From Intern to Instructor | Tatiana Valencia Shares Her Moving For Life Story

Tatiana ValenciaMoving For Life has been blessed to host internships with some amazing students. Our most recent intern, Tatiana Valencia, a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College, wrote a wonderful reflective essay about her internship. Here is a short excerpt about how her experience as a Moving For Life intern has turned her passion for dance into a desire to share its powers with the community around her.

In my opinion, dance encompasses a universal form of communication and embraces an endless array of possibilities. Through dance I developed an immense sense of gratitude for the vast amount it has given me: freedom of expression, a connection and love for my body, awareness of internal and external forces, a heightened appreciation for the health of my body and its flexibility to adapt and openly handle whatever comes its way…the list goes on. Reflecting on this, I started to ask myself:  If movement could give me this much – and if there are so many people in the world who live their entire lives completely disconnected to their bodies because of too many different/individual reasons – then how special would it be for me to one day be able to dissect each one of their personal reasons and alleviate or even extinguish it?

It is often thought that as people get older they become jaded to society and lose their youthful spirit. The truth is that one NEVER loses their youthful spirit. It simply gets compiled with responsibilities, more awareness, knowledge and fears… but one never loses it.

As one gets older, however, “life happens,” a saying that means responsibilities exhaust, disorders get stronger, traumas develop or deepen; and although one may argue that this is what is making someone who they are, this clutter often detracts a person from their true internal life. A rebuilding of connectivity to the self – and in turn, to the world – happens only when specific attention and energy is given to the issue. Many people find it extremely difficult to do this on their own, thus, it can only be fully realized through the help of a professional. I want to be that facilitating figure in people’s lives; someone who bridges the mind/body disconnects.

Tatiana Valencia leading Moving For Life dancers in the 10th Annual NYC Dance Parade, 2016
Tatiana Valencia leading Moving For Life dancers in the 10th Annual NYC Dance Parade, 2016

My internship ranged from administrative tasks to actively participating in the field. Occasionally I would attend Dr. Martha Eddy’s lectures, which helped broaden my understanding about cancer as a whole, and in doing so, helped me feel more comfortable interacting with patients. I also translated several documents including the Moving For Life Guidebook for Safe Exercise During Cancer Recovery. Translating material helped me learn Spanish anatomical terms and other vocabulary related to cancer that I otherwise would not have known how to translate to a Spanish speaker. I was also able to assist Martha with research for her new book, Mindful Movement.

On Saturday, March 12th, Martha presented me with the opportunity to represent Moving For Life at a Domestic Violence Health Fair in Harlem. The fair was formed by an organization called CONNECT, which is dedicated to preventing interpersonal violence and promoting gender justice. I led a gentle aerobics class to social workers, children and parents who are all part of the domestic violence movement. It felt amazing to make people feel comfortable in their own skin and ultimately take them to a place of healing. I was able to observe through people’s eyes how grateful they were for the hour I provided to solely connect with their bodies. At the end of the event, participants were interviewed and asked what their favorite activity was throughout the health fair (yoga, nutrition, self-defense, massage therapy, etc.), and the two girls I listened in on said that it felt so good to move to music in such a meditative way because they were able to feel fully alive again. This was so beautiful to hear.

This internship gave me the opportunity to learn through observation and active participation. The unexpected challenges I was presented with helped me grow as a student in the Dance, Body, Science and Motion concentration, but most importantly, as a person. My internship experience with Moving for Life gave me a real life opportunity to see with my own eyes how uplifting movement can be towards a dwindling human spirit. Being a part of Moving For Life has also motivated me to eagerly engage in my next learning experience because with love and great care, I am fully capable of completing whatever I set my mind, body, and energy to.

Thank you Moving For Life!

~Tatiana Valencia

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The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Inspiration and YOU – Join MFL in Addressing Health Disparities

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Inspiration and YOU – Join MFL in Addressing Health Disparities.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Inspiration and YOU – Join MFL in Addressing Health Disparities

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This is just a quick message to say that Moving For Life (MFL) believes that the process of dealing with health difficulties is on the continuum of working for equity for all.   As we each seek balance and equilibrium, MFL helps people harness their own creativity and joy to recuperate from the challenges of life. Nevertheless we come across bumps in the road – the cost of things, the access to what we need or want, the extra burdensome bits of bureaucracy and yes, still the injustices. There continue to be disparities in health services – in insurance, in health care delivery, and in health education.

Moving For Life is an allied medical service – a wellness model – focusing on healthy lifestyles with expertise in movement, exercise and dance as well as in mindfulness, meditation and rejuvenation.  We also are committed to partnering with groups like Cook For Your Life that teach about healthy eating and guide us to better nutrition.

