Creating Space For A New Conversation
I am fortunate to know a lot of good people, interesting people, fun people, and bottom-line creative folks who are curious about exploring movement. These fine individuals allow themselves to venture off the beaten path and share their unique knowledge with others. This interview is with my pal Chandler Stevens who is, in my opinion, the embodiment of that kind of soul inspiring creative person who is willing to forging a new kind of convo.
In the other couple interviews I have done, I have used my own words to describe the person I am interview and their involvement in the movement, fitness, conscious living world. However, I was wondering if you would be so kind to explain what it is you do.
Of course, well in terms of job title in “capital letters” I am a movement specialist, somatic coach and creative facilitator. What that means in practice, I revolve around conversation, movement and awareness. I like to think of my work as other ways of moving and being. Whether that is really concrete stuff like getting functioning mobility for your ankles so you can play with your grandkids or thinking about movement in more abstract ways like conscious awareness of having fixed patterns of holding your body and moving.
Well that is a juicy description, I dig it. That leads me to my next question, which is what do you love most about movement?
What I love the most is that I believe movement to be an inextricable part of our human experience. I mean its woven into our language for god sakes, for example we take a stand, embrace challenge, or juggle responsibilities. I think movement is how we literally and figuratively connect to life.
I see how that answer relates to what you are offering, by engaging in conversations regarding movement in a more layered and unique way. You previously mentioned looking at movement in concrete ways, such as functionality of joints or muscles, is that how you initially started in the fitness industry or have you always had a curiosity for more?
I think the first inlet for me in movement was through yoga and Brazilian jujitsu, and then how I started into a somatic approach honestly was through injuring myself a lot. I was in my late teens, early twenties and I was always pushing myself way to hard. Also, early on in my career in fitness and movement training I had a mentor who said to me one day “I think you’re going to quit this whole personal training thing and become a somatic educator.” At the time, I just kind of laughed it off, but she was totally right. It has been an evolving process over time that allows me to continuously pull back layers of bullshit from myself up until today, this morning and hopefully forever. So yeah, getting into yoga, jujitsu, dealing with injuries, somatic education and uncovering traumatic experiences from the past helped me see that hey movement actually makes life better.
I can totally relate to your journey especially how an injury started shifting your awareness on movement and your body. Where all of sudden you fully realize you aren’t as invincible as you thought you were and you now have to relearn how to use something you maybe took for granted like normal range of motion in your shoulder, ankle, or knee. I kind of hate that so many people have to experience injury or this broken state to finally have a richer understanding of their own body, but at the same time I don’t regret my own experience as it taught me so much about anatomy but also how to rebuild and shape my life in a healthier way.
I’ve been seeing more thoughtful or inquisitive approach to movement through online platforms and in social media and I’ve seen you in videos exploring natural movement or Move Nat? Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Well there is Move. Nat and then there is natural movement, both share a lot of similarities but also are a bit different. What drew me to these practices is they are the closest thing in that fitness-y world with an understanding that all of this stuff fits together. That we are meant to move in natural contexts, we are meant to tune into what are bodies are doing. The work is close to more of a somatic approach but it’s not quite there yet.
What would be some examples of natural movement or Move Nat?
Well it feels like this teeters on a semantics argument. There is Move. Nat which is brand/philosophy and then there is natural movement like walking, crawling, climbing, jumping. I look at natural movement as movement before we had boxes to define movement practices. But now there are different groups, companies, some more popular than others that have a slightly different take on what natural movement is, it’s kind of a tricky situation. When people start saying this isn’t something, only this is the way to do it, I feel you have to ask “Whose standards or yardstick are you measuring this by?” and if you’re not measuring with your own yardstick and thoughts then what are you doing?
Yes, asking questions about why something is the way it is or why we are doing this rep this way? I feel like so many people don’t feel empowered in their own bodies to ask the why questions which can land you in place that defeats why you are doing the movement initially.
Total side tracking, but with slight purpose, I’ve seen some of your videos where you are playing and jumping in trees or walking on big logs in the woods and it is giving me real Dirty Dancing vibe. Like in a great way, but yeah.
You think I need to bring a shimmy when I walk in the log to really jazz it up?
Yeah like some bends and twists with footwork or maybe just shimming on a log with some fancy music. Your own version of natural movement. But now that I said that it sounds just like dancing… Anyways that aside, you were talking about examples of natural movement and Move. Nat?
Yes, well there is overlap, in the center of the van diagram of movement there are locomotive skills like walking, crawling, running. Move Nat. adds strengthening and conditioning with combative stuff like grappling, striking, that sort of thing to those locomotive skills.
Where I see natural movement is just being wherever you are in space and time. For instance, walking down the street and you bend down to pick something up like a stick or litter, that’s natural movement. That’s my thing right now is picking up litter, that’s my biggie these days, oh man it drives me nuts.
OH, MY GOODNESS, I know there are huge problems in the world and right in our own city but nothing makes me see red faster than seeing all the littered garbage lining the streets.
It pisses me off. My girlfriend asked me the other day for a survey she was doing, what makes me passionately angry, and without question, LITTERING, hands down!
I feel you man, I mean, just put it in a trash can! Yet I know there are social, economical, and psychological reasons we have this issue in the world, but oh boy it fires me up. Okay, littering makes us both upset, confirmed. We digress.
Yes, and ecological stewardship is self-care, there is no split or divide on that. So that’s that.
