Movement and Mindfulness
Jane Belshaw has been running various mindfulness, movement and relaxation classes and programmes for 20 years now, starting by offering massage to people who wouldn’t normally go for a massage. We spoke to her about what mindfulness and relaxation are, why they’re so important and how we can incorporate them into our daily lives.
What is it you do, Jane?
“I started, about 20 years ago, offering massage and relaxation classes to patients at Island Health medical practice and teaching 5 Rhythms movement practice. I incorporate all I have learnt in to the classes and courses I currently run at Poplar Union. ‘Moves Back East’, a conscious movement class, and ‘Mindfulness, Art & Movement’.
Although my classes have titles like “Mindfulness,” “Movement” and “Art”, participants are simply practicing remembering resources that they already have but may have forgotten. These are resources that can make the difference between having a good or a difficult day.
Reconnecting with those sides of ourselves is actually the easy part, though. When I began by offering massages and mindfulness, I found that starting things, beginning new things, is the hardest part. Once people are in the door and engaging with my classes, they love it and can’t wait to come back. You need to know what you yourself need to do in order to get over the initial hurdle of beginning – for me it’s a special pair of trousers.”
Mindfulness and relaxation make up a big part of your practice. Why is that?
“We don’t practice mindfulness with participants in order to make them “good at it”. Rather, we do it to help them develop and access tools for life.
Mindfulness is being aware of our sensations, of how we feel, what’s going on within our body and our mind. They don’t have to be particular feelings; our sadness and anger are just as valid as our joy. In mindfulness we acknowledge that we feel them and that we let ourselves feel what we can tolerate moment to moment. There can also be immense creativity unleashed in this.
Our classes are always invitational. You are welcome to engage with the group as much or as little as you are able on any given day, and you don’t have to share how you feel if you don’t want to.
One of the practices is called ‘Taking in the good’, remembering one small thing that happened during the day and revisiting the sensations and the feelings that arose at that time. It can be anything, from the coffee you had at breakfast to the smile you got from a stranger. It’s all about rebalancing the negativity bias our mind has; our tendency to be teflon for the good things and velcro for the difficult. This is an important survival skill, but not always appropriate in the moment.”
Why incorporate art into the practice?
“Drawing is a wonderful form of self-expression, so we work with people in meditation then give them space to draw. With us, art is body based and invitational. We invite people to put the pencil tip on the paper and just follow their hand, and there is no pressure to draw if you don’t want to. You can take as many pauses as you like.”
Just as important as the above, though, seems to be the role of dance and movement within your classes. Why is this, and why – for people like me who don’t consider themselves to be great movers – should people not be put off by this?
“If you put the body into movement, the psyche will begin to heal.” Said one of my teachers, Gabrielle Roth.
When we use dance to be fully embodied – physically, emotionally, with our mind – it means we can be present for our lives and all that occurs. Whether that’s loving, connecting or learning.
Our dances are for everyone. You can practice on chairs if you struggle with mobility or stamina. Some people come to the sessions just so they can dance to a great variety of music. Others come for a release, to let go of a heavy day or to be with others. We can dump everything in to the dance – our rubbish day, our tiredness, our joy. It’s big enough to hold us.
It’s a place where it’s fine to copy someone else dance. It will look different through your body, and it doesn’t matter how old or how fit you are. You come to discover your dance in the moment.
I’ve taught 100s of people over the years, and I haven’t yet met anyone who can’t move.”
Who comes to the classes, and why would you encourage those reading this to come along and experience the benefits of movement and mindfulness for themselves?
“It’s a very diverse bunch at the classes. We have about 15+ at Moves Back East every week, and some people travel a long way to come to us. Our dancers are everyone from carers to those with high pressure jobs.
Over the years I have seen people become more themselves, more comfortable and confident in who they are. Some may start making different lifestyle choices around the classes – eating better, getting more active, that kind of thing. But, centrally, people develop the confidence and the ability to accept how they feel and who they are – and immense empowerment can come from that.
You have nothing to lose from trying out our classes! If you have existing health conditions or are worried about anything, then of course speak to your GP first.
You can find more information on Jane’s classes at:
5 rhythms / open floor
stress relief in less than 10 minutes
A session for those who have attended a course or who have some experience of mindfulness or conscious movement practice
Her next course
Patients at Island Health Medical Practice are entitled to 3 free sessions of her Softzone Therapeutic Massage upon GP referral and she is also in talks with Poplar Union about bringing Fluid Q to Poplar, a Mindful, Movement and Art monthly event for those who consider themselves to be sexually and/or gender fluid.Back to Stories