Allowing the Body to be Vulnerable, as a Source of Strength

Shame lives in the body. I suspect that most people walking around in their daily life don’t know that. Shame can show up as tension in the neck, shoulders, and armpits. Shame can show up as tightness in the stomach. Shame restricts our breathing. We live in a shame-based culture. It is written about and spoken about, but rarely understood as a somatic experience.

So many people come to me with physical complaints that have no diagnosis. People suffer with emotional pain trapped in the body that the mainstream medical establishment has no explanation for. So many people come to see me as if they are living in a straitjacket, preventing them from moving out of restriction. Sometimes, it’s managed with food or drugs, or talk therapy. Sometimes it’s managed at the gym in a quest for fitness, but how much time do we slow down enough to allow ourselves to soften joint by joint, tissue and bone? How little time we allow ourselves to feel into the depth of the pain that is showing up in unexplained patterning. For example, if you receive a diagnosis of lower back pain and you simply try to resolve it with drugs, it will return because the underlying root of the problem is often the body’s somatic response to an emotion.

My work as a practitioner allows me to journey with my students into a territory that is often so frightening that unless the person can trust me, they will work hard to resist and avoid this courageous process of softening into what actually is happening in the “pain body”.

In a world that is driven by achievement and speed, it takes enormous dedication and commitment to attend to the emotions in the body. The more I practice Body Dialogue, the more I see the possibility of transformation, if my student agrees to surrender to the process.

I applaud the work of Brené Brown because I think she truly understands that the collective must risk being vulnerable in order to feel our belonging to one another. Our body knows when we are in a safe environment. We all know what it feels like to feel safe with one another, and we all know what it feels like to be armored. When one recognizes that feelings are safe, then one doesn’t have to revert to blaming, shaming, and projecting these feelings onto someone else.

For me, the work starts with the breath. Not only as a meditative tool, but as a tool that allows us to break down barriers so we can break through to connection.

Reconnecting to the Body

When I woke up this morning, my body was struggling with an old physical pattern that was familiar from my childhood. I was pulling my sternum up and away from my lower back, creating my “dancer’s arch.”

This posture made me feel safe in the world of my childhood. In those days, I had no body workers or therapists to reflect back to me what I was feeling or thinking. I just had my dance studio and my dance teachers and improvisation. Over the course of an hour in the studio, I would often come back to my breath and feel more fully connected with something bigger than me, and also with what was confronting me in my childhood. 

I needed to dance so I could find out who I was, and what was home for me within myself—not in the universe of my family, but within my own being. 

As I grew older, and dance became a set of moves that I had to “do right” so that my teachers would give me affirmation and applause, I lost that wisdom of knowing truth in my body. By the time I was a performing artist, my body was no longer the source of a sacred practice that brought me healing, joy, and expansion. 

I’ve spent the last 55 years in search of that clarity I had as a child in the dance studio, when I didn’t need people to tell me I was doing it right or wrong, good or bad, I didn’t need their approval, and I didn’t need applause—all I needed was to feel alive in a particular way that was natural and organic to me as a child. The grief that arises when I get on the floor and improvise, today as a 70 year old, is the leftover pain of leaving that innocence I knew so well. I embodied my joy in my exploration because I was dancing for myself, and no one else. 

That metaphor of understanding the contrast between knowing wholeness, versus looking outside myself for approval and affirmation, has been the guide for my spiritual journey. Without my early childhood experience, I would not have had a compass to help me make decisions for how to live my life and follow my life’s path. 

That compass—that knowing—came  from my heart, not from my mind. It came from a connection to something much bigger than myself or my family. I don’t know who I would be today without those very young experiences in the dance studio. In those moments, I trusted my reality and I trusted myself. But as soon as I left the studio, I would struggle with whether my need for love from others was more important than my love for what I knew in those moments in the studio. 

Eventually, in order to receive the love I imagined, my body would take whatever form and shape was necessary to fit into a mold of belonging. What I am learning from the back spasms and nerve pain I am encountering at this stage of life is that in order to heal what is showing up as pain in my body, a deeper investigation is needed. This is the ongoing work of Body Dialogue. 

