Tag Archives: ballet

Muscle Memory

Earlier this week, I realized that I’ve run at least thirty minutes every day (often more) for a month. I’m not doing it to challenge myself, or even meet a private goal. I’m running every day because I’m dealing with quite a lot right now and running is, quite frankly, one of the ways I cope. I’m also doing because my body wants to, which is curious and cool. I haven’t felt that kind of habituated craving for movement in years, but it’s settled over me like a cozy, comforting sweater because so much of my early life was spent feeling it….

Partial of image of Malin James with feet in fifth position for Muscle Memory postI took this photo while I was playing with ideas for a Sinful Sunday, but this shot wasn’t intentional despite how contrived it looks. In fact, it wasn’t until I saw myself that I realized I’d inadvertently put my feet in fifth position and held my body in a way that was standard for me when I was dancing. Something about the corset reminded my body of my old training and my muscles obliged by putting me in that position without my even knowing it.

That subconscious physical response got me thinking. My dance training, though dormant for more than twenty years, surfaced unconsciously in what looks like a very unnatural pose, but which was, in fact, extremely natural for me ages ago. In a similar way, my running every day has woken up my old craving for movement, rhythm and that headspace you go into when your body is working like a well-oiled machine.

With all of that milling around in my brain, I started thinking about sex (of course). Aside from the obvious—that thinking about sex is lovely—sex is super relevant because the development of muscle memory is a feedback loop, and sex is full of feedback.

Think of the things that work for you every time – the way you spread your legs extra wide when someone goes down on you or rub the underside of your clit when you really need to come. All of those tiny movements that you instinctively know feel good? They’re anchored in muscle memory, honed with huge amounts of positive feedback –>

If I do this I get that crazy, awesome pleasure?? Goddamn! I’m going to do it more!

So you do, over and over again, until your body associates that movement with some crazy, awesome pleasure. Then, BAM – muscle memory becomes your sexy little friend.

It works in the converse too, unfortunately. Trauma gets physically internalized as surely as pleasure does. It’s one of the reasons people flinch if they’ve been hit in the face too often. Those negative physical memories play themselves out even more powerfully than the positive ones, which is part of why recovering from trauma is such a challenge.

Having said that (because it’s important to acknowledge that muscle memory can cause as much pain as it does joy), I want to drift back towards the positive, if only because that feels important right now.

Everything we experience physically, from running and dancing to stress and sex, impacts us in ways that may not be obvious at the time. I haven’t thought about tilting my hips since my first orgasm, but my body remembers how good it felt the first time I did, just like it knows that, if I do it, I’ll come twice as hard. Down in our cells, our bodies store experiences, almost like a physical archive. The lovely thing about it that, when those memories engage, our bodies let us feel good all over again.

We get that connection to our bodies for free, thanks to instinct and evolution. I haven’t thought about muscle memory in years despite having it drilled into me when I was young. Now that I have, I want to be more aware of it again. If reinforcing the physical memories we want (and gently disengaging those we don’t) means more joy and pleasure, more keenly felt, that can only be a good thing.