Radikal Life S1E8: Move with Karina Fireheart
Sat, Oct 01, 2022 9:27PM • 1:15:05
movement, people, dance, body, moving, exercise, life, gym, talk, feel, experience, move, happening, day, space, important, share, walk, specifically, folks
Karina Fireheart, Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP)
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 00:05
Hello and welcome to the Radikal Life podcast. My name is Marina Patrice Vare. My pronouns are they them and MP. And I’m recording for you today on the unceded lands of the Lenni-Lenape peoples. Today I’m speaking with our Move Module Leader and I’m delighted for you to meet her. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Karina Fireheart 00:26
I am Karina Phoenix Fireheart. I’m a Self Care Coach, dual certified health and life coach. And it is my mission to be able to help people feel comfortable within the bodies that they have to create a safe and loving space, an environment where they can explore their relationship with their own bodies. And I have been dancing since I was three years old. So moving has been a part of my life. And I have performed professionally, both nationally and internationally. I’ve done off Broadway show, I’ve done world premiere musicals I performed on a cruise ship. And so I’m very in tune with what it is like to have both a professional and disciplined way of moving my body as well as using movement as a way to express myself and to find joy and pleasure in life. And I am a compassionate heart warrior. I’m a mother. And I am excited to be a part of this project.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 01:47
Awesome, thank you so much for getting us started there. I wonder if you would like to share anything about your social location, or perhaps which identities and communities you’re passionate about working with or serving.
Karina Fireheart 02:03
As far as my social location, I am a white, pagan female. And I have definitely been in different locations throughout the course of my life. I have been on top of the world where I was making a really good salary, having all of my health benefits paid for living in really nice homes. I’ve also experienced not having those basic needs being met, not knowing where my food is going to come from looking for where am I going to live next, not having health insurance. So over the course of my life, it has changed. And it makes me more mindful about how I interact with other people. And as far as the identities or the communities that I would say are important to me or that I work with, it’s those people who don’t have access to the things that seem to be pretty basic for others, and coming up with a way that I can reach them with the movement work that I do, as well as the coaching work that I do. I offer a complimentary monthly workshop at our local food coop. And it’s a wonderful way for me to get to know people who are in the community, and offer services that help people to feel more empowered. And currently, I am really passionate about working with women or those who identify as female, who are burnt out who struggle with exhaustion and lack of time and finding space to provide themselves with the same love care and attention that maybe they provide to everybody else in their lives.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 04:09
Thank you so much for that. One thing I want to highlight that I heard you name there that I think is really important to echo right is just this idea that our social location shifts and changes over our lifetime, right our relationships to power and privilege change. And so I appreciate you sharing that about your personal experience. I also heard there a real passion to serve folks who are nurturing others, right people who are giving a lot of themselves right, it is quite easy to burn out. And so I appreciate your desire to help those folks give some of that love back to themselves. Thank you for sharing about your work. I would love to hear about what your personal movement exploration looks like in your day to day life and perhaps if you want to share with us as well how that has changed over time.
Karina Fireheart 05:01
So currently, in addition to being a coach, I’m also working a job where I sit behind a computer, Monday through Friday for eight hours a day. I know I’m not alone in this. And so having movement be present in that portion of my day was really challenging for me to figure out how am I going to continue to keep my body moving. So right now, what I do is I’ve built into my day, little chunks of time that I take for myself, and I have already been in communication with the people that I work for that this is something that I need in order for me to be able to do my job well. And so I get up every hour, and I take a short walk down to it’s a long driveway at work, I walk down to the bottom of the driveway, and I walk around. And I do a little bit of a mindfulness practice while I am moving to be present to the sun and the birds and whatever is around me. So that’s one of the things that I do during the day. And then I also do some stretching, to help to counteract that sitting that I do and working in front of a computer, which anybody who has spent time in front of a computer knows that your neck and your shoulders and your back, are affected by that. So I try to incorporate that in my work day. And then after work, I like to go for a walk if the weather permits, and walk the neighborhood. I live 10 minutes from the beach. So my partner and I like to go for a walk on the beach. And then on the weekends, it’s much more, I have more time. So I can do more things than that. But I really have found for me right now, because I work so much. And I do commute that I have less time than I have in the past. So how things have changed for me sort of over time, is that I used to dance a lot. And it could be putting music on and dancing around my house in the living room, it could be going out where I can dance with other people in public at events, concerts, those types of venues. So the more time that I have, I feel that I move in bigger ways. When I have less time, it’s more directed, it’s like focused, and it’s an it’s narrow as to I’ve got 15 minutes, or I’ve got five minutes. And so it’s like very specific as to what I do. But when I’ve got more time, it’s much more freeing and organic.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 08:01
Yeah, I really appreciate that distinction, right between when we have spaciousness, right, in our schedules and what we can do with that. And when we are more constricted by other people’s or obligations to other people or things right. I really appreciated hearing you speak about how you advocated for yourself at work right about, this is a thing that I need, right in order to be able to do this other thing. And so I just I appreciated hearing that and I hope that it is helpful for folks that are listening as well, about being able to name that you have needs and then negotiate how to how to get them met so that you’re not sitting, you know, in one place all day long. I feel like there was something else I’m gonna look at my note for a second. Oh, just the piece about specifically about that being sort of like once an hour, right, and, and that being something I’m guessing that you like work, either at home or in a cube, I guess you were saying there’s a driveway. So like in a cubicle, where you get up and then you leave the space. And I wonder if you want to say anything about, I imagine that that is beneficial specifically from a movement perspective. But I’m wondering if you want to say anything else about that related to how it cares for you, or how you tend to yourself during that time.
