An extended bike tour in 2019 prompted psychotherapist Lynne Herbert to re-examine what she was doing with her life and, more specifically, how she was spending her time. All that time on her bike brought out a feeling of "aliveness" that she says she wanted to bring into her work. After working as a licensed professional counselor since the year 2000, Herbert began pursuing training that would eventually prompt her to open Soul in Motion, described on its website as, "body-based mindfulness practice asks you to relax your intellect, quiet your brain, and connect with the messages you receive internally."
Standing on the outside of a typical class, it might look a little like ecstatic dance, but as Herbert — who said she attended ecstatic dance sessions for years — puts it, "I see Soul in Motion as starting from a more centered space, tuning in to ourselves first, then expanding out into the room while not losing our ground in ourselves and our needs. My process takes a less predictable path (the music varies...more typical of what happens in life), and it's equally about internal and external exploration."
In prep for our annual Health and Fitness issue, I recently checked out the Intro class she was offering for those who wanted to learn what the practice is all about. The class was held in a local dance studio, but unlike ballet or even Latin dance classes held in these same spaces, the mirrors are covered up – the idea ostensibly being to, "learn how to listen to ourselves first, our own bodies and what it needs, and to then practice holding that in the world, connecting without losing ourselves, a practice in presence and awareness," as Herbert described to me via email.
The intro class started with Herbert prompting the group to simply walk around the room, focusing on the sensations in our bodies, turning inward. As the class progressed, Herbert described various types of communing – communing with ourselves, with another being, with a wider group and with the wider world. As the class progressed, her prompts shifted to encouraging us to dance with someone else, in smaller groups and as a whole. This practice, she said, is intended to have people notice and be curious about what shows up in the body, and to experience those feelings in a group setting. We didn't get any prompts about how to move our bodies, per se, but just to, "notice what comes up" and to move to the music... or not.
"There's a mindfulness (a bodyfulness) aspect to this that supports folks to notice and be with emotion in a different way," Herbert said. "And, because it's a group practice, it also provides a sense of not being alone in it. I want to 'undo aloneness' around emotion... even if it just means feeling an emotion in the presence of others without putting words to it."
While it's designed as a therapeutic practice – and Herbert offers workshops and eight-week groups to go deeper into the practice – the drop-in weekly classes tend to center around one simple theme for that week, though internalizing that theme is up to the individual.
"Because of my history, asking folks to notice what comes up... physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually... it's who I am and what I'm inviting," Herbert wrote. "Folks may choose to listen to those inquiries or let them fall... each person's practice is their own and each person is showing up with a different goal or motivation."
By the end of our 90-minute intro class, some of the attendees had worked up a sweat. Some reported feeling more ability to manage or confront their ongoing physical pain. Some were simply happy to find a place to dance and let go. Herbert encouraged me to notice how I slept that night, and so I did, noting that my dreams were more vivid than in recent days, though I didn't recall much of what they were about. I'm going to chalk that up to "noticing what came up," and not needing to put words to it.