It was a few weeks back that we as a staff team here at Re.Pose had our monthly meeting, which often looks quite a bit different than what many would assume when they hear “staff meeting”. In our work as care practitioners it only makes sense that we practice care with ourselves and one another when we get together, therefore our time often includes some yoga, or mindfulness, along with peer supervision, and of course tea and treats.
It was upon this particular meeting as we all settled onto our yoga mats to begin our practice with the lovely Carolyn that I became aware of how unaware I had been of my own body, not just that morning, but for days and possibly weeks. In the safety of the yoga space, surrounding by my friends and colleagues, I began to tune into the messages my body was trying to share with me; some more “loudly” than others. As I began to listen, of course the voice of expectation crept in as well. “How have you been going so long without checking in with yourself, Kara?”, “You do yoga, you should be able to go deeper into this shape”, “You’re a therapist, you should be practising embodiment daily!”
It was at this moment of noticing my own “shoulds” that I remembered the purpose of all of the yoga practice at Re.Pose, which is finding a time and space which is all your own, to notice, be, and find compassion for self in the moment.
The internal sigh of relief as the release of expectations washed over me.
A blessed reminder that this is a space of compassion and non-judgement. Always.
Yoga for me provides an opportunity to find grace for my body and my internal world as I notice the reality of what “is” for me in that moment. Taking time out in the day to find space for body, emotion, and connection with non-judgemental curiosity. What is present for me today?
Expanse, movement, tension, ease, breath.
This permission to notice one’s own reality, moment to moment, translates from yoga into life. It is about finding your own way, your own time, your own boundaries and limitations. As well, it is so easy to compare oneself to others around you, in a yoga studio and in life. “Am I doing it right?”. “What will others be thinking if they notice me?”. “Do I measure up?”
As I become curious with my own embodied self in yoga I notice that a shape can feel totally different one side of my body to the other. There may be more tightness in some muscles, or flexibility, or discomfort. And can that be ok? I always want to push myself to press towards what might be the most “advanced” version of the shape, sometimes wondering if the instructor is noticing me and how well I’m doing. The motivation to make goals for self and pursue them is not wrong, but if it is to be noticed or excel in comparison to others, perhaps I might question the purity of my motivation. What if instead I chose to listen to my own body and honour it for what it needs?
What if “doing well” was redefined to mean doing well for self in that moment, and knowing that there is not a “better” or “worse” connected to my choice. Just noticing how a posture may feel different side to side, moment to moment, or day to day, and noticing how some shapes challenge, while others feel like home. We are our bodies, and no two are the same. How much sense does comparison make when my body is not your body, and yours is not mine?
Our bodies are ours alone. A gift. A home. A place to dwell while on this earth. Sometimes our bodies can feel very unsafe, and their sensations utterly overwhelming. And sometime we experience pain or limitations in our bodies which cause immense frustration, to the point of wanting to cut off the body’s felt sense from the sense of what is “me”. We distract and disregard these sensations and limitations, not wanting them to define us, and yet when we do this we create a division between our internal and external Self. We unwittingly perpetuate this “war among parts”, a duplicity of mind and body, and a schism is developed from what was meant to be a whole. That whole is YOU, and you are both mind AND body.
When we live for a while in this internal war, created by comparison, illness, injury and the like, we begin to forget that our body is us. But what if we took a risk, in a moment of gracious spaciousness, to reconnect and listen once again to the messages our physical selves has to tell us? What if we could become curious about these sensations, even the uncomfortable scary ones, in order to become reacquainted with ourselves?
I am not yet suggesting that we might befriend these vessels made of flesh, and muscle, and tissue, but perhaps just noticing the reality of what IS might begin to bridge that schism and offer new possibilities of a more whole, congruent self. But, in the theme of curiosity, I invite a moment’s pause here to contemplate this concept for yourself.
What do you think it would be like to one day accept and befriend the physical home that carries you through life…and in fact is YOU? How would it change your life to know your body as “home” instead of enemy, nuisance, or source of frustration?
Like yourself, this process is continual for me as well, so why don’t we journey this out together? Whether you find a precious time for self on a yoga mat, or through some other avenue that is personally yours, I encourage a place and time to notice and “be” with curiosity, compassion, and your own expression of gracious spaciousness.
- Kara Phelan