Karina Fireheart 09:24
As a self care coach, and really working on how can I meet my own needs and care for myself in a way that allows me to show up as the very best version of myself for others when it’s necessary. And in this context, we’re talking about work. So how can I be the very best person that I can be and produce what I need to produce at work? And recognizing that I need certain things in order to be productive? And one of the ways that I care for myself is to making sure that I drink enough water, making sure that I am taking regular breaks from staring at the computer screen. I am one of those really fortunate people to have a window seat in my, in my office. And so I can shift my gaze and I can look out the window. And I can also observe the movement of nature. I can watch the animals that are moving, how the tree is moving through the wind, how the wind is moving the trees and sort of shift my focus that way. But the getting up away from my desk and actually going outside and breathing fresh air and having the sunshine on my face feels like it’s this huge thing that I’m doing for myself that I’m caring for myself in such a large way. And I feel it inside, you know, I feel like Oh, I’m I’m really loving on myself right now. And I will do stretches while I’m walking specifically for my neck and my shoulders, my wrists, my my forearms, you know, just doing some movement to create some space in my body from you know, we get so tense and so tight, you feel your shoulders raise up when you’re at the computer. So I feel like it’s this really beautiful, wonderful gesture every day that I am honoring, and recognizing that there are certain things that I need. And by fulfilling that myself, for myself, that the impact really does ripple out from me to everybody else that I work with, to everybody else that I come in contact with, my partner, my family, everybody else gets the benefit of me caring for myself in that way, and specifically around moving my body and making sure that I’m not creating that stress, or that tension that stiffness inside my physical body.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 12:12
Yeah. Thank you for that. It was really lovely to hear the fullness of that. So thank you for extrapolating on that for me. I also just my body is having a little like envy, like hearing you talk about it, because I for sure I’m someone who’s a recovering workaholic. Right. And there was always like more to do than I could get done. And often that meant at the sacrifice of like moving myself about and like taking care of basic things. And, you know, I think it was much later in my career that I really came to this realization that you’re talking about here about running out of yourself to give if you don’t reup, right, like I came to being a parent much later in life. So I think maybe people that have kids earlier in life have already had this experience, right, where they realize that like they have to give themselves something in order to be able to give to others. But my career like, took up most of that space. Does that make sense? And so it took me longer, I think to learn that lesson about like refueling so that you have, not even more to give, because I feel like that’s also like a productivity driven thing. But like, so that you can give in right relationship, right, like give in a way where you’re not harming yourself in order to do the other things. So
Karina Fireheart 13:26
Can I share something with you please, that I share with my clients?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 13:30
Karina Fireheart 13:30
So most people have heard about giving from a cup that is full. So when you give from a cup that’s full, if MP, you need something and I say, oh, sure I’ve got this cup, I’d love to give you from my full cup, and I give you some and then, you know, my partner says, oh, I need some I say sure I can give you some and before we know it, the cup is empty. So the visual that I like to use is not to give from the cup that’s full, and not to give from the cup that’s overflowing. But you imagine a tea cup, and you have a saucer that’s underneath it. It’s full and it overflows into the saucer and we give from the surplus. We want to make sure that we’re giving from the surplus, we always want our cup to be full. We don’t want our cup to be empty. And so from that surplus, that means that I have everything that I need. And I have extra that I can now give to you from a place of empowerment from a place of choice of saying yes to you without saying no to myself. And I think that that can often happen as somebody who has a career or is a parent or is caring for elderly parents that we are wanting to help and we’re missing the tools and skills that are necessary to be able to show up fully resourced and ready to go. I’m here I am fully present with you and I’m ready to give what you need from me. As opposed to that burnt out frazzled, you know, tired person that there’s not a single person that I’ve encountered in conversation, who says that they’re not familiar with that. You know? So it is definitely, it is a passion for me to be able to help people understand that when you are empty, when you have no resources for yourself, yes, you may be showing up. But how helpful can you really be for that other person? Yeah, so
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 15:48
For sure and I, you know, I came over time to resent my job quite a lot. Right? And so yes, I love this image of the of the saucer, right holding what is available for others while your cup stays full. And, yeah, and I really am just sitting with that imagery, because it’s very powerful. So I want to transition back a bit to movement specifically. I understand that movement has been an important part of your life since you were a small child. And I wonder if you would maybe share some highlights or memories related to your movement exploration and practice at different points in your childhood.