We are also committed to overcoming disparities in health care delivery.  It is an uncomfortable fact that fewer African-American women in the GREATER NYC area experience breast cancer but MORE die from it.  For Latina women – there is a large percentage of women that just never get the services that others have access too.

In 2014 a team including Holly Mills nutritionist, Darlene Nnanyelugoh and MFL director, Martha Eddy were accepted to present Moving For Life’s model at the Columbia University, Teacher’s College Health Disparities conference. Dr. Eddy also presented a case study from Latina SHARE.

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We invite you join us in this drive to bring knowledge and active guidance in safely changing habits to life-enhancing behaviors to ALL. We appreciate your spreading the word about Moving For Life programs, and our need for tax-deductible funds as well as volunteers for events and office administration.

We have been honored to share Moving For Life DanceExercise for BREAST CANCER and REPRODUCTIVE CANCER RECOVERY through our partnerships with the Comprehensive Breast Center and SHARE, for CANCER RECOVERY for Women and Men (at Gilda’s ClubQueens Cancer Center, Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx), and MFL DanceExercise for Health with all people looking to improve their health at Emblem Health Neighborhood Center in Harlem. With our new status as a tax-exempt non-profit we are growing  quickly to share these programs in more sites throughout the boroughs!

Wishing you a day of envisioning and healthy action.

In case you missed it – Martha Eddy in Dance Teacher Magazine

Moving For Life’s co-founder and program designer, Martha Eddy who is also an Exercise Physiologist. Somatic Movement Therapist, Certified Movement Analyst and Dance Educator wascropped-927738_2152409_14006083761.jpgfeatured in Dance Teacher Magazine.  Learn all about our history and how inspired our teachers are around the country. Thank you Caitlin Sims for writing a thorough and sensitive account of Moving For Life!  She includes quotes from our Bay Area MFL Certified Instructor (MFLCI) Melinda Teustchel and highlights the poignant story of one of our most active New York area MFLCI – Catherine Gross. 

Here is the article:

Dancing to Heal

Posted on March 1, 2014 by
Martha Eddy has created a movement class to counter the side effects of cancer treatment.

Martha Eddy (at center, in orange) leads a Moving For Life class in NYC.

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As Melinda Teutschel begins teaching an early afternoon Moving For Life class in Pleasant Hill, California, the dancers stand in a circle and close their eyes. “We’re going to find our breath,” she says. They move from a gentle warm-up through exercises that isolate and coordinate legs and arms, to a flowy aerobic section focused on balance and strength-building, then scatter to the walls for stretching. It takes a careful eye to realize that the program is created specifically for breast cancer patients, because, well, the participants are having so much fun. But this class is meticulously designed to be therapeutic, as well as invigorating.

It is clear, however, that this has evolved beyond a movement class into a supportive community. When one student, who has had recent foot surgery, needs to elevate her leg, others offer ice, pillows and a blanket. Another who has had recent reconstructive surgery confers with Teutschel and rejoins the class with minor modifications.

Moving For Life is an innovative program for breast cancer patients created by Martha Eddy in 1999. Eddy drew upon her knowledge of physiology, deep understanding of movement science and somatic education and the compassionate soul of an artist in creating MFL, which has spread beyond its New York roots across the U.S. to Japan, Canada and the Netherlands.

The initial concept, not surprisingly, came from a breast cancer patient herself. Dr. Allison (Annie) Stern Rosen was fatigued, depressed and struggling to get off the couch after surgery and radiation. She flipped on the TV and saw exercise guru Richard Simmons. Although she wasn’t strong enough to do many of the exercises, she swayed to the music. After 10 minutes, she was surprised to feel better. From this came an idea: Why not create an exercise DVD for people recovering from breast cancer? Rosen turned to Jan Albert, a friend, television producer and documentary filmmaker. Albert knew Martha Eddy, a certified movement analyst trained in Laban/Bartenieff studies and licensed Body-Mind Centering teacher, who also has an EdD in movement science and education from Columbia University.

Eddy spent hours talking with Rosen about the symptoms of breast cancer treatment, which can include joint pain, peripheral neuropathy and lymphedema. Each symptom impacted how Eddy designed the class. “That’s where my expertise in somatic movement came in really beautifully,” she says. “Annie’d say her joints hurt, and she didn’t want to get down on the floor or do level changes. She also said, ‘I’ve got fire feet,’ which is peripheral neuropathy. From chemotherapy, the nerves in people’s feet become a little numb or overly sensitive. In either case, it throws off balance. The third symptom she had was lymphedema, or swelling particularly of the lymph nodes.”

