Written by Dr. Jesscia Groves on June 10, 2018
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of movement?
Is it a particular body part?
A sequence of events?
Perhaps a person?
For me, the word movement immediately makes me think of connection. The act of moving requires communication between synapses, both within the brain and musculature. Neurons fire, signals are received and passed along. Even the simple act of lifting a finger requires a cascade of connections within the body. If one connection is disrupted, the entire sequence can get lost. Without connection, movement cannot occur. But I would also argue, that without movement, a connection cannot occur.
Let me begin with a few facts that you may or may not know about me.
I am a runner, and I have completed races at every distance all the way to marathon.
I suffered a leg strain while training for my 2016 marathon that led to a 2-year hiatus from running, and some really dark moments.
During my hiatus, I began exploring movement, which subsequently led me to sobriety.
I have been sober from drugs for 15 years, sober from alcohol for 23 months.
Natural movement training and sobriety allowed me to find connection to myself, others, and nature again.
Connection. A single word with layers of depth. A power word that many fear and all seek. A word that I had no idea I had lost until my body failed me. When you are in the process of training for something big, like your first marathon, you reach levels of physical and emotional strength you never knew you had. You push past boundaries you thought existed for you. You think and feel a lot. Unless, you are disconnected from yourself, as I was.
Running was my escape. My way out of the dark depths of my past. My way to survive the chaos of life, the really hard shit, and the everyday hard stuff. On the road, I would let go, but as soon as I got home…all the things were waiting. Waiting patiently for me to deal with them. Except, I didn’t want to. Or maybe I couldn’t. Some days I am pretty sure I lacked the appropriate tools.
I’m big on changing the way I feel, and running was one of the ways I did that. It was the closest I had ever felt to being in tune with my body in a safe way, turns out I was barely scratching the surface. I wasn’t really feeling and thinking, I was just running. When I wasn’t running, I was sinking myself into whatever else helped me endure the problems of life. Like alcohol. Run in the day, drink in the night. Feelings changed, anxiety managed (or so I thought), Jessica was in control. Until I wasn’t, and that is when I got injured.
The injury came after a perfect 19 mile run in my hometown. On tired legs, I agreed to a class at Rubber Soul Yoga with my then running buddy. Like all things, I have a tendency to overdo, and I overdid that yoga class. I remember the moment too. It was a single leg pose on my right leg. I was shaking, my leg was burning, and when it ended, long after I should have stopped myself, I knew. The thing about yoga and all movement is that the ego should be checked at the door. You HAVE to listen to your body.
This incident landed me a pretty bad leg strain late in my training. This was pre-RockTape for us, so I knew what I faced: training with pain. I was so mad, so angry that this had happened TO me. Never once acknowledging my role and the fact it was my body or the warning signs that had been present. Nope. It was life. Life is so unfair. Running became a chore, and as anyone who has dealt with pain knows, emotions began surfacing. My ‘why’ fell apart, just as I did. I eeked out that race. I remember those last 3 miles were some of the hardest I have ever walked/jogged in my life. But I finished. I cried at the end as my son ran me in the chute. I did not at all feel accomplished, I just felt pain.
My solution was another all or none approach, I stopped running. I was furious at my body, how could it betray me? Marvin stepped in and suggested I do something else for a while, hoping I would find my role in our business. Maybe he knew I needed to find myself too. This was when I signed up for my first solo trip post-kids. I attended a MovNat workshop. I didn’t know that during my time off from running my coach had been slipping natural movement into my regimen. I just knew that I complained a lot. Slowly getting better despite all the whining about how hard it was and learning new things. I hated feeling vulnerable. I was strong, I used to be a runner. Why was I doing stuff other than “gymming?” Isn’t that how you get stronger and better? I would learn that answer at that workshop.
It was March 2017 when I truly began to discover Jessica, as both a teacher and a mover. I found I could do almost everything being taught, and I loved the way the techniques were instructed. Movement was for everyone, and everyone you could imagine was at that workshop. But the curriculum was only half of it, the rest was the community I got dropped into. The people that I connected with as I connected more deeply with myself. I still stay in touch with a few people from that workshop, one of whom ended up being the voice I needed as I became sober later that same year. I quickly followed that experience up by attending a women’s only certification in May 2017. I loved how CAPABLE natural movement made me feel. I felt strong again. I was having fun. My leg strain wasn’t an issue. I was connecting not only with my own body but with other people. The women’s only course landed me in another arena I didn’t feel ready for, one filled with badass women. It was here that I began to learn what it was to lean in, be vulnerable yet safe. These women taught me what trust really meant and began the deep defining of true connection for me. Little did I know just how much I was healing.
Around this same time as my certification trip, I determined I needed to go back on birth control. The return of my menses post-breastfeeding my second child had brought my endometriosis back full swing. Unbearable pain once a month, work and life disruption; there was no way I was dealing with this again. I have endured it since I was 15, diagnosed surgically at 20. I went back on the Depo-Provera shot, only to have a severe reaction. Intense mood swings, plus severe vertigo. I was scared, how would I survive 3 months of this hell? After a pretty intense anxiety attack, I utilized my neuroscience education to brainstorm ways to help my body weather the storm that lay ahead. How could I assist my wonky estrogen levels? What dietary changes impact estrogen? Two big ones came to mind immediately: Caffeine and alcohol.
Awesome, I will quit those…
Turns out, I’m ok with a life of decaf.
Turns out, I was not ok with a life of sobriety.
It’s a hard day when you realize you might have a problem with alcohol, or any drug. It’s not something our society embraces warmly. We seem to be perfectly fine with depression and anxiety, but heaven forbid you to have a substance use disorder. And I do.
The good news is that I found the last barrier between me and myself. This was my last hurdle to understanding connection. I think back now and realize that it took all of my life lessons to bring me to this point. I needed movement before connection because connection was the hardest thing I have ever achieved. Connecting with me meant looking at all the things I ran from. Connecting with me meant I had to feel.
Spoiler alert: Movement is Emotion.
Yet somehow, I was A-ok with the feelings movement brought up. Regaining my strength brought about self-confidence. I knew I could survive this. I knew I would be alright. Connecting with others allowed me to have a community to lean on, as I reached out and found new connections with amazing humans living in recovery. It was my movement community that nudged me to find this other community, and it is here where I was welcomed just as I am.
I teach movement. I coach connection.
Sometimes the only way back into ourselves is learning that it is safe to breathe.
Yes, you need connection to move. But sometimes, you need to move to connect.
Living my best life,