Karina Fireheart 16:35
So I, as I mentioned before, I started dancing when I was three. But I honestly and truly think that the movement started long before I went to dancing school. Because the stories that I’ve been told is that I would be climbing all over everything, and just music would come on, and I would be dancing and moving my body. And somebody said, You really need to put take her somewhere for some formal training and education. And so I did the typical tap jazz and ballet that was available at that point in time, but there was also acrobatics. And so with my flexibility, and just the kind of climbing and doing things that I did, my mom put me into this class, and the teacher immediately wanted to do private lessons with me. And so I just remember, the joy of being able, I was allowed to climb, and tumble and do all those things that, you know, might not be so great if you’re in the living room or the kitchen. And so I started to compete for Dance Educators of America when I was five. And one of the things that happened was, they would put a little clip in of from the newspaper, there’d be a little clip of the dance studio, and it was myself and somebody who was quite older than I who did acrobatics as well. And that would be in the paper. And then the principal of my elementary school would contact my parents and ask them if I could come and perform for the school, which was very exciting. And I get all these cards afterwards from all the kids who came to see the performance and they draw me dancing and and you know this, which felt really nice to be able to share that with my fellow classmates. And there were some kids who were not as excited about that as I was. And I was bullied as a result of that. And they would tell me that I was stuck up and self centered. And you know, I thought that I was better than everybody else. And in reality, it was the grownups who were asking me to come in and do this. So there was a very interesting piece that kind of found its way in to my psyche around me being fully present, you know, in my little body power and sharing this gift that brought joy to other people and feeling like I shouldn’t be doing that. So there was this pull like a taffy pull inside of me about Yes, I’m excited that I can do all these things and I want to share it with other people and I should kind of dim my light because it makes other people uncomfortable. And so, you know, you start to create in your little mind stories about your body or stories about you how you interact with other people. So that that was an interesting thing that I had to learn to live with, from that point on around being a dancer and about being successful as a dancer. And then alongside of that, to be able to step into the, the spotlight as it were, and perform for other people and knowing that I was bringing joy to the lives of others through my movement, and them getting to watch me moving. So it was that kind of that interesting balance that I was navigating as a young person about I consider it to be a gift that I have the gift be to be able to move my body and in the way that I can. And how there, there was a kind of a dark side to that as well. I’m not quite sure if I answered the question.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 21:21
Yeah, no, I think that’s a great question. And I I’m just, I’m hearing there, right, this this thing that I sit with my my children right about, like, how easy it is to unintentionally dim someone else’s light. Right. And also, like, what a responsibility it is then also right to hold space for, for our children to develop their natural talents, right. And so I’m hearing that you had a lot of support from your family and your your dance community. And that, moving that into, like crossing that over into your, like school life had some challenges, and that it was that there are people that for whatever reason, right can feel threatened by someone else really boldly being themselves and, and confidently moving about the world. And so that sort of tension between like being encouraged to perform right, and then also in what spaces right? And in and where is it okay to showcase your talents. And, and I’m just recalling that, like, you’re talking about being five, right, when you’re learning that lesson. And so I just, I am holding that with some tenderness about you know, like, that’s a really early time in life, right to be already in this dynamic push and pull about like, what’s how confident is it okay to be right, and like how, how, okay, is it to shine and be like fully present and it, it sounds like you had tremendous support at home for for that to move forward. So I would love to hear perhaps, how that progresses as you move into like middle or high school.
Karina Fireheart 23:21
So I when I went into so when I was going to school, there was junior high school, not middle school. So I was 14 years old, when I became the youngest member of a modern dance company called Welton, in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania where I grew up. And, you know, junior high school was kind of as I was 14, I was kind of like the big fish in a little pond before going to high school where you become the little fish in the big pond. So I was pretty confident about myself. I was still struggling with people who insisted that I was stuck up and self centered. And, you know, I thought I was better than everybody else. And so I was learning how to allow, which is not an easy thing at 14 to allow other people to feel uncomfortable while I was confident. And being a part of that modern dance company was really instrumental in me processing a lot of that old stuff that I had carried around being a dancer and I was able to really step into myself as a dancer when I was in that company. And because I was so young, I was dancing with people who were in their 20s. And they were kind of like little mother hens with me, you know, helping me to grow and to express myself in a way that was safe for me. Even though other people and modern is one of those sort of, you know, Oh, you were a modern dancer, not really a dancer kind of a thing. But I really was able to find a place inside of myself, where I could be comfortable. And to be comfortable with moving my body and allowing other people to not be okay with that. So that was, you know, I remember my grandfather saying, so can you explain to me like, What is all that rolling around on the floor stuff that you’re doing? Like, can you explain to me I’m not sure I get it. And that he was not being judgmental but he was being curious. That he was trying to get me to have a dialogue with him about oh, so what was that dance about? What were you doing? What did what did that mean? Is there a story behind it? So that was kind of a way for me to realize that there are a lot of people that don’t understand what you’re doing, or maybe they’re threatened by what it is that you’re doing. And that’s okay. I think the fine line becomes when it’s not okay, and then you hurt somebody else, because you don’t understand them or you don’t, you know, you don’t I’m not quite sure the word I’m looking for. It’s not just about understanding, it’s about accepting, it’s accepting you as who you are. And I don’t have to understand everything, but I just know that we’re different in this way. But I definitely used dance as a way to help me through life’s challenges, I can tell you that.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 27:33
I am imagining just I mean, being a teenager, right is such a full time of navigating all sorts of things, right. And I want to pull this thread out, I love the way that you said this, allowing other people to feel uncomfortable while I was confident. Because I think that is the thing that many folks never learn. Right? We instead learn to keep other people comfortable at the expense of keeping ourselves small. And so what a powerful thing to get to practice in your early teens, right? I also loved this image, because I’m thinking about my own grandparents, right? This image of like, loving something that is like such a big love for you. And that is like just not quite understood by someone else. Right? And, and the, the space it takes to like to be in dialogue about that right like to, to navigate, like, I can see this is really important to you tell me what it is that lights you up about this, right? Like what’s happening there. And also, I just appreciate this imagery, particularly of like your grandfather, like I’m imagining watching modern dance being like, I don’t even know what’s happening here, right. But it looks like you’re having a good time. I just don’t understand it.