Eddy drew upon the diverse elements of her own training to design the class. “From my kinetic studies of Body-Mind Centering, I understood how to help lymphatic fluid flow as well as how to calm the nerves. And through my understanding of movement therapy, I was able to design exercises to meet each of those issues. Because of my background in exercise physiology, I could create a program that is gradated and safe. I used the dance education knowledge to parallel the use of the music to the gradation for the aerobic effect, and to make it fun.”

MFL centers around a set “classic” class that progresses through specific exercises set to music. Eddy piloted it at Teachers College, Columbia University, with breast and ovarian cancer patients. When Rosen and Albert realized how expensive creating a video would be, they tabled the idea. But Eddy had already designed the class, so she took it to hospitals and cancer support programs in New York City.

She was ahead of the curve; most other cancer exercise programs then shied away from an aerobic component. For Eddy, it was essential. “The number-one side effect to cancer is fatigue,” she explains. “But exercise combats fatigue. It’s the same way that working with weights strengthens muscles. You tax the muscles, and when they heal they come back stronger. It’s the same with cells. Unless you actually work yourself into the target heart range, they don’t get taxed, so they don’t work to become more efficient.”

The class was successful enough that Eddy soon needed to train other teachers. She had already created her own teacher-training program called Dynamic Embodiment, blending elements of Laban/Bartenieff work and Body-Mind Centering; this program became the initial source of teachers for MFL. As the program has expanded beyond New York City, Eddy has set prerequisites for the teacher-training that can be completed elsewhere. Students then attend 30 MFL classes as apprentice teachers, complete a pedagogical workshop in New York and take an exam. In all, it’s about 100 hours of training.

The training is comprehensive enough to enable teachers to adapt the “classic” class to fit the needs of their students. “We are also trained to be improvisational,” says Teutschel, who completed MFL’s teacher-training program in 2004 and started classes in the Bay Area in 2010. “So we have tons of tools in our basket to address many different students.” Teutschel calls the students in her Pleasant Hill class her rotator-cuff group. “They’ve all either had surgery or are in line to,” she says, “so we do a lot of experiential anatomy, learning how the shoulder girdle works. They soak it up because they know that it’s helping them.” Teutschel thinks this self-knowledge is one of the most valuable lessons of MFL. “The healing process entails education,” she says. “This is highly educational, but it’s accessible.”

As Teutschel’s class in Pleasant Hill comes to a close, one of the dancers turns to a friend. “We all know how important exercise is,” she says. “I’m beating this. Psychologically it’s so empowering.” DT

San Francisco–based Caitlin Sims is a former editor in chief of Dance Teacher.

In August, the initial vision of Rosen, Albert and Eddy was finally realized with a professionally produced DVD, Moving For Life, Dance to Recovery, which includes a 50-minute workout, a seated exercise class, a dance lesson and interviews with participants and doctors, plus health tips. movingforlife.org

From Student to Teacher 

Catherine Gross came to Moving For Life as a participant and was so transformed by her experience that she became a MFL teacher.

Catherine Gross was introduced to Moving For Life while she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. “I felt at home right away,” she says. “It was safe; it was organic. The fact that I could move made a huge difference psychologically.” Gross appreciated the fact that the class could adjust to her changing needs during recovery, and that it was tailored specifically for breast cancer patients.

The class buoyed her spirits as well as strengthened her body. “I felt uplifted. The music was fun. And it was a place where we focused on what can we do, as opposed to what are the problems. It was getting back to who we really are, our own essence, our own bodies, our spirits. You can lose that when you are dealing with surgery and chemotherapy.”

She immediately wanted to learn more and eventually trained to become a MFL teacher. “I felt there was so much that was deep within it,” she says. “You learn how to tap into your internal energy through rhythm and music. I thought that was so powerful.”

When asked if she brings something extra to teaching because of her own experience as a patient, she demurs. “I think that all the MFL teachers are very sensitive to students’ needs,” she says. She acknowledges it can be inspiring for students to see the journey she has taken from student to teacher. And that she understands completely the feeling of having the world turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis.

MFL classes can be a respite from all that. “You’re moving, and for a moment you’re really forgetting about it,” she says. “Being able to express how something is feeling nonverbally is so healing. It’s a positive way of getting back into your life and getting back into your body.”

