The stories in your head and the stories of your Body
Pic: Karolina Cantrell
When I begin my class,I almost always ask my students to fidget around with their bodies before they settle down for practice. That is MY time to notice how they move in certain ways to take care of aches and pains. Some will hug their knees or one knee to chest as they might have been sitting for long periods of time on their desk to work, some roll their neck and shoulder from the burden of their stress, some just take longer breaths as there was no time to breath well, some take gentle twists in a hope to cleanse out their fatigue, some will just close their eye for some kind of quietness. Its intuitive and happens organically as they start listening to the stories what the body has to tell.
My asana classes are instruction heavy, that means I am constantly asking my students to step their foot in a certain way, press their heals a certain way, move their shoulders a certain way and also ask them to notice their breath in certain parts of the torso. As a beginner practitioner , it takes a while to even become aware of these body parts which were doing their own thing.They often wonder and remark at their bodies ability to process information and make movements and create shapes. It takes more committed practice to start noticing the sensation of their own natural rhythm of breathing. As I keep giving them these specific instructions, there is very little time for the mind to wander. Paying absolute attention for about an hour as to how they move, how they breathe can be very demanding but its time well spent being experiential and in the present moment.
As we prepare to settle down into our last posture, Shavasana, I ask them again to listen to the stories of their body. Notice the feeling of relaxation and also notice undesirable sensation. For instance the tingling sensation in the hip joint, tension in the neck ( most common observation by students ). Also the desirable sensation as the longer relaxed breath, relaxed shoulders and lower back. Those sharp shooting pain after the practice is mostly caused by attachment ( ex: If I pushed myself just a little more I will be able to get that perfect split which I was able to do when I was 5) or ego ( this doesn’t look so difficult, everyone in the class seem to do it with so much ease ) or lack of self awareness ( I do not know what the hell you are talking about). None of those are coming from the intelligence of our body but the fluctuations of our mind. These fluctuations of mind are called vrittis. During an active asana class, I am not interested in those stories.
As the stories in our head are so much more interesting, we give them too much attention and not the stories of our body. Stories in our mind has way of taking us through this thrilling journey of love, pain, despair, judgement , joy , past, future and so much more in just a minute .We give the same attention we give a child throwing a temper tantrum. But the body, poor body is a wise old soul, creaks only when the pain is unbearable but always have profound stories to tell and those are the stories I am interested in my students discovering. That is why I teach the way I teach, for the physical body to be a portal to our inner self. So, take time, as the physical body has evolved more than the mind in the scope of evolution of human species. It will reveal its experiences, joy and trauma more than mind can ever tell , in a more intimate and honest way.