Karina Fireheart 28:54
And he came to every single dance performance that I had ever done, like in my whole entire life. So I he came, I mean, it was like, of course, he’s gonna be there and to say, okay, but I need your help to understand what I actually just saw was kind of funny as a 14 year old trying to describe that to my, my grandfather, who was born in 1907.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 29:23
And also so interesting, I’m thinking about, like, the differences that we get to experience in our life right then that our grandparents had the opportunity to experience right. That like coming of age, right that that puts him pretty close to like, coming of age at the in the Great Depression, right? So like having like, it’s just a really different set of life priorities, right? Like it is quite a privilege to be able to, like spend a lot of time like dancing, right? And so just like a I’m imagining, yeah, just like the like trying to understand something that’s so different from your own context and how beautiful that he was that he kept showing up, I really am appreciating that image as well. Is there anything that you want to say is about maybe how this moves on for you through high school, or maybe something for any of us who have never been professional, like, movement, folks, right? professional dancers, like, I can’t even quite imagine what it means to be part of a company and also be a high school student.
Karina Fireheart 30:30
Well, I really didn’t have much life outside of being a high school student and being in a modern dance company, because I danced every single night. So I would come home from school, I would do whatever I needed to do for schoolwork. And then after dinnertime, I would go off and I would dance for, it could be an hour or two hours, it would just depend on what the class was that we were having. And then I would come home and take a shower and eat dinner and sit down and do more schoolwork. So I was not having what a lot of other kids might consider to be a normal high school experience. Because I didn’t hang out with a lot of people from high school because I was dancing. And quite frankly, I was perfectly happy to be doing that I did not feel like I was missing out on anything. Because dance was my passion, I would rather do that than anything else. So and then if we did performances we do. There was a series over the summer, it was lunchtime performances. And so we would be in the center of town and we would dance. We would go to one of the manufacturing facilities and on their lunch break, we would dance for them. So there were all of these opportunities that for me to dance with them. And so I was really not having a normal high school experience in in that kind of way. And then, as I graduated from high school, that’s I moved away from home and immediately went into professional performing. My first gig was a dinner theater experience. So dance, and moving really was my, my breath, my blood and my life. You know, my my heartbeat was all about dancing and moving my body. Always.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 32:48
I imagine in some ways, that is probably a an incredibly skillful tool to have in your teens. Just as, yeah, I mean, I think it’s a time right, where many of us have a really challenging time with our bodies. And so having a way to be so tapped in and aware, right? I can imagine that being really encouraging in some ways. And also, I also didn’t have a particularly typical high school experience. And so I often feel relieved when I hear other people talk about their typical high school experiences that I didn’t right. And so yeah, so I’m like, I guess it seems sort of like a relief to get to do the thing that you really, really are passionate about and love and then have some of the other drama just not be there’s no space for it, right. I would love to know if you think there is a difference between movement and exercise and if so, is the distinction important.
Karina Fireheart 33:48
So I have done both movement, and I have done exercise. And one of the things that came into play as a professional dancer. They want you to look a certain way. So even though I was rehearsing and dancing, they you know, want you to be a stick and my body is not built that way. I have an hourglass figure I am a curvaceous body. And so exercising was something that I did to try to lose weight and look a certain way and moving was something that I did when I was dancing and performing. So and I have gone in and out of having a gym membership. I haven’t you know always gone to the gym regularly. But this is the best way that I can answer that question and this is I just want to remind people that this is my opinion that this is really coming from me and my experiences. I think that movement is a part of everyday life. So we bend, squat, stretch, push, pull, reach, lift, right, we’re opening and closing. And everything that we do requires us to move our body in some way. There’s a certain level of movement that we need to be doing for optimal health and well being. Exercise is a combination of movements put together to for a specific outcome. So we want to either improve or increase strength, muscle mass, endurance, stamina. We’re focusing on having our bodies perform in a particular way, for a particular outcome. And some people like to push their body as far as they possibly can to see if I, through diet and exercise, use a certain formula, how much muscle mass can I get, or how strong can I get, which is, it’s not a good or a bad thing. It’s just the difference that I’m seeing between the movement and exercise. And exercise is one of those things, if you are looking to lose weight, or increase the muscle mass, or you’re maybe an athlete. I see exercise as being something that is important. I don’t see it as something that is absolutely necessary for health and well being. And again, I know a lot of people who are probably like, I can’t believe she’s saying this right now. But moving our bodies for most people is something that we really get good at when we’re kids. So imagine, when you know, you go to a playground and you watch kids, and they’re running, and they’re jumping, and they’re climbing, and they’re swinging, and they’re doing all of those things. That’s all movement, that is all that you know, moving their bodies through space in different ways, kicking a ball, throwing a ball, all of those things that come from play, that come from experiencing joy in your body. Now, there were periods of time when I liked going to the gym. Because I liked the result. I didn’t like doing what I had to do at the gym, in order to get those results all the time. And I would sit in my car and psych myself up. Okay. All right, I can do this. I know I can do this. But I didn’t actually like what I was doing in the moment. So there’s this point in our development where we stop playing. And then we grow up and become responsible people. Because we’re also holding so much responsibility, we have to find time to be able to move our bodies. So a lot of people will go to the gym. And that’s the only time that they’re physically active is when they go to the gym, one hour a day, one hour, you know, three days a week, or whatever the case may be. And I think what happens is we lose the movement, that happens naturally. And I think we can really connect it with technological development. Where at a certain point in time, you can see how we’ve got people who are more sedentary, who are going to the gym. And that’s everybody. That’s not just athletes anymore. So I think exercise used