Where are you living now? A condo in Florida? An apartment in Manhattan doubling as a broom closet? With your parents? That’s great; I don’t judge or think more or less of you anyway. But let me ask again, where are you living now? I mean, right now. On a subway? In a coffee shop? In your living room? In front of your TV, with the radio on surfing the web on your laptop as you talk on the cell phone with your partner? We’re getting closer, kind of.
Let’s try this: how is your posture right now? Your breathing? Your facial expression? Any aches and pains?
These kinds of questions get us a lot closer to where you are really living. And they are clearly—more than words can curl their font around—answered through a regular, comprehensive Asana practice. Yoga is a lot like visiting the various rooms of your most valuable piece of real estate, to provide maintenance as you assess them for two things: built-up junk and leaky damage. A good deal of us have unknowingly hoarded emotions, memories and trauma from the past, and if we do a little work our body is just as happy to release these as it is to, by default, keep them stored away.
Are you a hoarder?
It occurred to me one day in Janu Sirsasana that the little twist in my lower back, the opening of the ache in my knee, these were all signaling the state of a physiological ‘room:’ a bit dusty—my spine nice and open but my knee signaling a bit of toxic buildup requiring a bit of coaxing to work free—but overall in good shape, and much better for the visit.
This analogy, of the body being real estate with potentially hundreds of rooms (Asanas) becomes most poignant when one is participating in a regular practice that is consistent and—to the chagrin of many reading this—repetitive. The Asanas, when visited daily, seem to take on ambiences of their own. They display a character and pull you in, plunging you deeper and deeper into your mental and emotional issues around that position of the body: what’s opening, being resistant and struggling to find balance.
I, like many people, have had emotional releases when engaging in some Asanas. Most of mine have been triggered by chest opening … some junk in my heart and upper back, built up like a fortress to block anything foreign. I once was assisted in a drop-back wherein I was actually dropped. Sobbing like a baby, I wasn’t in physical pain but instead was terrified by my trust issues jumping right into my face! I used to have a release at Janu Sirsasana B, almost weekly, but that ‘room’ is all tidy now. I’d just cry, as much as I needed to, let thoughts come and go, and, when the room was washed, move on to C.
So there might be a cleansing and a removal of emotional and chemo-toxic debris—through twisting and sweating waste from the body—but wouldn’t it be nice to spend more time on other things in your dream house besides cleaning?
Mental, physical, emotional detox is only the beginning of our conscious inhabitants of the body we’ve been blessed with. It is through this effort that we begin to transcend and advance into more Asanas, visit more rooms of the splendid dwelling space, and approach their cleaning with a keen yet sublime and accepting strategy. And it is through perceiving, more fully, with all senses, the majesty of our first house—its physical form as well as delicate psychic structure and its far-reaching sensitivity—that we start to give a damn about it and its welfare.
This centered and grateful acknowledgement of the physical virtues we’ve been granted has implications on the wider world as well. For the sensitivity level around the sanctity that is life rises in parallel with one’s awareness of their own magical existence. Old saying: you can’t love anyone until you love yourself. And the love deepens in tandem—a sense of reverence could potentially blossom around all that you experience!
Tangentially, the body is sometimes described as our first child. Think about it; it’s true! It doesn’t speak a distinct language, but it clearly signals what it needs and ‘cries out’ when we are not attending to it. You are the primary care-giver to this child, and you determine how it develops.
I’ve noticed over the past year (my second full year of daily Asana practice) that I am starting to adjust parameters around foods, activities and people who threaten “my baby” and, back to the metaphor at hand, chip away at my splendid multi-dimensional abode.
In realizing that my house is pretty fantastic, I’ve begun to see that it’s not worth it to put up with disrespect and that certain activities like gossip for gossip’s sake or say yes when I really haven’t thought a matter through. These hasty brush-offs of my being—like tossing myself under a bus—chip away at an ornate totally unique and captivating bioenergetics reality that exists, intact, to satisfy me and instill me with self-confidence and self-respect.
Physically, I’ve made changes to repair other damage to the house. I’ve shifted to a more alkaline diet and continue to do so. For years I was hell-bent on staying as wiry as I could—which isn’t even true to my natural body type—and thus ate a way-too-high protein diet. Now that I am engaged in advancing in my physical practice, pleasing my body and keeping it open, I see that a diet higher in vegetables and whole grains gives me the maximum accessibility, opening more doors to more rooms with more gusto. Portion sizes (more attuned to the actual size of my stomach) and paying close attention to how food makes me feel are also integral to this leak-repair process.
Living the Dream
Bottom line: this home is yours and you, all at once. It’s the place where you develop a razor-sharp level of self-awareness regarding the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of your life, and in turn offer this level of sensitivity and respect to everyone you meet and the pulsating world at large. At times, and for some, the body is a brutally honest location to exist in, and yet its reward—the experience of life itself—exponentially outweighs the heavy sentiments at the sight of a new room, cluttered with crap you didn’t even realize was there. (Say, that might make a nice sun room; you think?)
It’s your first home, it’s gorgeous, and you don’t even need to take out a mortgage.
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