 Photos by Angelida Vanessa, courtesy of MFL

Moving For Life research study with NYU Langone Medical Center published

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You might like to know about a new research study involving Moving For Life that has to do with cancer recurrence reduction and exercise – specifically aerobic dance and weight loss. Here is the abstract. The full article is published in the Journal of Cancer Therapy: Journal of Cancer Therapy, 2014, 5, 1031-1038
Published Online October 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=50451#.VIvfsWTF_G8

The bottom line: Moving For Life can assist in maintaining healthy weight levels and body mass ratio of lean tissue to fat which in turn can support NOT Having a Recurrence of CANCER.  However its imperative that women have easy access to on-going classes even 6  months after treatment.  We are working to raise funds to provide MFL’s safe, MD endorsed, finely designed classes for women in recovery from breast cancer.  Moving For Life is open to participate in other studies on its impact on other types of cancer recovery and illness reduction.

Abstract for the MFL and NYU Langone Breast Cancer Lifestyle Study

Purpose: Weight loss after breast cancer diagnosis has been associated with a decrease in risk of breast cancer recurrence and mortality. The purpose of this study is to examine the barriers, acceptance, and sustainability of an exercise intervention program offered at our institution to over- weight women with newly diagnosed breast cancer.

Methods: The Breast Cancer Database was queried for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer and a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 25 kg/m2. Eligible patients participated in the Moving for Life (MFL) exercise program for 16 sessions. Questionnaires were administered. Statistical analyses included descriptives and paired t-tests to summarize patient characteristics and assess changes over time.

Results: Of 40 patients, 22 declined, 18 consented and 13 (72%) completed the study. The mean age was 61 years (range: 38 – 76). The mean BMI was 31 kg/m2. After the intervention, there was a decrease in weight and BMI (p = 0.04). The average weight loss was 10 lbs. Participants reported greater enjoyment of exercise (p = 0.02) and decreased pain related to treatment (p = 0.05). These initial positive results were not maintained after 6 months and 1 year.

Conclusions: The MFL intervention had a high rate of acceptance among overweight women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. These results demonstrated significant benefits of exercise immediately after cancer diagnosis and highlight the importance of developing sustainable lifestyle interventions. Interventions targeted at modifiable lifestyle factors in women with early stage disease may provide benefit that is comparable to certain adjuvant systemic therapies. Therefore, adjuvant lifestyle interventions supported by clinicians may improve breast cancer survival outcomes.

Please join a community that wants to help promote longevity through active engagement in healthy lifestyles. Visit www.MovingForLife.org

Lets get the swelling down! Nancy Bruning

After my mastectomy, I was bowled over by the extent of the surgery. I worried about restoring my range of motion and strength. That was bad enough. And then I heard about lymphedema—a permanent swelling of the arm, hand, fingers or chest  after breast cancer treatment.  In other words, potential for lifetime of discomfort and diminished use of my arm.

I was lucky to have been physically active before my diagnosis, and was eager to get back to that. Imagine my relief to learn that exercise—at the proper time after healing—was not only possible, but good for me. I never did get lymphedema, and decades after my treatment I have full use of my arm, although it does get a bit tired and achy if I overdo something, like kayaking for hours on end.

Recently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued new guidelines. The guidelines say exercise will not make the lymphedema worse and could improve well-being. Their experts say that women who suffer swelling following breast cancer treatment should be encouraged to exercise.

I’d never heard of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) before they issued their important new guidelines. NICE is a non-departmental public body of the Department of Health in the United Kingdom that
publishes guidelines in four areas:  The use of health technologies, clinical practice, guidance for public sector workers on health promotion, and guidance for social care services and users. NICE has a high reputation internationally as a role model for the development of clinical guidelines, especially regarding cost–benefit boundaries. So, it behooves us to listen.

The new NICE guidance, recommends that  doctors and nurses discuss with patients how exercise may improve their quality of life—especially the one in five people treated for breast cancer who will go on to develop lymphedema.

Although they say that the current evidence shows “exercise does not prevent, cause or worsen lymphoedema”.

Lymphedema can happen when your body’s lymphatic system becomes damaged –in the case of breast cancer, by surgery or radiation–and is unable to drain fluid in the normal way.

Many people are confused and may be leery of exercise, thinking it could cause or worsen lymphedema.

Jackie Harris, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said  “Lymphoedema can be controlled but will never go away and we know that regular exercise has many benefits for those living with or at risk of lymphedema.”

“Regular movement in everyday life or work can help keep joints supple and aids lymph drainage and extra exercises can also be useful if swelling restricts movement of the arm.”

Moving for Life Dance classes are specifically designed to encourage lymph drainage.
Martha Eddy has studied and taught about the movement flow of lymph and how our own movementnchoices can help in increasing the flow, even after the adversity of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.  She has created the Lymphatic Warrior Phrase that can be done seated or standing.  Women who have practiced MFL report reduced swelling, less pain, and the ability to fly without swelling worsening when they do the exercises at home or while traveling.   MovingForLife_abstract MovingForLife_Air That I BREATHE X MovingForLife_animated bye