to be more of a way to be fit. And so now you have people who are looking at I have to carve out the time at the gym to offset what’s happening with technology and we’ve lost the fun. We’ve lost the play. We’ve lost the ability to be with other people. When I was a kid, I would get on my bike. My mom would say you need to go outside. If you don’t go outside, I’m gonna put you to work. Okay, take your bike. If you run around the neighborhood, and you look for other people to hang out with, and we our neighborhood was around the park. And so there were, you know, jungle gyms, we’d be climbing and swinging and doing all those things, which builds muscle, which increases increases your endurance and your stamina, you get fresh air and sunshine, and you are having a good time, while doing it with other people. So I think often people go and it amazes me when you go into a gym, and you see everybody’s lined up on their treadmill, and they’re watching a television. So they’re not even fully present in their bodies, while they’re on the treadmill. It’s the distraction of the television or a magazine or something. But I went to the gym. And so there’s a disconnect between your body often not all the time, when you’re exercising, to try and make it through what you’re doing. And moving, where you’re present in your body. And you’re feeling what’s happening to your body, you’re feeling and expressing yourself. And I think it’s important in the sense that not everybody, and we’ve had this, you know, this discussion, before, not everybody’s body is capable of moving in a certain way, not everybody can go to the gym, not everybody can exercise. But everybody can move with the body that they have, regardless of whether they can walk a fast power walk, or whether they can walk from here to the corner, whether they can walk from, from the couch to the bathroom. That moving is something that we are all doing every day, whether we’re connected to what it is that we’re doing or not. But I do see a lot of that with people who are exercising the last time I was a gym member was before the pandemic hit. And I was a faithful gym rat, I just loved going, I loved the results that I was seeing I was in great shape, I was strong. And I would look around and I would see people who are like doing everything they possibly can to distract themselves from what it is that they’re doing. And my experience is through movement, you’re present, and you’re feeling it and you’re experiencing it. And it’s not judgment. It’s just we all like different things. I’m not a runner, I was forced to run when I was a gymnast. And I don’t like to run at all. So I don’t make myself do it. I do something that I like something that brings me joy, that I feel good in my body. And my body’s like, Oh, thank you for moving me that way. That felt good, as opposed to like, numbing my brain out or my body out so I’m not present and experiencing what I’m making myself to.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 43:14
I heard a couple of things in there that I want to highlight. I heard the sort of this distinction about like, enduring, right and like doing things to meet expectations when we think about exercise, versus like this sort of playful, joyful expression and being what you think of when you think of movement. And I think that that’s a really interesting contrast to sit with. And, you know, it gives me a different feeling when we talk about like so, uh, you know, I have recently learned the phrase intentional movement. And I really like that as like, I’ve never really been someone who was super excited about exercise, you know, I have I have endured it for sure. And I appreciate what you’re talking about there with the, you know, people having such an unpleasant experience of their exercise that they’re doing everything they can to actually be disembodied while they’re doing it, which I think is just like was a powerful visual for me. I’m like, Oh, yes, I’ve been there. Right. And I, I really hear sort of that difference between like doing something that feels pleasurable and joyful, right, and the, the vibration that that has in terms of actually doing a thing. I think I will also I’ll name a couple of things. I heard you make a distinction, right between folks that like levels of ability, like things that folks are able to do, and I just want to name that not everyone can walk like so let’s just just want to be like, right that like it’s not even necessarily from the bed to the bathroom. Right? But that when we’re talking about specifically like able bodied or currently able bodied folks, that there’s also a very wide spectrum of that, right? So we were chatting before we started recording about my experience of living with a chronic progressive, you know, illness, and how it really affects my mobility at different times when I’m flaring, right. And so that we were talking about yesterday, someone said to me, when I was really struggling with like I can’t, I don’t even have the mobility to do the movement I want to do, a friend reminded me that literally pointing and flexing my toes was movement, right. And, you know, and just thinking about, like, what we privilege as like movement or exercise, and how that shapes things. I think I will also name something that’s coming up for me around being a person that lives in a body that experiences significant long term trauma that has, that’s created a challenging relationship for me with exercise in a way that I don’t experience with movement. And I’m just thinking about, like, I’m literally thinking through this for the first time. So work with me for a minute, while I like tried to name it is, you know, strenuous exercise that causes me to have, like heavy breathing or to like, feel like I get very, like flushed and overheated is often a trigger for me, in terms of like, Oh, like that the whole body stuff comes up, right. But when I think about like movement as just being something that like I do in my life, right? Like, that feels less threatening to me. And it was a way for me to move through some of that panic that happened with exercise was to just really take the pressure off and like, recognize that like, I could move my body in different planes and different right ways without having to focus specifically on like building heat or like, right. I’m also someone who, in many ways, is extremely disciplined, and in others like that discipline is paralyzing, right? So like, trying to, like, do a practice that like looks a specific way, or burns a certain number of calories or like, right, that’s been very harmful for me in my over my lifetime. And so like unlearning that and learning ways to move my body with where my body is at today. And really, I think, for me that the distinction you made there between exercise and movement, really what landed was this idea of embodiment. And like movement being a place where it really is about being in the body that you’re in in that moment. And what’s happening in it. So that’s a lot of different like thoughts that came together there. I’m curious if you want to say anything about the importance of developing maybe a consistent practice of movement, and how someone might begin exploring movement, especially perhaps someone who’s been uncomfortable with the experience of exercise in the past? And let me just think about if there’s anything else I want to add to that. Is it important to establish a consistent practice? Do you have any recommendations to get started, and also like any ideas about where to fit it into the day? You gave us a few at the beginning that I really enjoyed.
