Episode 20: Dance & Movement Therapy and Why Movement in the Body is Essential to Getting “Unstuck” with Erica Hornthal

dance and movement therapist erica hornthal wearing a red jacket and crossing her arms

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Dance and movement therapist Erica Hornthal and I have a fantastic discussion about the benefits of dance and movement therapy for holistic trauma healing. We reveal how dance and movement can benefit people of all ages and abilities. Movement has been especially helpful for me (Lindsey), personally. When I give my emotions a movement or a dance, I feel present and able to process feelings that past me would’ve tried to distract myself from or suppress.

dance and movement therapist erica hornthal wearing a red jacket and crossing her arms

Erica is known on Instagram as @the.therapist.who.moves.you, and she assists clients in making lasting changes by learning to harness the power of the body for improved mental health. If you’ve been struggling with mental health and you’ve exhausted talk therapy options, or you just want a holistic approach to emotional wellbeing, then dance movement therapy with Erica is the answer you’ve been looking for. Erica is a clinical psychotherapist and board-certified dance and movement therapist who is highly sought out by the media to comment on the mind body connection.


Show Notes

Dance and movement therapist Erica Hornthal and I…

  • discuss dance and movement therapy as a powerful trauma healing tool
  • dispel any doubts or myths that you need dance classes or training to practice and benefit from dance and movement therapy
  • share how anyone can benefit from dance/movement therapy, even folx with disabilities
  • discuss why dance isn’t only something to consume and watch for entertainment
  • share how Erica meets her clients wherever they are to reconnect with their bodies
  • explain how exercise differs from conscious, intentional movement that embodies emotions
  • discuss why. movement in the body is essential to getting “unstuck”
  • validate folx who feel awkward in or disconnected from their bodies and give small ways to overcome that awkwardness and disconnection
  • share how you can tune into your body, check how your movement (or lack of) impacts your mental health, and how to use your agency to shift yourself



LINDSEY: Welcome back. Thank you for being here. I’m super excited about today’s episode. In today’s episode, I am doing a deep dive into a discussion about dance and movement therapy with Erica Hornthal. Erica is known on Instagram as the therapist who moves you. And she assists clients in making lasting changes by learning to harness the power of the body for improved mental health. If you’ve been struggling with mental health and you’ve exhausted talk therapy options, or you just want a holistic approach to emotional wellbeing, then dance movement therapy with Erica is the answer you’ve been looking for. Erica is a clinical psychotherapist and board-certified dance and movement therapist who is highly sought out by the media to comment on the mind body connection.

In this episode with Erica, we discuss dance and movement therapy as a powerful trauma healing tool. We also dispel any doubts or myths that you need, dance classes or training of any kind to practice and benefit from dance and movement therapy. We share how anyone can use dance and movement therapy, including folks with disabilities. And we give some practical ways that you can get into your body even if you can’t move part of your body. We discussed why dance isn’t only something to watch and consume as entertainment, but something that we all need to be embodying and practicing. We share how Erica as a therapist meets her clients wherever they are to connect with their bodies. And we explain the difference between movement as exercise and intentional conscious movement as therapy. And we also discuss why movement in the body is essential to getting unstuck. And finally we validate folks who feel awkward in or disconnected from their bodies. And we give small ways to overcome that awkwardness and disconnection. So enjoy this interview with Eric. the therapist who moves you

Hey, Erica, welcome to the holistic trauma healing podcast. Thanks for being here.

ERICA: Thank you so much for having me.

LINDSEY: Yeah, absolutely. I’m really excited to talk to you about dance and movement therapy for trauma. That’s something that for people who are following me on Instagram, I’ve been posting a lot of videos of myself dancing and moving lately. And I personally can say without any coaching or without any training in this, like just three minutes of moving and dancing when I’m feeling dysregulated in my body, it releases so much and it’s made a huge difference in my life. So I love to chat more with you about that.

ERICA: Definitely. I totally agree. And it’s something I’m really passionate about talking about just moving from mental health in general. But there is so much trauma and traumatic response happening in the world today that I think it’s worth talking about for sure.

LINDSEY: For sure. So how did you get into dance and movement therapy?

ERICA: I had been dancing my whole life since I was young and what I’ve come to realize is it, wasn’t what I thought was, performance and scale and expression. I think more it became an outlet and what actually helped me move through stressful transitions just childhood adolescence. It really became a way for me to process and move through a lot of places in my life traumatic or not. And or traumatic in their own way, and thankfully when I was transitioning from young adulthood to college, I guess adolescents to young adulthood. I’m a professor pointed me in the direction of dance movement therapy and said it looks like you’re really excited or interested in helping people. And you want to continue to pursue some type of career in dance. Have you thought about dance movement therapy? And I had never heard of it before. So as I know 19-20 year old. It really caught my attention. I went home and researched it and lo and behold decided to pursue my master’s degree in it.

LINDSEY: Wow. So how long have you been doing dance and movement therapy?

ERICA: I entered the field in 2005 and I’ve been practicing as a board certified movement therapist since 2011.

LINDSEY: Wow. That’s a long time. Before we get into sort of the way that the dance and movement helps to regulate the nervous system and move energy and emotions through the body. I want to go ahead and just ask, I think the answer is probably obvious, but I’m going to ask anyway, can someone who has had no training in dance or movement practice this on their own, in their home by themselves, even if they’ve had no training.

