This morning I had an ordinary, yet illuminating challenge.
A necklace I wanted to wear became tangled. It’s a little bauble I bought at a yoga event that has special meaning—one of my pagan impulses I suppose—with a miniature carved pendant that signifies my deepening commitment to yoga. As I worked to untangle it, I contemplated the process, how loosening the knot allowed me to see which way it should unfurl.
It wasn’t easy. I had to slow down, sit down, get my glasses and take a good look. As I wrangled with it and focused on the task, for the first time I actually saw the design on the miniature pendant: a tiny, delicate Tree of Life.
It was the challenge of the tangle that forced me to look more closely and see this beautiful image, an ancient, deep symbol. The tree, with roots reaching deep into the earth and branches to the sky, represents the connection of body to spirit, the branches of evolution, or wisdom, bounty and redemption.
It reminded me of the process of working with my Alexander Technique students. A muscular knot, a tangled movement pattern, interferes with what we want to do, creating limitation, tension or pain. If we take an educational approach, this knot demands that we slow down and put on our sensory glasses in order to perceive the direction of the needed release.
Rushing toward a solution without understanding the intricacies of the challenge, we’ll tug mindlessly and stay stuck.
To resolve a back problem or change a walk, we must first understand the tension patterns that limit free movement. Then we can unravel them.
Now I can wear this favorite piece with a fuller sense of its symbolism in world cultures, and what it means to me. The knot itself makes us look and deepen our understanding. The act of unraveling clears the way toward grace.
Joan Arnold has been an Alexander Technique teacher in New York City for 25 years. An Anusara Yoga teacher and longtime magazine writer, she is always engaged with the interplay of effort and ease. She will be teaching her blend of Alexander Technique and yoga this June in a five-day workshop at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.
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