Karina Fireheart 48:06
So before I answer those questions, can I just add something to the movement exercise thing?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 48:12
Karina Fireheart 48:13
Because after listening to you, what occurred for me is, and again in my experience, is that movement, I have more of a choice. And that I can really listen to and honor my body. And that if I am exercising, there’s a certain expectation around what it is that you’re going to do. And even in a very friendly gym, where the last gym that I was at was the best experience I’ve ever had. I loved all of the trainers, the culture, the environment was top notch, it was the most amazing experience ever. But I feel that there’s an expectation about you came to this gym, so you’re going to do certain things, and that if you are modifying to suit your body, which I have some physical issues, to modify, and even in jest, like, Oh, come on, like you’re not lifting heavy enough weight or whatever that that could be very intimidating and off putting and make somebody not want to come back if they have certain physical challenges. So the difference and even hearing you talk about it is that movement gives you choice to be able to move your body in certain ways that are not creating those triggers for you. And that exercising almost automatically is creating the trigger and in order to burn the fat or burn the calories or lose the weight. You are going to have to do certain things. With movement, you get to choose how you move your body, when you move your body, and to what you know how much you’re exerting yourself, which, if you’re going to exercise, and you’re doing a Zumba class or something like that, then modifying it so that you’re doing something really slow and low impact, you might as well not go to the class, because the class is, you know, what I’m saying is, so I just wanted to share that. I don’t know if that will resonate with anybody who is, will be watching, but I think you’re more in control with movement.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 50:42
Yeah, I appreciate that, that part around choice. I also just want to, I feel like it’s important to name that lots of people exercise outside of gyms and that like a gym membership is not like a necessity or anything, in order for folks to be exercising. It’s just a lot of us have pleasant or unpleasant experiences that specifically like exercise looks a certain way. So it just it felt important to me to name that like that is not a prerequisite for exercise, even if you are aiming for exercise versus movement. The other thing that I think I will say that I have has valuable to me in my adult life around movement is the ability to do it without like a lot of us for whatever reason, right, are, are in bodies that are the way they’re going to be. Or like, you know, that like weight loss is not a priority, right, like, and so I think that for me also is is part of what I prefer about this idea of movement versus exercise, right, is that like that I think there is often this expectation when we use the word exercise, that there is an outcome that is not only supposed to happen, but it’s like an ideal outcome and right. Whereas I feel like movement is something that anyone can do. Anyone can do is not necessarily the way I want to say that, but that is can be done for any reason, right? That is like, it’s a joyful way to be in the body without having to, like try to control the body. And also mindful there of my language that like, I’m still unpacking, you know, my history of like, not understanding how deeply entrenched ableism was until I became someone who was chronically ill, right. So just, yes, that like, I do want to honor that there are some folks that like movement is, you know, not a possibility or is extremely limited. And so it just, I try to be mindful every time I’m saying like, always, or never like everyone, or right just like, just to like, name it out loud.
Karina Fireheart 52:44
And I think that when we mentioned the word exercise, it will conjure up different images for different people. But sort of the collective, if you talk to somebody about exercise, what often will come out is I don’t have enough money to go to a gym, I don’t have enough money to go to a class, I don’t have the resources to be able to do that, you know, exercise in some kind of a way. And you don’t need to be a gym member, you don’t have to spend money in order to be able to exercise or move. And there are definitely people whose bodies will always be the way that they are and no matter what they do, that they’re not going to go and do bodybuilding competitions, or you know, those kinds of things. And for me, as a movement educator, what is most important to me is that people find what works for them, their bodies, and what their intention is for doing it. So if I can, if I can move on to the question that you asked me about the importance of having a movement, practice. First and foremost, I think that it is important for you before you start any kind of new activity is to make sure that you’re talking to your medical professionals to make sure that what you are about to do is not going to cause further harm to something that may be existing if you have an existing condition. Or maybe there is something about you and your body that this type of exercise is really not going to be good for. So that’s the the first thing is to make sure that you’re checking in with your medical professionals, your team to make sure that what you are going to be doing is going to be value added, it’s not going to make something worse for you. Number two, I found that by having something that I did on a regular basis, I looked forward to doing it. I looked forward to the time that I was carving out for myself because it was me time. So I think that it’s important to have something that you do regularly for yourself that you are setting, setting this time aside, to