ERICA: Yes. Hands down. Yes. That is one of the tricky points about dance movement therapy, because that were dancing in there. We create our own assumptions judgements around what that looks like or who I have to be in order to engage in it. And when it comes down to it, dance is just one of our earliest forms of expression, right? Earliest for us developmentally also societally culturally cultures, indigenous tribes civilizations were dancing way before formal language was invented and I always see it as a what do you believe in God’s spirit deity? It’s a given, right? You are born into this body and you are allowed to take up space in it and move how you need to. I don’t think we understand just how beneficial that is and why we need to be doing it. But yeah, you two left feet.

You can have no feet. You can have a heartbeat, brainwaves blood flowing through your veins and you can participate in a movement therapy practice. Absolutely amazing. So why is dance and movement so important to us as humans? Honestly, it’s what we exist in, right? We are our bodies and. That’s not to say that we don’t, again, based off of your beliefs there could be a soul. We obviously have this higher cognitive power, this cognitive function, but we exist in this world, in this body. And most of our communication is in our body. And yet we don’t pay attention to it. We constantly if we’re able to rely on this higher functioning in our brain. And not everybody has access to that, whether it’s because developmentally it’s not there cognitively it’s not there or maybe emotionally, we’re in a trauma response and we can’t access that part of the brain in that time or in that moment in time. Again, it’s something we really need to understand that it’s a resource. We all have the ability to tap into, but I think it does take awareness. It takes practice and it takes diligence and and patients it’s not going to be comfortable. It’s not comfortable for everybody, especially if we’re not used to being in our bodies and even as dancers or performers, that doesn’t mean we’re comfortable in our bodies expressing our emotions either. I think it’s necessary because it is a way to regulate. It is a way to support the discomfort that comes up and oddly enough, a way to work through it as well.

LINDSEY: I think what’s sticking out for me is I grew up as a competitive Baton twirler. Okay. When, so a lot of, I took a lot of dance classes because a lot of the movements that you have to do in a Baton involve a lot of ballet. And took ballet classes. The last ballet class I took was in college and that sort of dance.I never did recitals or anything like that. It was more of a way to, sometimes runners do yoga because yoga makes them better runners. I didn’t ballet because ballet made me a better twirler. Just taught me like how to be in balance and how to hold my hands and point my toes and and things like jump leap do things like that. And the way that I grew up was not that dancer ballet was something that you did to process emotions or to move energy through your body.

It was something that I did because it was performance-based. And so growing up in that world I often went to recitals and ballet shows and saw people dancing for entertainment. And on the movies, we see like pole dancing and stripping as a form of entertainment. And so it’s like dance, at least for me. And maybe for a lot of people, listening is something that we’ve consumed as entertainment and like something that we enjoy watching. And so a lot of people. I feel like there’s a disconnect. And so people are like I don’t know how to do ballet, or I don’t know how to pull dance, or I don’t know how to do any of those things. And and I’m just used to watching those things from a performance aspect as entertainment and not as a way of being in my body and. And moving my, myself and my emotions and all of that. And I think you made a really good point. Whenever you said that before we had formalized language, like indigenous tribes and civilizations were dancing and. They danced for fun. They danced for ceremony. They danced for, rain, fertility, like all of these different things, but they also like, it was more sacred to them I think, than it is for us, at least in like Western America. Do you notice that as well when you’re working with people that there’s this but isn’t ballet for performance or isn’t that for performance?

ERICA: Absolutely. And as you were speaking, the one thing that came to mind quite clearly is how often before I engage with a client, if they’re not really sure of what it looks like or they’re intrigued, or they might find me through their insurance panel, and so they’re interested in the counseling aspect, but they don’t know about this dance thing. A lot of the questions, the question that I seem to get a lot is what dance form do you work with? What kind of dance do I need to know to engage in this work? And. I used to honestly roll my eyes. They can’t really see it because we’re talking over the phone, but I used to be like, Oh, this question again. And now when I hear that question, actually get excited because it’s an opportunity for me to continue to advocate for this more broad in general term of dance, and that we really have conditioned ourselves to believe that dance is only an aesthetic practice is only a performance practice. And if we don’t have a certain skillset, it’s not for us, I love seeing dance on TV, but it continues to perpetuate this really intense, almost unattainable set of skills that even as a dancer, myself growing up, I never would have been able to do that. I think I was able to do one split.

I never had a straddle. I never did. Quentez. It wasn’t in the cards for me. And yet I still consider myself a dancer. Am I a professional dancer? No. Did I want to be a professional dancer? No, but I think what people need to understand is there is a difference. There’s a difference between being the expert in your body and the expert of a skill such as dance and art forms such as dance. And that is not what dance therapy is about. I do not turn people into better dancers. You may feel like you are more connected, therefore your whatever dance and skill you had coming in gets better, but that’s never a goal. We don’t see clients because it’s like, Oh, I really, I can’t get this triple turn. And I think seeing your dance therapist will really help me. I’m not a therapist for your dance skills, I’m a therapist for you. And we use that as a way to connect to the body, which helps us express ourselves more.

LINDSEY: That’s really beautiful. Thank you so much for clearing that up. Now that we’ve cleared up for anybody could have brain waves in a heartbeat and you can benefit from dance and movement, whether you are trained or not. And so now take me into, how do you start when you’re working with someone brand new and maybe they feel awkward in their body, or they feel uncomfortable in their body, or they don’t even know how to feel in their body because they’ve been ahead walking around without a body for a long time. How do you get them comfortable with the way that their body feels in space and how they’re moving that around?