Stress Results in Atrophy of the Breathing Muscles

Body Dialogue Sessions are now available Remotely

I would never have believed it, but I am now teaching private sessions remotely. For all of the people who have said “I wish I could work with you, but I’m not in Orlando”, I have come up with a way to do Body Dialogue remotely.  I’m not going to lie, it’s not the same as having hands on, but it’s still highly effective. Why? Because most of us do not carve out the time we need to attend to ourselves, and particularly to our breathing. How do I know this for sure? Because even I do not do that for myself, and I teach this work!  If we make a session for 45 minutes, I can help you create better breathing habits through new information and practice tools to invigorate your life. Listening to your voice and hearing your frustrations is one way I can help resolve some of your breathing issues. More importantly, over the last year, I have developed a more sensitive attunement to the somatic restrictions that arise out of fear and stress. Because this work is so intimate, I am able to respond to some of the hidden factors that create restriction, and have developed some new techniques that free up the musculature that inhibits a deeper breath when under tension. In 45 minutes, we will be on the floor together, going through a protocol that I will design specifically for your needs. That protocol can be recorded so that you can continue to practice on your own when the session is over. 

Although breathing issues show up as a result of trauma or emotional imbalance, one develops a literal physiological weakness of the diaphragm and a restriction in the accessory breathing muscles. So repeated practice with Breathing Coordination is necessary in addition to working with the emotional problems.

$95 for 45 minutes. To schedule contact

“I came to Janice in desperate need of help because my health was not doing well and no doctors seemed to truly know how to help. Without even meeting her in person, I felt so comforted and protected. I knew that she was the perfect person for what I needed to help me get through this. She guided me through her breath work. The first day I bursted out into tears because my body had so much to release and finally felt this sense of safety unlike before. From that session I continued to work with her and felt completely relaxed and calm, unlike any other meditation or breath work I have done before! Janice is truly amazing at what she does and I will ALWAYS recommend her to everyone who I feel she could help!”

~Rachel Strever

I had the great fortune to work with Janice for a breath session last week. Even though we worked over FaceTime, I felt like Janice was in the room with me. I would describe the work as simple but profound. Janice helped me to release the tension throughout my torso, and free up my ribs, shoulders and diaphragms, allowing for deeper fuller breathing. I came away from the session feeling relaxed and energized. I look forward to working with Janice again soon!

~ Dr. Keren Vishny

What makes a satisfying, deep breath?

So many people tell me that can’t get a deep and satisfying breath.

The key to a deep and satisfying breath is a strong, resilient, dynamic diaphragm. Chances are you have been told that the diaphragm is important to get a good breath, but if you’re like most people, I suspect you have no idea what that really means.
It’s true that the diaphragm IS the main breathing muscle. If your diaphragm is weak, you’ll have a shallow excursion up and down in the rib cage on the in breath and the out breath. 
The trick is that you cannot strengthen the diaphragm the way you train other muscles.
The only way to strengthen the tissue of this muscle/organ is through toning, sounding, and vocalizing — not exercise and exertion.
It is the coordination of the diaphragm, lungs, intercostal muscles, and abdominal muscles which determine optimal breathing.
In the following practice videos you will learn how to build the tone without effort to strengthen the diaphragm, thereby improving the coordination of your breathing.
Think of vocalizing as a vibrational isometric exercise that improves the elasticity and tone of the diaphragm and also improves the coordination of all the different functions, resulting in a fuller breath.

Try these three videos, and after a month’s time you will most likely feel improvement and a better exchange of inhalation and exhalation.

A Gentle Breathing Coordination Practice

Dear beloved friends,

I know we now find a plethora of opportunities online for learning. And I know it is common knowledge that breathing is important. With that as a given,I’d like to add to the conversation what I have learned from my teacher Carl Stough, aka “Dr. Breath”. Because I was his student for over a decade, I learned the benefit of using less effort for better results when maximizing efficiency of the breath. Bringing ourselves into a full breath allows us to ground in the present moment and helps us manage fear better. It also can shift our nervous system out of a fight/flight/freeze response.

This post is about how to optimize your breath for a more restorative exchange of the inhale and exhale.

Here are some rules I learned from Carl Stough, as well as some common misunderstandings.

First, breathing is a function of many systems that need to work in coordination. 
For example:
-The tongue needs to be heavy and not held in place by effort. 
-The head and neck must be allowed to be free, without the neck working to hold the head in its place.
-The voice and throat are best used when the throat opens from the back of the jaw.
-The main sensation is one of NOT PUSHING.
-Again: NO BIG effort or PUSH.

Common misunderstandings:
-The more you work out, the better you will breathe.
-The harder you work, the stronger the lungs.

IN FACT, BREATHING is about allowing. The lungs empty the stale air on the exhale. The exhale needs to be a release and NOT a push.

The muscles of your diaphragm, which is primarily responsible for respiratory function, are only strengthened when you TONE and VIBRATE with no effort on the pitch that feels most natural for you. We look for the overtones to vibrate and maximize efficiency of the coordination.
All of this I learned from Carl Stough.
In the video below, I will encourage you to move and breathe with no effort, a smile on your face and joy to be alive.
Remember: Exhaling is what allows the inhale.