Emotional Vitality

My clients in perimenopause talk of two primary issues: vitality is weakened & stress has increased.  What can they do?

Most of us agree that chronic stress is not conducive to long term health.  It can cause increased heart rate & blood pressure, digestive issues, headaches, adrenal fatigue, depression and anxiety.  There is a lot of information out there on how to reduce stress.

What about vitality?  A 2007 study found out that emotional vitality reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18056547  Emotional Vitality was defined as: a sense of energy, a sense of positive well being, a connection to life & the ability to be emotionally balanced in life situations.  There is NOT a lot of information on how to cultivate & increase vitality.

Emotional Vitality cannot be easily measured.  It is an experience, a view and a way of living.  Due to this, it is hard to sell.  It is not happiness, even though some cola companies would like us to believe that.  It is not about getting new apps, even though most tech corporations would like us to think that.  It is not conventional success, even though most of us crave that.  Emotional Vitality is much more than any of these.  It is something that we actually need, to support our hearts and to embody long term health.

Most perimenopause clients have a vague idea that to reduce stress & increase vitality they need to get stronger .  They see the problem as something wrong with their body (a separate entity from their mind).  They want me to fix their body, so they can get on with life.  The fundamental problem is that even if I could ‘fix’ their body it would have no long term effect, unless it was balanced with an equal ‘fix’ of emotion and mind.  Emotional Vitality is completely dependent on disengaging from the stressful effort of separating our mind, emotions and body.

What I see as a doorway to disengaging from this outdated & ill-fated notion of mind-body separation, is the cultivation of  movement awareness & mindfulness.  This doorway unfailingly leadsto vitality, buoyancy, resiliency.

Jan had six automobile accidents over a five year period of time.  After seeking the help of many professionals, she was referred to me after her 7th accident.  Jan was defeated, discouraged and in chronic pain.  She passively dragged her body into the room as if her body was an old moldy sleeping bag.  She slumped in the chair & spoke in a gasping monotone voice.  She was completely unaware of her body, emotional tone & dark view.  Jan had no sense of her feet, her pelvis or even her hands as they limply attempted to gesture.  She was as far from emotional vitality as one could imagine.

In an intake, I gather body-mind & movement history, while observing the emotional-movement patterns of my clients’ responses.  I often hear: “I don’t know how to answer that”.  Gently I encouraged Jan to reflect quietly on each question, while I taught her how to be aware of her breathe, showed her how to listen to her view internally and helped her sense her feet & hands.  I do not encourage or deny pain, instead I use movement to help each client discover something within the pain itself.  This initial mindfulness & awareness of movement is a step toward to Emotional Vitality.

As Jan reflected, she began to breathe into her pelvis, find rhythm in her hands & discovered how to allow air to move for speech.   After a few minutes, she became lighter and freer in her mind-body.  Jan even remarked that she was “having fun”,  that she had ‘delightful curiosity’ like a toddler being introduced to a new skill.  We barely completed the intake when the session was completed.  “Why has no one asked me these questions or taught me this before? That was the most interesting and uplifting hour I have ever spent.  I feel alive.  Why did no one do this in the past?”  

This was the birth of Emotional Vitality for Jan – one hour, simple questions, deep reflection, while being taught how to include and be present in her body.  Over the next month, she continued to develop skill in movement awareness & body-mindfulness.  The way she walked, worked, drove and moved in all of her life became buoyant.  Through this her pain decreased, and she became physically and mentally more resilient.  All of this confused her pain specialist and primary care physician, as we were not doing something clearly measurable.  Vitality cannot be measured, yet it can be cultivated.

What can you do to increase emotional vitality?

