I knew my attraction to yoga was for a deeper purpose when I first stepped onto a mat at the ripe age of 16. It was a very lovely class to begin my journey in the yogic realm, the instructor was a small, nice man named Leonard who taught a Wednesday night class at Gold’s Gym in my small town. He was the first teacher I was to call my own.
Leonard always had a diverse class, varying in body shapes and ages, so the yoga was not pushy but it was not too simple either. There was certainly one thing I knew that I liked about this form of ‘exercise’ if you will, that was that my body would leave calm and my mind would leave quiet. I had never experienced this in the Pilates I did, nor the Body Pump and Body Step classes I frequented. This was a new way to experience my body; it was the first time I was experiencing how to not be in my body.
At the time, I did not really grasp this understanding but now that I look back, this was the main reason that I kept with the yoga, that this practice stuck when the Body Pump and Body Step became a once weekly rather that a tri-weekly thing, and the yoga classes grew to a four-five times weekly practice rather than just a Wednesday night gig.
Why are we attracted to this practice that cultivates an independence of our body? What does this do for us? For me, it was a deeper understanding of my body, a deeper exploration, which was – prior to this understanding – mostly a struggle to get to the weight I wanted by exertion through exercise and restraint from ice cream and chocolate.
Just the other day I was having a conversation with a friend about a book we are reading for our book club. The book talks about a story about a man called Bluebeard – a creepy yet slightly charming pirate-like gentleman who meets and coaxes three young sisters. The youngest, most naïve sister is drawn to him, whereas the two older sisters are cautious and intuitively sense that they should not trust this person. The youngest ends up marrying Bluebeard and he goes away one weekend, giving her the keys to all of the rooms in his home and directs her to go wherever she pleases except for into one room in particular at the end of the hall. When the two older sisters come to visit, they are intrigued by this and encourage her to explore this room – although she does not want to do so. She opens the door, finding an array of dead bodies and the key begins bleeding continuously – she cannot make this bleeding stop. When Bluebeard returns, he notices the bloody key and says she will meet her fate and join the other dead bodies of his old wives in this dark deathly chamber. She manages to trick him and call to her brothers to come and save her. My friend points out that, as we shed light on things, the darker part behind them gets only darker and deeper. The youngest sister did not want to shed light upon something that the older two sisters intuition was already informing them of – that Bluebeard was not to be trusted. An example of this is with a tablecloth which has not been smoothed catches the light of the morning sun – we see the light parts and the humps creating shadows that are darkened even more so and contrasting even more with the parts of the fabric that are well lit.
What does all this have to do with yoga and the body? To explore Independence from the Body, we begin by shedding light on the parts of the body that are in need of being explored. After we shed light here, we must explore these darker parts. Maybe these darker parts are emotional, maybe they are physical – they can often be both. Independence of Body comes when we go deeper into the body’s parts by exploring – both mentally and physically.
So I invite you to explore. As you practice, whether it be on your own or in class, find out where in your body you might be holding something – anything. You don’t have to know what it is or why, just sit with it and explore. Find out how you believe yourself to be able to work with this area – shed light on it by practicing with this body part or emotional situation in your consciousness, working with it and then go deeper. Be conscious of it throughout your day-to-day activities. For me currently I know that it is in my abdomen. It is an area that I want to explore, it feels stagnant and tired in many poses and I do not know how I will attain this understanding and freeing from its stagnancy but I know I am in the phase of shedding light there, opening up the door for me to enter the darkness.
I know that I will be attending John Hayden’s Yoga Sutras workshop in order to better understand and create a knowing of the Yoga Sutras. The last workshop certainly helped me to delve deeper into what I am currently coming to understand about my mind body connection.
Now, seven years later, I feel as if I have gone deeper into certain places that I did not know existed when I first stepped onto my mat. I knew to trust the instinct to keep going and I am proud that I have – although I realize with every pose that I have yet still deeper to delve to find a deeper and more frequent understanding of this independence from my body.