continue to develop your relationship with your body. That is where you will discover, maybe you didn’t know that you hold tension in your elbows, sounds ridiculous. But maybe you move your arm and you’re like, Oh, I’m really tense there, or you didn’t realize that you were gripping tension within your fingers, you know, maybe your your fingers are very tight. But you discover the places in your body where you’re holding and gripping. You discover places that your body really says, oh, that’s yummy, do more of that I want more of that, that makes me feel really good. It’s, I find that a lot of people don’t know their bodies very well. And we’re in it for a really, really long time. And so to have that time, where we dropped down and in to our body, and we communicate with our body, so we’re really nurturing and nourishing our relationship to our vessel. And one of the ways that I think people can incorporate more movement into their life is at the end of the day, either before they eat their meal, or after they’ve eaten their meal, and right before they go to bed as a really nice, gentle way to end your day. It again, if it’s something that you’re looking forward to, it’s a way to release and let go of the day, and to prepare yourself for either something that you’re doing that evening or to prepare yourself for sleep. So it can be a way that obviously if you are doing something that is really high energy, if you have your favorite piece of music is like super super fast and you’re jumping around that might not be the best activity to be doing right before you go to sleep. But it might be great when you come home from work and you’re like I just want to shake off this day and prepare yourself to move into the next part of your evening whatever that may be. So those are a couple quick thoughts I’m not quite sure if I hit all your points or not.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 58:02
I think that’s great. I’m enjoying this idea about movement as a thing that you can do right in transition to clear some energy right like it when arriving home maybe from work or being out in the world. And then also like clearing before bed. I think that’s a really like those are useful for me to like, keep in mind as well, right? Like we had a tradition when I was young about walking around the block after dinner like we would have dinner and walk around the block and then come home and do the dishes. And I did not always love it as a kid and it’s fun when we’ve done it with our kids as well. They don’t always love it but I have fond memories of it now like as an adult as being a time of like processing and like just like moving energy around. I also was having a chuckle because I I literally have never heard anyone else say relax your elbows. But I have a sticky note in my wallet from my dear friend Kate who is a body worker from when she was working on me one of the first time that I saw her she wrote me a sticky note that said relax your elbows and I carry it around. I still carry it around. Not a place. I was like oh yeah, like there’s like it’s an interesting place to carry tension. So it was just funny to me. I was like I’ve never heard anyone else. So just gave me a chuckle and I’m smiling thinking of Kate. So thanks for that. I would love if you would like to share maybe a memory or something that was like influential in shifting your desire to work with clients specifically around movement.
Karina Fireheart 59:31
So I mentioned I was a professional dancer and at some point in my performing career, I slipped and fell at the very beginning of the performance and ended up going into the emergency room collared and boarded and could not move. And went through a whole process of physical therapy and rehab and the idea of not being able to move the way that I was moving. And after, I think it was like three months or so I went back to the show, and was performing for a while. And then I did something else that was kind of like the final, the final moment. And I had to learn how to move all over again. And I would go through when it first happened, I would be paralyzed, like from my mid back up, you know, into my neck, and I couldn’t lift my arm up to take a sip of water, or brush my teeth or do anything like that, which is simple, basic self care. And I was terrified that I would never be able to move again, let alone dance, I mean, I knew I would probably would never dance the way I’d dance before, but to just dance again. And so it was through that recovery process, it was through my own baby steps of figuring out how I could move my body in a way that was not going to cause further damage, or just unnecessary pain, and how I would like to share that with other people and help people to become comfortable in the body that they have. And to find joy through movement in that body. And so as I continued through the process of physical therapy, and rehab and relearning certain things, I just really thought that I wanted to help other people as well. And I was a dance teacher for I don’t even know how many years now I danced when I was pregnant, I you know, it was one of those things, that it was less about the dancing. And it was more about the joy of movement, the joy of moving my body through space and time in a way that was pleasurable. And I just wanted everybody else to have that same experience.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:02:33
I really appreciate the way that this dramatic shift right in your own ability to move brought you to a place of desiring to make movement, something that you could joyfully share with others. And I think that that’s a really powerful, like, I know, you only shared it in like a minute or so there, right? But I can imagine that that was a long journey of recovery. And that reconciling the the way you were able to dance before with what might be your future movement in your body, I imagine was a really challenging journey.