ERICA: Yeah. So I love actually just how you introduced that because I’ll bring it back to space. That is a really interesting thing to think about. And that is actually one of the ways that I will orient individuals into their bodies. But first and foremost, it’s really, again as therapy, it’s really important that we just meet our clients where they are. And so I’ve certainly had clients that are very in their bodies. That’s not the common thing to see. I think that’s very rare the standings, right? But people will come very connected to their bodies and they want to continue to explore what that looks like or to hone that skill of expressing themselves in their body and not just in their mind or they’re stuck. They’re really stuck in their head right now. And they need to get back to connecting to that body. Or again, it’s the flow between mind and body. But as you mentioned, I would say a bulk of the work is with individuals who don’t have any awareness around their body. And it’s sometimes seen as like a new age, this idea of holistic, right? Oh, maybe I’ll try that because the talk thing hasn’t really worked or it’s plaque vode and this idea of really treating the mind and the body is where the healing deepens. It’s actually where it is continues to foster and maybe even accelerate or move forward. So we’ll help us on that because I think people that already have a pretty good awareness of their body, the work is a little bit I sometimes think it’s it can be more intricate because there’s more to work with.

But what’s really important is when people don’t have that safety or don’t know what to do in their body, that we’re very intentional and go at the pace that the client is ready for. So what does that look like? Oftentimes it’s really just about being mindful of what comes up as we’re talking. What are you noticing right now? How the pace of your speech. The rhythm in your body is, are you noticing your heartbeat? Can you pay attention to it? Is it really fast? Is it really slow? What’s your breathing? Are you breathing, to use the verbal, to connect to the body is the first way to do that for a lot of people. And then when people are feeling safe enough, maybe even in the first session to just explore like what it’s like to move in their own body. That’s when I start to bring in elements. Like you just, like you said, space. I like to work in like time, so can you speed up your movement? Can you slow it down? What does that feel like? What does that look like? Space? Can we take up space? What kind of space do we like to be in? Are we closed off or are we open? Are we to open? Cause that exists too. And finding the boundaries and what we call our movement habits, our patterns, our movement profile, how we show up in this body is something that people don’t usually look at it like they could be in their forties and fifties.

And this is the first time they’re ever intentionally noticing how they move through life in this body. And until that all you’ve been doing is moving fast, unless you intentionally know how to slow down your body. You’re not going to be able to do that. Like flipping it, instead of trying to slow down your thoughts. Cause it’s really hard. I’m always like, can we slow down our body and notice what that does for our thoughts? And and it looks a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s actual movement oriented exercises or practices. Sometimes it’s more mindful meditation. Maybe it’s scribbling it on a piece of paper just to see the emotions that come up through the body. It’s very creative. It’s very out of the box. And the beauty of it for me is that it doesn’t look the same for every person. Every individual is different, even if they’re coming in with the same symptoms or maybe even a diagnosis.

LINDSEY: So I noticed that you said something about if you’re moving really fast through life and how to slow that down. So can you share how the way we move correlates to how we move or translate through life and how to bring slowness if that’s what needs to happen or to bring awareness if that’s what needs to happen? I don’t know. I don’t even know. I don’t have the vocabulary for that. So can you elaborate more on that?

ERICA: Sure. I think this has become my definitely my passion, but just through working with clients, actually the first population I started working with was were individuals who are cognitively impaired, right? Maybe because of stroke, most of them had some form of dementia, usually Alzheimer’s because that is the bulk of the dementias that we see. And I think what really struck me was just because they couldn’t communicate the way that. Society has told them is acceptable. Didn’t mean that they didn’t have anything to say. That they had something to say, and we were seeing it as behaviors. And Ms. Smith is really aggressive. And if we could just give her a medication that eases her mind eases the nerves, then she won’t be so combative. And then it’s easier for us to work with her. And I always thought that was inappropriate because. If she’s not physically hurting herself or others, but she’s just showing aggression, isn’t it up to us to find a way to connect to that aggression and then give her the opportunity to express it and to alleviate it or to move through it. So I’ve I’ve worked with that a lot and then just transitioned it into working with just everyday people. And I think allowing people to notice and really identify again, this idea of a profile, how do I move? How do I exist in this body? I always like to start with just how we moved today.
That was the first question I started asking audiences and, groups of people I was doing workshops with. And it was so interesting because people were always focusing on exercise. I haven’t moved today. I didn’t get to the gym yet. I’m like, so how’d you get here? Somebody like pick you up in here. Maybe that’s true for some people, but we were forgetting, like I woke up, I got dressed, I brushed my teeth, I brushed my hair. And that how we woke up really started to dictate how we moved through the rest of that day. And if that’s the way that you move through the day, maybe that’s the way you move through the week.
And then the week becomes months and years. And all of a sudden you lose this way, your entire life, because you never challenged it any other way. Either it was reinforced by your parents. It was reinforced by your environment, your job, your occupation. We need to take notice, take responsibility and take control and risk in it in a sense of how we want to be in this life. And understand that we can change that by noticing how we move in our bodies. I had a client once that said I’m burnt out. I own this company. It’s my entire life. I don’t want that anymore. I do want the company, I do want to do the work, but I don’t know how to show up differently in this work. And so we started piecing out what does it look like? How do you move in your job? How do you move in life? How do you want to move in your job? And it turned out that she was moving so quickly all the time. And she was like, I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom. I have to have my assistant tell me that I should go to the bathroom.

