Berlin-based dancer and teacher, Michele Kadison, tells her story transitioning from dancer to founder of “Body Activation” and shares some knowledge on how we can make our work life easier by acknowledging and releasing the tensions in our body.
I started out as a ballet dancer when I was very young, around four years old actually, and I pursued this career for a number of years. In my 20’s I found myself much more attracted to Jazz for its dynamic and contemporary approach to movement, and became a performer working on stage and TV. Almost simultaneously I became interested in teaching and choreographing, as I was intrigued by how my own style was developing.
Through the years, I’ve taught at some of the most important studios around the world. In New York City Steps Studio was my home base for many years. I also taught at Broadway Dance Center and from these two studios came a lot of work teaching Master Classes all over Europe, Latin America and Japan. I was also teaching many workshops and seminars, hearing from all my students that their bodies were feeling much better from doing my warm-up technique.
It is common knowledge that dancers, like all athletes, often become injured through pushing themselves too hard or by getting into positions that are completely unnatural. Many dancers who were taking my class were finding that they were better prepared for the challenges that professional dancing requires. Back in the day, my Jazz warm-up was very dynamic, and my class was known as one of the most difficult in NYC. But even with the fast warm-up and the intense dancing, the preparation helped dancers maintain their peak and enhance their performance dynamics without injury.
The Art of Transitioning
After many years of teaching at the professional level, I started to experiment by slowing the warm-up way down. I began teaching at a more beginner level and saw that technique was helping students in their daily life and not just in the studio. At this time I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, teaching advanced classes alongside this newfound impulse to provide more body awareness and healing to beginners.
When I moved to Berlin in 2013, I had already begun the process of transitioning from my pro-level Jazz classes to the healing protocol based on the warm-up I had developed over my long career in dance. Because of my studies in anatomy and nutrition, I was able to add these to my knowledge and provide a thoroughly integrated class to those wishing to develop their physical and mental potential. As I got deeper into my understanding of the body/mind/spirit connection, I saw that my students were becoming more flexible, healing from injuries and misalignment, and releasing tension. I named the technique “Body Activation” for its ability to activate the body from the inside out.
One of the biggest transitions I have made in my life was going from performer to full-time teacher. Because my Jazz classes required me to show choreography sequences, it wasn’t difficult for me to feel like I was performing even when there wasn’t a stage around. The challenge came later when I started to focus only on Body Activation, as I knew I would miss the dynamic energy of a full-powered, packed professional dance class. There was a short period where I felt quite conflicted about where I was going, as I’d lived my entire life through dance. Even though I knew that Body Activation was the most natural step, I also knew that I was going into unknown territory. Though I had a lifetime of experience behind me and a big reputation as well, I didn’t have that kind of acclaim in the fitness world. And on top of this, no one knew me in Berlin, which is where Body Activation officially began. I felt like I was starting from scratch, developing a reputation and a business from the ground up.
The Essence of Body Activation
In Body Activation, you are working the core of the body so that the external and larger muscles become secondary. This takes the stress out of movement, as you strengthen the inner muscles for support within, helping the body to become more flexible. Like a bamboo tree, the body becomes supple, bending with the wind, but strong enough not to break.
Each exercise in the Body Activation technique is designed to open up specific areas in your body in order create more space and subsequently greater physical and mental ease and well-being. Because Body Activation works with gravity, every exercise is done without force. By allowing the weight of the bones and the release of the larger muscles to trigger movement, the body is naturally able to open up and stretch. In this way, the body breathes and the results become almost effortless as we apply the least amount of effort to obtain a maximum result.
Today the trend is to have a hard body, and there are many hardcore exercises available to develop this kind of external strength. With this overdevelopment of the muscles, it is easy to become muscle bound, which is the antithesis of a flowing and fully activated body.
“Today the trend is to have a hard body, and there are many hardcore exercises available to develop this kind of external strength. With this overdevelopment of the muscles, it is easy to become muscle bound, which is the antithesis of a flowing and fully activated body”
Body Activation is very subtle, but you feel it right away. It is a very helpful technique for people under a lot of stress, such as those with high power jobs, as it helps them to perform better. Working with people who want to find their highest movement potential, the exercises are created for a body in motion, helping to create ease and comfort as we go through life, no matter what the challenges.
