What is Artfully Twisted? Artfully Twisted is the name I’ve given to the work I do with functional restoration and pain management groups. A combination of movement and creative expression, Artfully Twisted offers us a chance to move back into our bodies and to move back into our hearts. I’ve been working with functional restoration programs since 2008 but it took me some time to realize the power of what I have been asked to offer. I’m so very grateful that circumstances brought me here.
Early in 2016 Mary Lynn Fitton offered her mentorship. What she shared was empowering. She encouraged me to own and formalize in writing the work that I do. I began by writing a mission statement:
Artfully Twisted is an ongoing program of yoga and creative expression. Participants meet weekly for 90-minutes. Each week includes a conversation about yoga philosophy as it applies to daily life, a series of carefully sequenced hatha yoga poses that can be practiced at home and a creative expression component.
The goals of Artfully Twisted include:
- To provide a safe space for growth and exploration
- To create an environment free of judgement and expectation
- To offer support through acceptance
- To encourage an increase in confidence – especially in the individual’s ability to move toward greater health and wellness
- To support the release of anxiety, stress and fear often present in individuals who have experienced trauma
- To improve each participant’s range of motion through the practice of Hatha yoga
- To explore each individual’s innate creativity as a powerful tool of self-expression and communication
Influenced by the philosophy of functional restoration programs (FRP) Artfully Twisted is, quite simply, a process of reconciliation utilizing yoga and creative expression to support increased range of motion and mental health. While it is useful on its own, it is most effective when used as part of a program that includes psychotherapy and counseling, physical therapy, wellness workshops, medication evaluation and regular appointments with the clients primary pain specialist.
Artfully Twisted is inspired by and owes a debt of gratitude to Mary Lynn Fitton’s The Art of Yoga Project, a program that brings art and yoga to incarcerated girls. The program is modeled on Boston Medical Center’s Back to Health, a trial program that supports movement therapy in the form of Hatha yoga for chronic back pain.
The yoga we practice in Artfully Twisted draws its inspiration from traditional Hatha yoga and is informed by the teachings TVK Desikachar and American Viniyoga as taught by Gary Kraftstow. Our sequences encourage the repetition of movement with synchronized breath to promote increased range of motion and a calming of the nervous system. Every yoga practice includes suggested movements and featured asana (postures). The asana may be drawn from chair yoga, standing asana with chair or wall support, or floor asana sequences. While there are suggested postures for each module, instructors are invited to select sequences most appropriate for the individual client or group.
It’s imperative the Artfully Twisted yoga program feel inclusive and not exclusive. It’s imperative that participants are not only kept safe but feel safe. To that end, modifications and adjustments are offered to ensure all movements and asana are accessible. It is made clear to participants that they can choose to not practice a particular movement or asana until they are ready. If an individual chooses to not practice a movement, even after modifications are offered, they are encouraged to hold space for the other participants by continuing the same rhythmic breathing as the group. In this way, everyone is moving and breathing together.
While the spoken word can be lyrical and expressive, Artfully Twisted believes other forms of creative expression offer new means of communicating thoughts and feelings. The art projects we work on may be as contemplative as coloring or as focused as mask making. All projects, like the asana practices, are inclusive and not exclusive. Each module has one main art project with the intention that it will be completed in three weeks. Other activities are always available for those who finish the project early or who simply need a break. And, like the asana, art projects can be modified and adjusted in order to be accessible to all participants.
Some individuals may not be comfortable with creative expression. They may be vocal in their resistance by commenting to the group that they can’t ‘do art’ or ‘art is a waste of time’. Sometimes what those ideas are protecting is the truth that the process of creative expression is a process of self-study. It can be revealing and it’s possible participants may feel uncomfortable taking part in an activity that potentially opens them to that level of vulnerability.
Since one of Artfully Twisted goals is to provide a safe space, these ideas must be heard and not judged. It is my responsibility to hold space for expressions of vulnerability while at the same time encouraging participation. The process of exploration that creative expression offers cannot be undervalued. In the same way that we ask participants who are unable to practice asana to hold space by following the group breath, we help participants who are reluctant to join in the creative expression element to find an opening into the process by exploring different techniques or by suggesting a modified theme.