And just in our session, in our space where it was hers to do what she wanted, she started doing body is really slow, graceful grandiose movements and started to cry because she was like, I don’t know the last time I did this, I never do this. And there’s something in me. That’s telling me, this is what I need to incorporate more of in my life. Does that mean she’s going to her office and doing ballet in the middle of, her workspace? What maybe, but no. That might work for some, but it was just the idea of how it feels, how we’re reinforcing that in our bodies. And then how do we bring that to the workplace? Does that make sense?


ERICA: And I’m like, obviously on a soap box, I could go on forever.

LINDSEY: Totally makes sense to me. And I also love to do a lot of Just slow sort of graceful. And I do have the ballet training, so maybe it’s easier for me, but that part of myself was shut off for a really long time. And I’ve just let it reawakened in the last few months and even got like my Baton out and started going out in the driveway during the summer and twirling again, and that felt cool and where it all at the same time. But it’s amazing like how much is still there. And for me personally, and maybe you can speak to this because I know a lot of people who listen to this podcast really struggle with anxiety and depression because of the trauma that they’ve been through. And even if they don’t remember it, their body remembers and their nervous system is mounting this adaptation to either put them on super high alert and be hypervigilant and sensitive about everything. And so that’s anxiety or their nervous system is shut down and just talk to them by disengaging and sleeping a lot and being really sad and slow.

And and I know that there are a lot of other mental health things going on with people and I’m just naming like the big two. So I’m not trying to exclude anyone there, but when you’re speaking to your audience and that makes sense, and I love that you pointed out that you’ve worked with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and that’s a. Like Alzheimer’s and dementia is a, is an autonomic nervous system adaptation too. Like it’s the brain injury that happens from trauma and age and everything else. And it affects the way that the nerves are communicating and the brain is communicating in the body. So I love that you pointed that out and this really does apply to everyone. How, if somebody is experiencing like major anxiety, panic attacks all the time, insomnia I’ve certainly been there and it sucks. Or on the flip side of that, they’re like depressed all the time. They don’t want to get out of bed. They don’t want to move their body. I know for a lot of people, depression causes pain and chronic fatigue. So if they’re listening to this and they’re like, yeah, that’s great for everyone. But I can’t do that because I, it would hurt too much or it would make me too tired or like, how do you break through that barrier?

ERICA: Yeah. So more recently I actually focused on these three directives, if you will, Pandemic COVID time has obviously created opportunity regardless of what that means doesn’t necessarily mean positive opportunity, but there’s been opportunity. And so it started to, I started to sit with Different ways that we could engage our bodies. What, if we can never be in a studio or an office together again, and obviously we can zoom, but one of the ZOOM isn’t available. There are good days where it crashes. What are some things that we can talk about even over the phone that can help elicit a movement, response or awareness, and for individuals who are like, yeah, they’re unmotivated to move physically and in too much pain to move. Or are uncomfortable with the idea of movement outside of saying, take a deep breath, which can be really difficult, right? Notice your anxiety, which can be more anxiety provoking. The things that I’ve actually found helpful are one asking, how am I moving right now? Which is something I mentioned earlier, just taking notice, because even if you feel like you’re still, there is still movement and stillness. And maybe you’re so anxious that you’re jittery, you’re shaking your I rating your you could be still because you’re shaking so intensely added on it. Body, new pod gesture, posture. So asking yourself, just saying like, how am I moving right now?

What is happening? What isn’t happening. You can take that a step further, right? You can even ask what sensations do I feel right now? What am I feeling in my body? Second question to me is how does this impact my mental health, right? It’s so this is how I’m moving or I’m not moving. How does this impact my mental health or how will this impact my mental health? Maybe I’m noticing right now I’m feeling depressed or maybe I am really anxious and that’s not good for my mental health. And then the last thing is agency. What are ways that I’m going to address this? So if I am laying down or I’m sleeping most of the day, is it in my power to maybe sit up?


Can I sit with my eyes open? Can I lay in bed and just take notice of my body? Can I provide some tactile stimulation or touch? Can I feel the boundaries of my body? So it’s not taking this Oh my God, it’s one more thing I have to do. Oh my God. Here’s my to-do list. And I already don’t feel motivated if I’m not going to take care of myself. Why am I going to start moving? Can’t get up to eat a meal. How am I going to start exercising? But it starts again to reframe what movement is and that it is in our, again, I hesitate to say the word power. But to feel empowered, to make decisions that help us mentally and emotionally, by just looking at becoming more aware of how we’re moving and then doing something about it.

So again, that what are sensations I’m currently feeling, or how am I moving? How does this impact my mental health or how will it impact my mental health? And lastly, are there things that I can do to address this and what am I going to do to address this in this moment right now? If somebody is open to movement, then I always say, start with micro movements. Start by just linking your eyes, twitching, your nose, opening your mouth, taking a yawn, wiggling your fingers, wiggling your toes. And if that’s all you can manage in the moment that was something, it was something.

