I think we can all agree that mental health support is needed now more than ever. While therapy still carries a stigma and may not be accessible to everyone, movement is something we can all access. We recently sat down with Alyson Stoner, co-founder of Movement Genius, to hear all about this amazing platform that is changing the game for mental health.
Movement Genius is a digital wellness platform that provides live and on-demand classes to help people improve mental, emotional and physical well-being. Rooted in somatics and mind-body integration, the classes are developed by and for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and all kinds of humans with all kinds of bodies and experience. Co-founded by siblings Stoner (actress/activist) and Correy O’Neal (media executive/ business strategist), Movement Genius is committed to making deep and lasting personal transformation accessible, affordable and relevant.
Where did the inspiration for Movement Genius come from?
“Movement Genius was born after I led a 14-day series of mindful movement classes online. With mental health challenges rising, people really responded to having simple, guided movements that help you reconnect with yourself, reduce stress and improve your mood. We wanted to make sure people could access it anytime, so we built Movement Genius, a radically inclusive wellness platform that uses movement to improve mental health, all bodies and identities welcomed.”
What do you believe is missing from the mental health community with regard to movement?
“Right now, society still uses the term ‘mental health’ as if it only relates to the mind or brain (fixing our thoughts or brain chemistry). In reality, the mind lives in the body, and the body lives in an environment, and all three of these – mind, body, environment – are connected to and influencing one another. So, to care for our mental health, we must understand our mind-body connection and how it affects our well-being and how we show up in the world. Currently, movement is mostly understood in terms of fitness and exercise. While that definitely has benefits for your mental health, there are deeper opportunities to understand what your body is feeling and communicating. Before we even had verbal language to speak, many of our personal beliefs about basic safety, attachment to others and our place in the world were formed. So, paying attention to the body (and using movement) can help us access parts of ourselves where we don’t have clear words to communicate. Also, learning how to tune in and feel what’s happening inside our bodies can help us heal, reduce stress and experience deep transformation in our lives.”
How has movement impacted your mental health?
“For both of us [Correy and Alyson], movement was previously associated with performance and accuracy, due to our competitive dance background. Later, it was influenced by media and the diet and fitness industries, which seemed to say that we were never quite good enough if we didn’t reach a certain standard. We both, on our own time, realized that the body had stored a lot of our previous stresses and trauma but also was the source of deep intelligence and potential for healing. So, we started bringing the body into our healing journeys. Now, movement isn’t just fitness. It also includes learning about who we are and how to support ourselves by working with our bodies and minds to feel better.”
What makes this platform different with regard to diversity and inclusion?
“We know that the $4.5 trillion wellness industry is mostly built by and for white, cis, straight, non-disabled, middle-to-upper class people. While we personally belong to several of these categories, we recognize the need to radically expand the appearance of wellness, and to ensure that programs are designed by and for people of all identities, body types and preferences. From the web interface to the classes themselves, we’re striving to build-in accessibility every chance we can. We believe if you build for those who are underrepresented, you will actually ultimately create something that can serve everyone.”
Can you share some tips or exercises with readers?
“We’ve got a free class that you can try At Your Desk right now on movementgenius.com/at-your-desk-series. You can also follow us @movementgenius on Instagram and find the free class in our bio. A great starting point for rebuilding the mind-body connection is learning how to listen to your body. You can practice shifting your focus from outside in the room, to inside your being, to right at the surface of your skin. It may feel odd or difficult in the beginning, and that is totally normal. Go at your pace, and only do what feels manageable. Building trust with your body is an important part of the process, especially if it’s been awhile since you felt connected and grounded. You can spend one to three minutes practicing this focus technique throughout the day. Over time, your ability to identify your body’s feelings and sensations may improve, and you’ll be able to respond more supportively to what you need in the moment.”
As a dance/movement therapist, I am always looking for ways to make movement and mental health more accessible. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, finding ways to move your body can make all the difference. Movement is accessible to everyone. It doesn’t take a high IQ to be a movement genius!
By Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT, Dance/Movement Therapist.
Erica Hornthal is a licensed professional clinical counselor and board certified dance/movement therapist based in Chicago, IL. She received her MA in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago and her BS in Psychology from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Erica is the founder and CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy, the premier dance therapy and counseling practice in Chicago, IL. As a body-centered psychotherapist, Erica assists clients of all ages and abilities in harnessing the power of the mind-body connection to create greater awareness and understanding of emotional and mental health. For more, visit www.ericahornthal.com.