and bottom. Cut horizontally into 1/2" slices. You should have 13 three inch long cookies. Place cookies on parchment-paper lined cookie sheets. With a pastry brush, brush the top of each cookie with egg wash.
3. Bake for 16-19 minutes or until golden brown. Yum!