LINDSEY: Yeah, absolutely. I was hearing you didn’t say these words, but what I was hearing, whenever you were talking about that as something that we’ve talked about on past episodes, which is when we’re in a trauma loop and we’re responding the same way to situations over and over we feel very stuck and anxiety keeps us stuck. OCD keeps us stuck. Depression keeps us stuck. Co-dependent behaviors keep us stuck. We get stuck in fight flight, freeze, fawn. There’s a lot of stuckness and what you’re teaching dance and movement is literally the opposite of stuckness. It’s like the cure, it’s like the cure for stuckness. And I’m not saying it’s the cure for anxiety or the cure for depression, but I’m saying like, I personally know that you can be anxious as fuck and still move and that when you’re in your body, that for a moment that anxiety that was in your mind turns off because you’re in your body. And it’s a great way to get unstuck. Do you work with a lot of people who feel stuck?

ERICA: Yes. Yes. There’s nothing more to say about that, but yes. And that’s actually why I started to, focus more on that idea. Like I, I created this workbook over the summer, again, with the idea of what if I don’t see people in person again, how do I put this into a little manual and then email it over to them or cross screens that they have maybe a body image that we’re going to start to map or a way to identify our emotions in our body. And I started to ask myself like, what’s the score, right? And the things that kept coming up were one individuals that have reached a plateau, in traditional talk therapy or counseling or psychotherapy, and the word stuck came up.

People that just feel stuck. And rather than accepting, I’m stuck and I’m waiting for something to unstick me. What are things that I can do to move myself, body and mind? Sometimes that word is changed sometimes it’s transition. I was just working with a client the other day, who, and I think we hear this a lot, but we were focusing on his idea that like her life felt like it was on pause and the irony that life is still happening. So can our life really ever be paused? But I said let’s take the metaphor further. Let’s have the remote. So you’re on pause who pushed that button to begin with? Are you on ponds or other people assuming the role that you were on pause, are they waiting for you to unpause your show? And then we embodied it? I was like, I want you to move and then touch that remote, click that pause button and stop. Pause. And we just focused. I was like, what’s happening in this pause? Is there still movement? And she was like, okay, I am breathing and I can feel my heartbeat. And there was something in her that was like, I don’t actually want to stay here. Like I’m not paused. This is where either I’m meant to be right now, or this is where I am. And maybe this is the point in my life where I’m feeling paused, but there’s still a lot of movement and life happening. And can I sit in that? Can I sit in that dichotomy? Can I play with both? And I think that’s true for a lot of people. Like we feel stuck, but it’s an expectation, and maybe our own, maybe others. How do we notice that we’re actually moving from that place of stuck? Because that’s sometimes the initiation we need to move through it.

LINDSEY: That’s really. Like beautifully said so beautifully said resonates for me before I started this podcast, I felt like I was in this sort of like liminal holding space. Like I was in the food blogger world. Did food photography and recipe development lost my shit. Went through a mental health breakdown was climbing out of that pit, working on myself, for the first time, getting into my body and out of my head and being like, what is it that I actually feel and why do I have this distrust for my body? And and all of these things. And somewhere along the way, I was like, I don’t think I was put on this planet to be a food blogger. It’s been great. It’s been a fun ride, but I don’t think that’s what I was going to plan it to do. And I’ve been through this thing, this mental health breakdown.

And think that what I’m put on this planet to do is has something to do with that. And, but then it was like, I don’t know, a year or something went by and it was like, I was in this in-between space. It was like, I still have this food blog over here. But I wasn’t super into it anymore. I wasn’t passionate about it at all. But then I had this unknown thing off in the future, somewhere that it was like, eventually I’m going to get there, but I don’t know how long that’s going to take me. And I don’t know what that looks like. And so I spent a pretty good chunk of 2020, and it had nothing to do with COVID, but I spent a pretty good chunk of 2020. You just like in a waiting room. And I did feel stuck. And what helped me to start getting unstuck I was actually moving my body. So I escalated my walking, my daily walking when I was doing, I escalated that to jogging. So I was jogging at every day and I felt that was giving me forward propulsion.

And then I started the dancing and I started shaking. I that’s, when I incorporated shaking therapy into my life and just like really getting into my body and feeling every muscle that I could just moving and shaking. And like slowly, I’m not going to say that it was overnight that I started shaking and then boom, I started a podcast, but it was just this sort of slow process of being like, okay, Actually I’m not stuck. I’m right where I need to be. And I can’t start this, whatever this new thing is. I didn’t know what was going to be a podcast to be quite honest with you, but whatever this new thing is I can’t start it until I start moving some of these things in my body. And I have a very strong intuition and I’m very connected with my body. And I realized that’s not the case for a lot of people, but my intuition has only gotten stronger the more connected to my body I’ve been. And I feel like it’s really important to say that to people’s like intuition is something that can be developed if you don’t feel like you have very strong intuition. I’m going to guess that you’re spending like 99% of your time in your head and you’re not in your body because in the body is where that intuition is. It’s literally like a gut feeling or a knowing or whatever. And it was movement. It wasn’t even dance at that point. It was just like, I changed things up.I went from walking to jogging. I started shaking. I started. Turning on music and like just moving my body through space and feeling what that felt like. And it really did help me. To be like, Oh, these are things that need to move through me before I can start this next thing. This is part of my process and I’m not actually stuck. And I’m just going to say, you’re only stuck if you believe you’re stuck, habit and a pattern that keeps getting reinforced, right? Like I’m stuck. Therefore I keep my body stuck because the body stuck in my mind is stuck. So we’re just perpetuating that. And that’s one of the reasons that we we try to look beyond our movement patterns. We try to challenge the way that we moved, that we on, we get unstuck from that habit, that vicious cycle of staying exactly where we are mind and body.  So how does challenging the way that we move, if we’re stuck people, or if we’re moving very quickly through life all the time and never slowing down, or like, how does challenging the way that we move will help us change. What we think is going on inside of our heads or what happening in our nervous system? Just, from my own personal experience, I believe that moving in this way creates more resiliency in the nervous system and it makes you better able to handle stress. And so how does that work?