Agreed whole heartedly again, ha! Alright now back to natural movement, so when someone is for example walking down the street and bending down to pick up some trash, it’s not just the movement but the awareness on how your body is functioning to make these actions happen right?
Correct. Natural movement can be looked in a couple different ways, one of them being effectiveness or efficiency. But for me, my interest really doesn’t lie on the efficiency model anymore, I mean it’s important to know for deadlifting the most efficient way to lift heavy objects but I am really more interested in options of ways of moving. Our lives are complex and I think the more options we have, then more ways of moving, being, and living we have. That to me is just way more interesting, having variety.
Coming again back to what you said in the beginning about creating conversations about movement. I agree that when we give our bodies more choices then we have can begin to have so many more ways of communicating with ourselves and other people on how things feel, what feels good, what does not feel good, how do we feel supported? Choices allow for deepening the conversation.
Yes, choices and a desire to have those conversations.
Right! You mentioned having a mentor in the beginning of your movement education and I’m wondering if there have been any other mentors, stand out teachers, or experiences that have heightened your passion for movement that have allowed you to grow with those deeper conversations?
It seems weird to highlight a particular person because fortunately the majority of people I have come in contact informs the work somehow with a new reality of something that I hadn’t considered. But some pivotal moments for me have been working here with a gal in Cincinnati, Fanchon Shur, a gal, wow, I mean she is like a quintessential elder of all good things, but she was the one who said “You’re going to be a somatic educator!” and that really opened up some of the emotive qualities of the practice for me. Another source of inspiration has been Frank Forencich who started Exuberant Animal out of Washington.
What is Exuberant Animal?
Well Frank’s big body of work, is what he calls the long body which a person, the habitat, and their tribe and then he describes the short body as this muscular-skeletal fitness-y stuff. But his teachings and work really emphasize that we are all tied to the earth and share this connectedness with all that inhabits it. His message has really helped drive and inspire me to think more eco-consciously within my own life and how movement is related.
That sounds amazing and maybe 75% the population should take a weekend at Exuberant Animal so they can get a better understanding of that connection as well!
Yes! Forced workshops for all :)
What are you most excited about in your business or life right now?
These industries tend to overlap a lot but as far as fitness type stuff, I am really excited that people seem to be asking more questions and not just blindly following dogma. I’m hopeful that some of the latest fitness crazes will continue to slow and die off and allow for pause so people can say, “we need to start thinking critically about what we are doing to our bodies.” Not just hordes of people just lifting tires and heavy ass stuff with little understanding as to what you are doing with that high impact movement. I might be wrong but that is what I am hopeful and excited about. It’s a bubbling conversation.
But in terms of just life stuff, I feel like I am just becoming more of myself and feeling very comfortable in that which just feels so good.
I resonate with that excitement and though I still see people get caught up in fitness crazes, I do feel that as whole many people are asking why, why are we doing this or believing into this one theory? For instance on the Dr. Oz show why is this diet “the best” fat burning diet this week but then next week he says the same thing about another fat burning diet? It’s like wait, what about what you said last week, and the week before that? Not to pick on Dr. Oz but you know what I mean.
Yes, as professional I feel it is our responsibility to grow and not just continue to hand people these products, plans, programs with the same non-sense marketing of “now this is the best”. Communicate to human beings, allow for nuance, and questions. There is no one size fits all solution for people so we need to stop treating health and fitness that way. But it is hard to sell because it has been years and years of conditioning people to want quick solutions, or THE ANSWER approach, and unfortunately there is just not one answer. I mean when I was starting out in personal training I think I portrayed myself as “I know all the answers, and this the only way you train.” Which now after more experience and guidance of course I too have been able to shift away from that.
Amen! Okay last important topic, well to me at least. Play. What do you consider for yourself to be play right now? For instance, I know when I have more opportunity for free form dance and expression I can get really energized and inspired that way.
I have been thinking about it more and more, and my version of play has transformed into my daily practice. My daily practice always involves stillness, a joint articulation practice and maybe just walking in the woods or connecting into nature. One day it can be more or less of one thing than the other, but for the most part involving these three aspects. I read a lot too and usually am juggling three or so books at a time, with an occasional Netflix moment.
I mean sometimes you have to Netflix binge, I get it. What books are you reading right now that you’re loving?
The one book that I’m loving is The Artist Way by Julianne Cameron, her 12 week find your creative-self program. There is a section in the book where she says not to read anything for one week, and I thought I was going to break, it was really challenging, but in the end, it was really insightful for me. I’m also reading the Ecology of Wisdom, and Discovering Ourselves and having fun reading a lot about creative practices.
What about books that aren’t work related? Because I know from personal experience how this goes where I just continue to get Amazon after Amazon order in the mail about the new topic that I am so jazzed about. However, I think having something that isn’t work related can be healthy or just a nice way to fully unplug.
Reading for fun?! Yes, I do read for fun. I’m reading Here with a Thousand Faces by Joe Campbell, just because ever since I was a little kid I had this mythological interest and it’s cool to see the parallels between myths, and culture, and our psyche, and now that I am saying this maybe it is a book about work as well.
Haha, it all can be so interconnected.
It is, and I have to say before we wrap up about play, just moving around and not having an agenda of how I am going to put this movement into my practice but more just reveling in the sheer pleasure of our physical existence is just fun and that isn’t a bad way to be.
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you Chandler.
For more info on Chandler Stevens and the fun work he is doing check him out at:
Youtube channel- Chandler Stevens
Instagram- Chandler Stevens