Karina Fireheart 1:03:20
Well, being a dancer was how I identified as a person. And Chorus Line, at the very end of the show, you know, the question is asked, What would you do if you can’t dance anymore? And my answer, every single time we did the show in my head was that’ll never happen to me. That’s never going to be an option. And there I was faced with that exact thing. Like now what do I do? I don’t know who to be, I don’t know how to be. That’s I’ve been doing this since I was three. I’ve been doing it since before I was three but like, you know, formally with training from the time I was three. And so I had no direction. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what to do. I knew I needed a job but like, Okay, I was going to college to be a dance therapist, originally and I went to New York City and they handed me the contract on the spot. And I’m like college or my dream, college or my dream, I can always go to college. I can’t always have this. And so I didn’t have a college degree to fall back on. I didn’t have another skill set, except for being a temp because that’s what I did when I was pursuing my performing career at you know, in musical theater. And so it was devastating to have not only the injury and not being able to dance happen, but then the identity crisis that followed that and the I really don’t know what to do, and feeling lost and feeling like, my life is over. I mean, I knew it wasn’t over. But the devastation that I felt, and it did take years, it took years of being, you know, in physical therapy in rehab and processing, and then going into, you know, mental health counseling as well. And having to reinvent myself, all you know, have, okay, I don’t know what it’s gonna be, I’ll figure it out. But something that never stopped, even after I was injured, was me sharing my love of movement with other people, and encountering people who say, Oh, I can’t dance. And I’m like, but you have a body, you have a breath, and you have a heart. And you can move your body through space in a way that makes you happy. And that brings me back to children, if you ever watch children, and how they move their bodies, the joy that is just emanating from their body, when they’re dancing, it’s like just so beautiful to watch. And helping people to tap back into that, where moving their body is joyful, as opposed to painful or shameful, or, you know, any of those negative experiences that a lot of us have had, from, you know, being in our bodies. And it doesn’t matter what your story is. Because there are ways that we can all move and you shared with us, it’s the pointing and flexing of your feet. As simple as that may seem, that is movement, you are moving your body, opening and closing your eyes smiling, those are all movements that I think we take for granted, I think we take our bodies for granted and how our bodies move through space every single day, for granted until you find yourself in a position where like with my injury, I couldn’t brush my teeth, I couldn’t take a drink. I couldn’t, you know, do self care. And it just really inspired me to want to share that with other people and help people to have a positive relationship with their bodies, the one that they’re in now, not the one that they were in a year ago, or that they hope to be in, oh, if I lose 20 pounds, you know, six months from now, but let’s love ourselves now. Where we are with what we have. And I find that if you can start from that place. Moving forward is easier.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:08:01
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me about having to learn to navigate, right where we are in the moment, instead of where we have been before, where we hope maybe will be. I also just really appreciated the way that you named how our identities can get tied up in our ability, or in our profession, right? And how that’s really a challenging thing to work through. Right? And that it does, when we find that we’ve become so identified with one part of ourself, right, that that really does often require mental health intervention to help us, you know, like, see ourselves in a larger way, right, like, beyond a particular, like, point of our worth or part of our identity. So I appreciate you naming that. I’m just noticing our time. And I know we had several other things that I wanted to talk about. And so I’m just going to look at my notes for a minute and see if I can pick one or two there to like close us out. You know, I would love to have you share a bit about your spiritual beliefs and perhaps how they influence your relationship with movement.
Karina Fireheart 1:09:21
So I mentioned earlier that I am pagan, and I really have this experience of when I sit in nature and I watch nature and I watch the way that nature moves. And I watch how the wind moves the trees, the trees move in the wind and how animals move and so there’s a connection to all that is sacred. You know all all beings all living lifeforce is being sacred and my connection to that, and sometimes mimicking what I see in nature, moving my body, like the tree in the wind or the grasses or moving like a snake, or like, you know, certain elements of nature. When I was about 18 years old, I discovered that the way that I connected to spirit was through dancing, and that I often would feel like I was filled with the divine. And then I was moving with that divine inspiration. And as I got older, I used movement and dance as a sacred tool for my spiritual practice wellbeing, expression, and really connect to the fact I feel like I was blessed with the gift to be able to move my body in a certain way, and to be able to share that with other people. And so I kind of feel like I was dancing and then I realized that that was my connection to spirit. And once I had that realization, then it was, ah, the way that I moved through, I’ve done a lot of ritual where I have danced in incredibly beautiful, magical experiences. So I kind of feel like it was always present that that was always there for me. But I didn’t have that realization until I was about 18 years old. And I continue to use that as a tool for my spiritual practices and well being.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:11:55
I love this realization, right? And if I understood it correctly, that you know, when you’re dancing, right, that the act of performance is a is a sort of a channeling of the Divine. Is that did I understand that correctly?
Karina Fireheart 1:12:07
That is correct.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:12:08
Yeah. It’s a really beautiful image. And and then how that shifts, right? And you realize, like, oh, you can bring dance into other spaces, and then that enhances your, your spiritual experience there as well. I love that. I’m approaching our last question here. But before I do that, I always like to check in and just find out if there’s anything that you had hoped we would talk about that we didn’t get to, or anything that has come up for you in the course of the conversation that you’re like, oh, I want to circle back or I want to make sure I have the opportunity to talk about that before I close us out.
Karina Fireheart 1:12:42
I don’t think so. I think we covered most of the things that that I thought we were going to talk about, and I it’s just been such a pleasure to have this conversation with you. And I appreciate you.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:12:56
Thank you so much. I would love in closing for you to tell us what’s your vision of a Radikal Life?
Karina Fireheart 1:13:04
Ah, so there’s two things that come to mind. The first one is the project Radikal Life, that my vision is that this will be a community where we can all learn and grow together in health and wellness well being. And living a Radikal Life for me is to love myself, and have compassion and kindness for me, so that I can move forward into the world and have love compassion and kindness for others.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:13:43
I love that. Thank you so much for that. That’s rich, just the, yeah, the having the thing for yourself, and then being able to ripple that out into the world. I love that. Thank you. Oh, well, friend, it has been an absolute treasure to get to have this conversation. Thank you so much for making the space in your day to chat with me. And I will look forward to seeing you again soon.
Karina Fireheart 1:14:09
Now. Thank you so much. I appreciate you and all that you’ve done to create this space. And I look forward to working with you in the future.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:14:19
Thank you. Thank you for joining us, head over to our website at Radikal dot Life to sign up for your free Radikal Life Starter Kit. Our website is R A D I K A L dot L I F E. The Radikal Life podcast is produced by me, Marina Patrice Vare, and edited by Cassidy Vare. Our theme music was created by Mark MeeZy. Radikal Life is a co-creation with Manjot Singh Khalsa and Radikal Healing. Connect with us on social media, Radikal with a k. We’re on Instagram at Radikal underscore Life underscore 22 and Facebook at Radikal Life.