ERICA: For me anyway, you hit the nail on the head, right? That if we only have a very limited scope, whether that’s how we think or how we move, we really limit our experience. We limit our potential for working through that experience. We limit our emotional range. I always say it limits our emotional capacity, in a sense when we learn to move differently and move more, not better, but move more. It makes our emotional gas tank bigger. So that reserve is bigger. I’m working a lot with dementia. I’d always heard of cognitive reserve, so there was a study I think they called it the nun study where a large group of nuns all had brain indicators of Alzheimer’s. But their memory was actually still very much intact.

And one of the reasons it came down to was this intense, this incredibly large cognitive reserve their spiritual practice, maybe their sense of community, their head, their sense of higher purpose and meaning, et cetera led to an abundance of connections in their brain, which allowed the memories to stay intact even though again, they had these markers in their brain for Alzheimer’s disease. I see the same thing with movement. If you move more, you build more connections in your body, which increases that resilience and increases your emotional capacity. So that I have more ways of handling something. If it’s like having a, like we say, have a plan B, right? But in your body, you can have a plan a through Z because of the different ways that you’re teaching your body to move. And so not only is it showing me that I’m resilient, I can come up with other ideas, but I can also sit in the discomfort when things don’t go my way and I can still get explosive.

I can still have anger and sadness and depression and anxiety. But I know how to manage it, and that’s very different. It’s very different. And so honestly it can look as pedestrian as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand writing. I always joke, don’t write any really important documents this way. Don’t sign any big checks, but start writing with your opposite hand, just to build that capacity, just to build that emotional reserve through the body. And then honestly, if we want to look at more, advanced ways of increasing that profile, it’s looking at the spectrum of our movement habits, so if I’m always fast, now I’m going to try the opposite, which is low slow. And then I’m also going to look at that spectrum. Can I move across the spectrum? And sometimes in my sessions with people, that’s literally what we do. The office, one side is fast. One side is slow, right. Or whatever the metaphor is for them. And we’re going to create this visible this invisible or imaginary line or spectrum.

So I moved through the space. I moved through this office and moved through the studio and I embodied the different ways that I can move through this element. Until I find my own natural capacity and my own natural flow in a sense, maybe it’s somewhere in between, but it’s also showing me that I can show up and move fast when I really need to, I can slow down when I need to, and I can exist on a spectrum because that to me is we’re in a very binary world. And we need to be seeing the gray, like no pun intended. A lot of things right now are black and white. Where is the gray, where’s the gray to me. That’s where empathy comes in, where communication comes in and to be able to engage in that work bodies is beneficial to everyone.

LINDSEY: Absolutely. I could not agree with you more. So how do you let’s say I come to work with you and. I you’re like telling me, get into your body. And I’m like, I don’t know what that feels like. And then when I’m in my body, I feel really awkward. Or I just recently started putting the videos of myself dancing and moving on Instagram. That’s not something that I would have had the confidence to do not too long ago. Because there was this like shame this what if I’m not doing it right. I’ve even had the thought of what if a professional dancer is watching this and critiquing what I’m doing? How do you help people just to be like, fuck it. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. And it doesn’t matter. Like you get to do you and your movements and your body. And it’s not a show for somebody it’s actually healthy for you. Like how do you help people move past that? Like fear of judgment or shame or awkwardness of being in their body.

ERICA: I mean that basic level. It’s just about validating that and supporting that, so even just as a counselor, that is obviously something that is in my blood to just say, I hear what you’re saying. I understand or understand. Isn’t always the best way to put it, but what I hear you say is, right. So then I’m not minimizing that experience because it’s real, it’s valid. I’ve had those experiences I still do. I think a lot of us. It’s a very human thing to come up against judgment, right? How we all experience it or work through it is another thing, but judgment is not is not void in the human existence. And especially in social media. And yet as you were talking, my thought is like, that is everything that person says is another opportunity to be in their body. This feels awkward. Okay. What does awkward look like? Forget moving here’s another word. What does awkward look like?

And maybe it’s a statue, so I know that you can see me right now. Maybe people listening can’t but like really awkward, and it’s like a real contorted figure, okay. All right. What else do you have feeling judgment. All right. What does judgment look like this? Okay. And so we start to just correlate words with gestures, words, with physical expression, and then all of a sudden, the person’s like I’m moving, or I can say notice that you’ve been in your body this whole time, we’re starting to reconnect or reinforce that how you feel has a, an existence right. Or exists in your body as movement. And that can often be one way to just introduce this idea. Another thing that I had mentioned earlier was for somebody that’s I don’t want to move, it’s funny because I’m like, why are you here? You do know that this is a movement therapist, you’re dogging do. But the, I love it. It’s a challenge. I love that they show up, and sometimes what we start off doing is just good old fashioned piece of paper and pen or marker or whatever you tend to, we have with us.

