Emily Athena | The Dance of Growth and Sweet Surrender
How to be with injury and the aging process as a dancer, athlete, or anyone who moves their body.
Aging, dancing, growth, healing, injury, truth, wisdom
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The Dance of Growth and Sweet Surrender

Photo by www.dankutler.com


It’s true what those who came before me said; ‘Your dancing will change’.


Age happens to all of us, no matter how much we resist. The young, supple, growing, injury free, full of energy body has an expiration. Not a hard date per se, but a gradual shift into something a bit less resilient, a little slower, stiffer, and achier than before.


But with age comes experience. And if we are willing to learn from the school of life, age may also grant us wisdom.


Time leads to mastery. The more time spent with something, the more mastery will develop.


On one hand we have the natural decline of the physical body, and on the other we gain the gifts of wisdom and mastery. What a contradictory, yet juicy combination for a dancer, athlete, or anyone who creates with the body.


Personally, I’m navigating the natural aging process in conjunction with a back injury that never healed properly. A story that I know is not unique to me. Many of us have been sidelined with injury and pain, some of which heal completely (I’ve had many such injuries) and some that become chronic (my trusty left sacro-iliac joint).


An active life with pain becomes a dance in and of itself. It’s the forward backward, push pull of how much to train and move and how much to rest and recover. I don’t know that a perfect balance can be achieved here. We are far too complex, cyclical, and constantly evolving to stick to a regimen that promises the perfect balance. (Apply this theory to the rest of your life if you wish). Rather, there is being present to the in the moment alchemy. To follow a prescription is to shut down your wisdom. Yes, see professionals, seek advice and support, AND it is your job to feel into what is serving you and what is not, each and everyday. It’s an exercise in presence and taking your power back, and it’s not always easy. Becoming empowered to listen to and respond appropriately to your physical pain, whether through age or injury, is the first step in doing so with other discomforts in your life.


The tricky thing about physical pain is that it’s never purely physical. Pain is a sensation that inherently links with our emotions. Yes, these can be uncoupled, but one loves to trigger the other and usually we feel some kind of way about our pain. The thoughts triggered by physical pain are often the most challenging part of the puzzle. The ‘I can’t, I’ll never again, I suck, why me, what the fuck, if only’ beliefs will run wild if not wrangled and compared to actual reality. Healing is a holistic game, not a certain formula of rehab sets and reps (though those have their benefit too).


A question I keep coming back to is, is it worth it? I ask myself: is the time, energy, and discomfort it takes to heal and grow worth the results, however small and incremental? Yes. Is my willingness to let go of old limiting stories worth stumbling around in the new territory of the unknown? Yes. Is engaging in my soul’s purpose of dancing worth the pain I may feel after? Yes. Sometimes feeling pain is worth the sweet relief of soul satisfaction, for pain is a part of life, but suffering doesn’t have to be. I invite you to ask yourself the same question in any situation, is what you are doing worth it to you?


At thirty-four, and with a nine year chronic injury, it’s true what they said, my dancing has changed. I’ve lost some of what I used to have due to injury, reduced training and age, but something else is growing that wasn’t there before. I don’t jump, fall to the floor and split like I used to. I don’t have the stamina to dance full out for a twenty minute piece anymore. In place of that, a certain quality of being-ness is emerging. A sense of presence and nuance to the quality and character of each step. There is a sense of release as I turn myself over to the universe to be moved. I’m shifting from a dancer to a dan-ce. One who is moved, instead of one who moves. I am growing into who I always knew myself to be – a dance mystic. I can’t yet articulate the messages I get through the dance. And maybe I never will, for they come through the language of movement, not words. What I have found, for now, is a sense of presence and the feeling that I am becoming who I was destined to be, and it doesn’t look at all like I imagined. I’ve found, for now, truth.



Are you seeking support on your healing journey? I have a rocking combination of personal experience and formal education in the realms of physical, sexual, emotional, and mental healing. I offer a safe container for you to learn, grow, and heal. Feeling the call? Send me a message HERE and let’s talk.


For those of you in the Bay Area, I am teaching a brand new workshop with the brilliant April Taylor on September 23rd called Reclaiming Wholeness: A holistic healing workshop for performers. To learn more or sign up, click the link https://reclaimingwholeness.eventbrite.com

Questions on whether or not this is right for you? Send me a message HERE.


Remember, healing is a holistic game….

Yours on the path,


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