The great beauty of Body Activation is that it also helps you bypass distracting mental activity and go straight into the body and your intuition. When we stop analyzing and find a direct relationship to our feeling body we are able to enter a place of greater serenity. With a focus on the correct placement and alignment of the body, we have more space to move, both internally and physically. Combined with a clean and balanced diet, we can make healthy decisions, change our habits, and lead more fulfilling lives.
Our Digital Lifestyle
Because of the enormous time spent at the computer, I am seeing more and more hip, pelvis, lower back, and neck injuries that come from sitting too long in one position. With activities such as texting, our necks are in great peril from looking down at our mobile devices all day long. Body Activation helps to open up these areas and create more comfort while offering alternative positions for health.
The Normal Stresses in Life
Just living a life brings its tensions, whether it is from our relationships, societal pressures, or high levels of competition. Strong emotional reactions, especially when internalized, can create stress in the body where the joints and the spine lock and the muscles become inflexible. When this occurs the natural circulation of blood and oxygen so necessary to a healthy body become blocked and we start to feel injured or sick. Body Activation is designed to help release these tensions so that we can return to our natural sense of our bodies and selves.
“Strong emotional reactions, especially when internalized, can create stress in the body where the joints and the spine lock and the muscles become inflexible”
Confidence and Healthy Habits
In coaching others going through similar transitions, I always refer to how much I missed my former life in the beginning. Moving into the unknown after a full and filling career can be extremely stressful, and without confidence and healthy habits, this stress can create more problems, including compromising the immune system. There is always that moment of conflict at the start, even when you know you’ve moved in a direction that you know is right.
Using the Body Activation technique helped me get through my doubts. Doing the exercises every day, applying my meditation and breathing exercises, and maintaining a nourishing and balanced approach to eating I was able to release my stress and find my way with clarity and a sense of enduring purpose.
“Moving into the unknown after a full and filling career can be extremely stressful, and without confidence and healthy habits, this stress can create more problems, including compromising the immune system. There is always that moment of conflict at the start, even when you know you’ve moved in a direction that you know is right.”
1. CORRECT POSTURE
Stand with your feet slightly apart, with the weight evenly distributed from the heels to the balls of the feet. Pull in your lower abdominal muscles to help strengthen your lower back. Take the two points of the rib cage and pull them towards each other to strengthen your middle back. Imagine a hook under your breastbone and lift yourself up here, which immediately opens up the chest. Then feel the back of your head over your heels, keeping your chin in a natural position to lengthen your neck and align it with the rest of the spine. Practice this whenever you can for a healthier spine and beautiful posture that shows confidence and grace.
2. RELEASING TENSIONS
Make a conscious decision to tune into your body throughout the day, noticing where you are holding tension. Are your shoulders up around your ears? Is your foot flexed when you cross one leg over the other instead of hanging naturally? Are you breathing deeply? Just noticing these details will help you become more aware of where you hold stress and help you release it.
3. USING YOUR BACK, NOT YOUR SHOULDERS
Do you notice that sometimes when you reach for something you tense your shoulder? This is because you’re using your arm from this point instead of the shoulder blades, which are located across the upper back. Try reaching with your arms from the back instead of your shoulders and you’ll notice how you don’t need to use any tension at all.
4. FINDING THE RIGHT TEACHER
No matter what fitness protocol you like, make sure you find a teacher who has an informed background. He or she should have a good knowledge of anatomy and should correct each student throughout the class. When you don’t get hands-on corrections, you will keep repeating what feels good or right to you, often reinforcing bad habits. A good class is where exercises are explained thoroughly and where you feel the teacher’s hands on you to ensure that you’re getting the most out of every movement.
5. STAYING CONSISTENT
Getting the most out of your fitness practice means staying consistent. An established routine allows you to go deeper into each exercise. Through repetition you can concentrate on expanding within each movement as you become more familiar with its form. As you become more accustomed to what you are doing, the mind lets go, releasing the old habits and fears that have held you back. As you get out of your own way, you can find greater flexibility that ultimately leads to greater movement potential.
As told to Freja
Michele Kadison website
Portrait by Francesca Mey