And sometimes it’s about using music. Cause sometimes the person doesn’t feel comfortable with movement, but USIC speaks to them and I’ll ask them to pick like a favorite music or maybe I’ll bring in the music. Maybe it’s classical. Maybe it’s fast. Maybe it’s hip hop, whatever it is. I will ask them to just put that pen to paper and leave it down until the song ends and they just have to move. Whatever comes up through that rhythm, through that song. Maybe they end up writing words and cursive, but it’s just this continuous movement until the song is over. And then we look at it and we just noticed what happened? What’s on the page. What do you notice? What movements took place? And then can we take those movements, those pen marks off the page and embody them? Can you walk this pattern and you walk the trail that you created? Is there one piece of that paper of that line that you can take on and you can embody whether it’s a gesture, a movement, a posture, whatever that looks like, so maybe it’s, Oh, I made this like line and I’m going to embody the line, or I made this wiggle and this is what it would look like to move the squiggle. So it takes the focus off of what movements should look like, how would she be executed? And it just to me takes it from what it is. Just can we mirror what we see? Can we move what we just expressed? But put it back into the body where it actually originated.

LINDSEY: Yeah. What about for somebody who maybe they’re not in that stuck place of like super anxious, super depressed, where it’s hard for them to even just blink or move their fingers and toes. Or maybe they’re past the point of they don’t need to do it on paper. They’re ready to get in their body, but they’re just like, is it just as simple as like turn on some music and start dancing? Or is there more to be aware of in that process? What about, so for individuals that are like maybe trying dance or movement on their own?

ERICA: Yeah. Yeah, think there are a lot of ways you can try again, getting out of this, like right or wrong, there is no right or wrong it’s experience, it’s just trying it on and seeing how it feels. So it could be something like, again, playing some music in your house and just notice what happens when you put the music on, right? Like maybe you start to tap your toes. Maybe you’re swaying to it. Just notice the response that’s all you have to do is just notice the response. And if there is a response, then take note of it. Do it again. Or maybe even give yourself a little, like a Pat on the back. They’re like Hey, this spoke to me. This did something. You can forget the music and go outside, it’s conducive. If the weather is okay take a walk. And my favorite thing to tell people is be mindful of that block. Don’t be on a phone conversation. If you have to have music playing, which I know a lot of us do, can you have the speaker?

Like I get, that’s not possible for everybody, but I’ll use myself as an example. So my neighborhood’s pretty quiet these days. And I’ve actually stopped using earbuds or headphones. And I just put my phone in my pocket and I have the music playing so that I can hear it, but that it’s not obnoxious for the people around me. If it’s somebody should walk by and it’s better for me because I’m more aware of my environment and the sound is still there and it’s supporting whatever mood or movement I need in that moment, but it’s not closing off my communication. It’s not closing in my ability to hear or notice what’s going on around me.
And just, again, noticing how my feet are touching the ground, paying attention to my posture, my gate. Those are things we take for granted, but that’s movement. Those are all a place to start, so it’s not like we have to intentionally be like, all right, I’m going to dance today. Because to be honest with you, sometimes that anxiety, that probes anxiety me too. Like I’m not dressed. My kids are all over the place now I’m supposed to dance. What I haven’t had the motivation to do that myself. But movement right. Is possible all the time. And if I can just notice what I’m doing and how I can change that or support that feels a lot more doable. It feels more manageable than the assumption or the expectation of, dance, which sometimes to us is alright, I gotta have the right clothing. Gotta have the right music. Gotta have the right environment. I don’t know about you guys. It’s not happening for me right now. And what do you do? What do you spell?
Yeah, let’s take the pressure off.

Also for me, noticing that dance in a lot of forms does depend on the environment. I’m used to dance, not in this practice, but like going out to dance in a studio with people, certain music, and trying to recreate that for myself in my basement group, zoom wasn’t happening. And I did have a lot of emotions around that, guilt and anxiety. And it took a while, but I finally said, you know what? I’m going to stop putting pressure on myself to make it work. When there’s clearly a response to my body, that’s saying this doesn’t work here. It just doesn’t happen. And I need to practice what I preach. I need to find other ways of moving. And engaging my body, knowing that what I’ve been used to doing may not work in this moment in time. So giving ourselves permission that it might not look the way we think it’s shared, but our bodies will tell us what it means, what they need.

LINDSEY: That brings up a really good question for me actually is in episode 13 with Serena, from mindful tricks, we talked towards the end of the episode about how when people start something new, whether it’s a therapy, dance, and movement an exercise program, a new diet, like whatever it is, that’s new, the nervous system and the brain immediately puts up resistance. And it’s like for the first few days, or a few weeks of this new thing, it’s like this isn’t working for me. This works for everybody else, but it doesn’t work for me. And there’s a resistance to it. So how does a person, like you were saying you had these feelings about like guilt and shame and because you couldn’t set up a dance studio in your basement and do zoom dance with people.So that, to me, isn’t The same type of resistance that I’m talking about. That was more of you just being like, it’s not a hell yes. For me, not a hell. Yes. For me, for people who are, it’s very difficult for them to discern between what is me and my body going, actually, this isn’t working right now. And what is that nervous system resistance that we come up against that sort of makes it very difficult to push through. How do we interpret the difference between,

ERICA: I think it’s very individualized, but the word that came up for me as you were talking was here, and I think again, using myself as an example, when I noticed that things weren’t working, I can ask myself, am I afraid of this? Is there something that I’m afraid of here? And for me, the answer was. No, I’m not afraid. It just, it doesn’t feel it’s not helping. It’s not helping me. And I think there were other ways that I could move outside of the but I must be dancing that felt better. So one is is this fear based? Am I afraid that if I do this, I’m going to change. I might get better. I might move out of my comfort zone, which comfort has actually been anxiety or depression. And I don’t want to be there, but there’s comfort and familiarity. And so he’s Whoa, what are you doing? That’s why one of the things I know that’s obviously very prevalent, especially on the internet right now is it’s okay to not be okay.

