11 Jan FAMI ’16 reflections: Rachel Abrahams
FAMI attendee and workstudier Rachel Abrahams shares thoughts on her FAMI 2016 experience.
It’s hard to fully explain my experience with FAMI. I’m trying to hone in on exactly why four days of sitting for lectures and anatomy was such a life-enhancing moment. All I can really come up with is MUSCLES AND BONES AND INSIDES AND EVOLUTION!! But, alas, that isn’t enough. So, in a few succinct words: FAMI solidified my knowledge of what I already knew and had learned in various trainings – yoga and mat Pilates – and gave me a broad understanding of concepts that I didn’t know. FAMI showed me that western medicine doesn’t balk at our energetic work, which, in it’s own way, was one of the most valuable pieces of information to hear from an orthopedic surgeon.
In being a member of the work-study team for this year’s workshop, I had the pleasure of visiting many studios to let (nearly) all of New York City know about FAMI. At one studio, a senior teacher was giving me a bit of pushback about the necessity of a program like this. “But Yoga is about energy, not anatomy.” My mouth hit the floor. I gracefully picked it back up and attempted to let her finish. She expressed concern that the depth of the anatomical information shared throughout FAMI was a way for the people providing the information to feel self-important and superior to the students. I thought about what she said for a long time.
This instructor was not wrong, but she also wasn’t right either. I don’t have enough friends that I can successfully use the phrase Lumbar Lordosis with on a regular basis. Getting into the language of the body was one thing that completely excited me about FAMI. I get to use as many Latin or Greek terms in one sentence as possible while also forming a question to a brilliant anatomist? Yes, please. After reading The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease by Daniel E. Lieberman, I was primed with my evolutionary questions and really ready to dive deeper into all things bones. The thing about anatomy is that it absolutely can get overwhelming. We’re attempting to map and understand the inside of the body which we can’t see, all while knowing every body is a bit different. If her fears were being talked down to through anatomical language, mine were not knowing what I thought I knew or simply not knowing enough to “keep up.” I was so, so, wrong. Dr. Laitman, brilliant anatomist and professor, defined every anatomical term whether we needed it or not. Anything I didn’t know was explained and repeated and eventually shown in the Gross Lab. This was a learning experience, not a testing and judging experience. My study of the human body is ongoing. I welcomed the repetition of information and tried to absorb as much newness that was thrown at me as I could.
So the thing about energy…
I work with energy and energetic cues in my yoga classes. I’m not strictly an anatomical instructor. The thing about energy is that it needs a clear channel through which to run. This clear channel can take many forms and becomes a different priority depending on which style of yoga you choose to practice. You can wear certain colors to align with the energy of the outside world, eat certain foods to cleanse your internal organs and stoke some internal energy and fire. But physically? Physically, when you stack your bones in a healthy way in each and every posture, you’re providing your muscles beautifully clear structural channels to fire their fibers and engage. If I’m only concerned for my students’ pranic rise in Warrior 1, I might get their hearts lifted and feeling amazing breathing easily, but without the firm foundation of the front knee stacking over the heel, I’m creating an energetic problem later when their VMO muscles are overdeveloped and they’re unable to stabilize through the lateral side of their legs. This might throw off their balance or lead to medial knee pain. Pain creates sadness or discomfort within any physical practice.
Like I said, that instructor wasn’t wrong, but wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a place that could provide her with all the tools to figure out the equations of bodies right in front of her? For me, FAMI supercharged my understanding of alignment, thus allowing me to problem-solve more quickly. I can get back to the energetic aspects of the practice or creative cueing that keeps me engaged. The experiences with the professors, surgeons, and anatomists solidified what I already knew and gave me space to learn a great deal more and find new interests along the way. In the Gross Lab, you’re given X-Ray vision and get to see exactly what attaches where, what everything looks like, and how beautiful we are underneath the skin. I was reminded how tough we are from the inside out and how sturdy and resilient the body can be.
Want in on the FAMI fun? Snag your spot for FAMI 2017: June 22-25!