Over the years, the number one question I am asked by far is "how did you get into all this bodywork and body transformation stuff?"
As I wrote about in this blog post, I wasn't always so connected with my body. I grew up a day dreamer, more in love with the ideas and fantasies found in books and films than in the vagaries of the world around me.
What began as a passion for words and ideas turned into escapism as I grew older. I had a rather rough childhood, emotionally speaking. Others have had it far worse; it's not as if I was locked under the stairs by malicious muggle relatives, but my family life wasn't exactly a pillar of stability and filled with good role models either.
Growing up on a Standard American Diet, liberally garnished with fast food and sweets, I was thoroughly addicted to sugar from an early age. By my eight birthday, reeling from my parent's ugly divorce, I had developed a full-blown emotional eating disorder. It got worse in high school, where a liquid diet of Mountain Dew gave me acne and left me spun-out and ADD most of the time.
By the time I graduated High School, I weighed over 300 pounds.
What? It was the 90's ok?
Being the consummate geek that I was (am), I fantasized about having the body of a comic book superhero. But inside I was terribly ashamed of my body, hiding under baggy clothes and avoiding anything resembling athletic competition. I briefly pondered getting into bodybuilding, but one of my best friends at the time quipped "Mark my words, Scott: you will never be a bodybuilder."
How well he knew me...
The turning point came when I turned 18. I'd gone out with friends to an underground party being held in a local theater and youth center. I'd always been an avid consumer of music, and my passion for electronic dance music goes back to the original electro-funk beats of the Beverly Hills Cop and Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade. Even as a little guy, the sound of synthesizers was my jam. However up until that time I had always experienced music in a concert setting. This party was different. At this party everybody was dancing.
I remember feeling so awkward... trying to dance but not really knowing how, just feeling self-conscious and disconnected from my body. In the end I decided to wall-flower it up by sitting on one of the massive bass-bins, and nod my head.
That's when this one dancer noticed me. I don't remember his name, but he must have seen something in me, for he caught my eye, and said "this is for you..."
Before I could even process what I'd seen he'd performed some of the most amazing feats of acrobatic balance and power this side of Beat Street, and certainly never close-up.
I was stunned. I was overcome with awe and envy, and I swiftly retreated to the back of the theater to ponder. More than anything in the world I wanted to be able to move like that!
Even then I knew I was facing a mountain so vast, it's peak was hidden beyond the clouds.
As un-physical as I was...
As uncoordinated, weak, and obese as I was...
I knew it was a challenge that would change my life.
I remember asking myself if I truly wanted it, if I knew how hard it would be, how long it would take, and would this be yet another fad, a passing infatuation? Would I give up when it seemed to painful to go on?
In that moment I made a commitment in my heart to see what was possible, and swore I would find find a way. My friend was right...it wasn't enough to just be big, to look like a superhero...I wanted to be able to move like one as well.
It started in my room.
Alone, with my mirrored closet doors, my door locked from outside intrusion, the volume cranked up on my boom box, I began to explore the geometry and architecture of my own body. Angles, ranges of motion, imbalances.
I danced so hard at times that I would collapse onto the floor, heart-pounding, dizzy, struggling for breath against the exercise-induced asthma that had plagued me from childhood.
Over four months I taught myself breathwork, cured myself of asthma, and unlocked my tight muscles.
In four months I'd dropped 60 pounds.
It wasn't long after that before I joined, in truth was adopted by, a local dance troupe. I was still so shy, and ashamed of my body that it was painful to hold eye contact.
We performed at some major venues, at festivals, and in high schools, and I was so nervous that I'd get vertigo or lose time while on stage. Somehow I'd make it through the show, but only by completely dissociating from it, from my body.
Gradually, and with the help of my adopted family, I began to grow in confidence and skill.
We were much more than a dance troupe...we had no director, but created our choreography collaboratively. Each of us brought something to the table...modern, ballet, jazz, butoh, gymnastics, contact improvisation, capoeria, and my own driven enthusiasm. We played theater games gleaned from drama classes, and engaged in group trust and bonding exercises.
This was also when I had my first taste of bodywork.
Dance, like all athletic pursuits, can take it's toll on the body. Several members of the troupe, skilled in various modalities of hands-on healing, shared their skills with the rest of us.
We would often trade with each other, experientially experimenting as we sought to work out the kinks and complaints of our bodies. I very quickly discovered that I had a natural knack for the work; my own explorations having grown into a keen kinesthetic empathy.
I worked intuitively then, with what was an amalgam of Shiatsu and Thai techniques, though I didn't know those names at the time. We just did what worked, with ease and functionality our aim.
This informal "internship" lasted for two whole years before I finally decided to pursue a formal education in the craft, primarily because I had social anxiety in the restaurant and retail jobs of my peers, and also because I knew I was good enough at it for it to be a viable way to work my way through college on my way to a "real" career (i.e. one I thought would impress my parents).
I'd always been interested in the sciences growing up, looking into educational tracks in biology and ecology, before finally settling on ecological design and architecture.
It was while attending the private ECOSA Institute in Prescott, Arizona that I found my path again. As intellectually interesting as I found the subject, I discovered that in practice it was yet another form of golden handcuffs.
While every budding young architect has aspirations of becoming the next Frank Gehry, or Frank Lloyd Wright, the realities of the job lean more towards larger teams, and long hours chained to drafting tables while crunching under deadlines. Long hours I spent fidgeting on the ironically unergonomic stools.
As one of our class projects we had to put on an evening salon to entertain the school's board of directors, benefactors, and a few of the general public. As my contribution I conceived, created and performed a one-man performance piece. I installed lighting, created a costume with elaborate makeup, selected music, and put together choreography.
The act was a huge hit, blowing everyone's mind with a fusion of shamanic themes and a neon aesthetic.
The founder and director of the Institute, architect Tony Brown approached me afterward and exclaimed that I'd been brilliant, and suggested I consider that perhaps my true calling was performance art...
So it was that after completing the program, I resolved to return to California, to rededicate myself to the study of the body, through both healing, and the study of the acrobatic arts.
I spent the next two years living in the Northern California wine country, working at some of the regions finest world-class day spas. In 2006, having discovered that San Francisco hosted one of the world's few and finest circus schools, I packed my bags and moved south to the City by the Bay.
As I started taking classes in Chinese acrobatics, extreme stretching, and injury prevention, I noticed a curious thing. There were a few guys in class who came from a weightlifting background. I mean these guys looked swole.
However, as mighty and impressive as their physiques were, they really struggled with the acrobatic training.
They had focused on isolating muscles, on hypertrophy (an increase in muscle size via intramuscular fat and intracellular fluid known as sarcoplasm) over strength.
They hadn't conditioned their muscles in the correct ranges of motion, and the extra size and bulk was a hindrance when trying to press, balance, and move their own bodyweight.
I knew there was a better way.
Since then I have continued to pour myself into as much training as I'm able to. Dance, Ballet, Pilates, Acrobatics, Gymnastics, the cutting edge of strength and flexibility training, all in pursuit of physical excellence...
Now with nearly 17 years of hands-on experience, I bring an unparalleled passion to helping others understand, inhabit, and improve the form and function of their own bodies. It is an honor to be of service in this way, and a privilege to witness others come into their own physical power. Always and forever a student, I continue to learn, train, explore, and share with others along the path.
...and that's more or less the story so far!
If nothing else comes from having shared this incredible ongoing journey, I hope that it inspires you on your own path...
To recognize your own incredible potential...
...and to reach for more than you have ever dreamed of before.
Here's to your health, your happiness, and your badassery, in your body and every other area of your life.
- Scott Strong