But I always see the opposite because there’s so many clients that don’t know it’s okay to be okay. Something is like, Ooh, things are going right. Warning. Must sabotage. Think the other shoe must drop. And then they sabotage a really good thing because they’re just waiting for the bad thing happened, good things can’t happen to me. Therefore, I must sabotage it. So I feel like we need to recognize that their sphere. We also just need to recognize if there’s hesitation because it’s not familiar and it’s not comfortable. Knowing that oftentimes the things that are familiar uncomfortable are the things that are keeping us stuck or are the things that are actually the greatest detriment to our mental health. And it is going to feel uncomfortable and it is going to be weird. And I think even giving yourself permission to come back right. Just because it’s not working right now, doesn’t mean it won’t, but can you give yourself the permission to keep trying, can you try it once a week? Can you try it once a day? Can you come back in 30 days and see if your perception has changed? It’s again, like really taking away the expectation and just giving yourself opportunity. Actually have yet to have somebody not find benefit in it. It takes longer for certain people. But I’ve never actually had a client say, this is not going to work I’m out of here. They might say, I don’t think this is going to work, but I’ll see you next week. And then that goes on for a little while. And then I suddenly it’s yeah, I don’t want to say that this is working, but let’s just say things are changing, like I’m not going to give you the benefit of doubt, but yeah, this new relationship is not really going the way that old ones have. And there’s something to be said for that.

Yeah, it’s I think again, you put it this way. Like we keep ourselves in bubbles, we keep ourselves stuck physically, emotionally, mentally. And also if you’re noticing that there’s a lot of resistance and hesitancy, that can be a sign that you’re just not right. Like we’re just not ready to do the work and that’s okay too. And sometimes we just have to sit in that for awhile, sit in the low, the guilt, the shame. Until we for some clients I’ve noticed, like they’re disgusted enough, that it’s I don’t want this for myself anymore. I’m tired of sitting in this and No, your willingness to change has to be greater than your willingness to stay the same.

LINDSEY: You mentioned earlier, if you have a heartbeat and some brainwaves you can dance. So I think it’s important and appropriate to ask. What about people who are disabled, who they don’t have the use of their arms or their legs, or all four of their lens. Like how can they also benefit from this experience?

ERICA: Again, it goes down to what movement is possible, and that’s what I really love about, movement therapy is that it just makes the person where they are. So there is no prerequisite in terms of, you must be able to stand, he must be able to age latte, whatever, ballet, where do you want to throw in? It really does sweet the individual where they are. And I think what comes up sometimes is what if I have this ability and my therapist doesn’t right. And that’s when it’s. It’s really important to know that there’s so many therapists out there that do this work that have different capacities, different abilities themselves that can really help connect with you.

It just if I’m of a certain religion or race, I might want to see a therapist that is of the same religion or race as I am. I think it’s very common to feel that way about our physical abilities. And when you are just taking your body for what it is, what it do, what it’s capable of in the moment, the potential is there. I’d had so many clients or caregivers, I should say appliance, that will say, don’t touch the side of the body. They can’t move it or this part’s paralyzed or physically, if there’s pain, I don’t push it literally. Like I’ve had clients, older clients, especially where no, their arms have dislocated or something’s broken and they didn’t do surgery. So it’s like permanently like that. That’s going to cause pain. I would never intentionally move a part of the body. That’s going to cause pain. On the other side, I’ve come into rooms where people are supposedly, you can’t move this side of the body. So don’t try. I witnessed them, take the moving arm, hold the arm that doesn’t work on its own and move it themselves.Take the arm up and have both arms over their head that’s agency that’s movement. I didn’t ask him to do that. They did it on their own and who are we to limit people’s experiences based off of what we witnessed. I make assumptions of what I see. And then I put you in a hole or in a box that says you can’t do these things. That is not okay. And so if anything, I feel like the creative arts therapies, whether it’s art, music, drama, dance, poetry, Bibliotherapy those are things that transcend the abilities of the body and say that you are how you show up. You are able to do what you can with what you have, because the creative process is there to support it.

LINDSEY: Okay. She said that very lesson and I was like, we’re done. There’s nothing left to say here. This is fantastic. So I’m going to have links to everything that we talked about in this episode, in the show notes. Links to Erica’s website where you can follow her. She’s on Instagram as the therapist who moves you. And she also has a body awareness for mental health workbook that you can buy as well as a journal with 30 movement prompts that you can download for free. So those will be linked in the show notes as well. You can find show notes at lindseylockett.com forward slash podcast. And this is episode 20. And as always, you can find me on Instagram at I am Lindsey Lockett.