1.  Learn how and take the time daily to listen from within

2.  Learn how to become aware of your breathe & the quality of your voice

3.  Find out what you enjoy and engage it in some manner daily

4.  Do not push

5.  Reconnect to movement without form – like a child, move for the love of moving

6.  Every day, take joy in something you experience

7.  Do not isolate – find people who can guide, laugh and “walk beside you”

8.  Study how mind and body are one & practice a movement form for harmony and balance

©Copyright June 20, 2013  Gail Gustafson  http://www.unfetteredmovement.org




Gail Gustafson – Private Sessions










Whether you are looking for rehabilitation after injury, increase in athletic ability or creating greater movement ease in life, Gail will create a session especially for your needs.  Each session will actively use: awareness and movement, your own body weight or dynamic spring resistance.   Private sessions help build strength, resiliency, energy, ease in motion, vitality, spatial awareness and athletic excellence.  Please Contact Gail to schedule.

Unfettered Movement for articles & classes
Meditation – Gail integrates movement, awareness & meditation in courses & retreats

About Jeff Bickford

I’ve a long training in functional analysis of movement, it’s relation to emotional and mental activity, and how to better integrate how we move in life.

Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner
This is a four year training that requires 20 hours of advanced training a year to maintain certification

Certified Pilates Instructor

Master Certification Neuro Linguistic Programming

With: 30 years as a professional dancer – 20 of that as choreographer/artistic director and teacher, extensive training in Movement Fundamentals and Effort-Space Dynamics, and training in several forms of karate, qi gong, tai chi, and boxing.

if you wish to read more:
I began a practice of awareness and movement while training to be a professional dancer with Alwin Nikolai in New York City.  The Nikolai theory and technique provided a training that lead to an almost magical articulation of movement and intention.  It had roots reaching back to the explosion of awareness that took place in Europe and Russia in the early 20th century that fostered movement and theater geniuses like Rudolph Laban and Mikael Chekov.  It was a training primarily directed to creating extraordinary movement performers and creators; I realized it was incredibly valuable to anyone wishing to learn to move with greater skill, ease, and articulation.

I continued my exploration and development of awareness and movement while working as a choreographer, director, lighting and sound designer, performer, and teacher over the next 30 years.  During this time I entered into in-depth study of Rudolf Laban’s movement and space philosophy as well as Irmgard Bartenieff’s theories of the fundamentals of movement that underlie all experience.  I wove these together with Nikolai theory to train potent performers and as tools in the creative process of generating works for the stage.

At the same time I began adapting these tools to use with people in other walks of life to help them learn how to be more awake and present in their lives and how to move in ways that worked better for them.

To broaden my ability to work with people I entered into a study of Creative Causality Theory with it’s creator, Dr. Charles Johnston.  During this time I was part of a think tank involved in the further articulation of his theory, which involved viewing all life processes, from personality development to product development as creative processes that essentially went through the same steps in their growth.

I began to encounter people running up against blocks in their thinking and emotional lives.  In an effort to gain greater understanding of the structures underlying thinking, feeling, intention and outcome I embarked on a study of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, receiving Master Certification.  This lead to a degree of ability to help people move through those blocks.  It was a useful tool, but did not sufficiently address the concrete reality of sensory experience.

The Pilates Method presented a relatively simple method to give people an experience of greater stability in their embodied lives.  I was certified by Jane Erskin, one of the early developers of advanced training in the method.  While pilates offered useful tools, it had many shortcomings, even when used in combination with Movement Fundamentals, Laban and Nikolai Theories.

By this time my interest in awareness and movement had broadened to include work with people from all walks of life; performers and athletes wishing to continue to improve as they aged,  people who had suffered strokes wishing to regain their abilities, business people running into walls in their thinking,  people slowly loosing functions as they aged, people involved in focused spiritual practices, and people wanting to develop greater awareness and mindfulness in all areas of their lives. This lead me to a four year study of the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education.

The Feldenkrais Method® provided a way to bring the tools that I was drawing upon together.  As a method, it’s primary rule is to use whatever works to help people learn more functionally useful ways of organizing themselves to fulfill their intentions in life.

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® classes and private Functional Integration® sessions.