September 8, 2012

The Asana of Relationships: Balancing Flexibility & Strength.


photo: flickr/Jennifer Williams

“Consciousness is a causative force in the human body; it reshapes the body.”

~ Paul McLean, Nobel Prize Speech

Back in my 20s, when I first learned about yoga I would go to class, eager to mold my body into the shapes of crow, cobra, triangle and others that my beautiful teacher demonstrated, in her words, “the full expression” of the position.

Fortunately (or not) for me, I was very flexible back then. However, yoga taught me that I didn’t have the strength to back up my flexibility. Sadly, I learned this through injury.

Just because I could stretch deeply into a pose didn’t mean that I had the core strength to hold it; eventually, my knee strains and low back catastrophes pulled me towards the strengthening work I needed after several pregnancies, into a Pilates practice.

While I learned and honed my skills of core strength, I also missed the spiritual underpinnings that yoga brought to my movement. Now, I have been fortunate enough to discover a path that combines the two, as yoga has grown and matured into many versions that bring this consciousness of balancing flexibility and strength into one practice. My new yoga teacher has nearly as many hours of Pilates training as she does yoga—and the classes work my core in deep and meaningful ways. Her version of Core Yoga focuses on breath—on the I Am of the third chakra—which is a significant shift from the funneling of my ribs in Pilates.

Interestingly, now, as I move towards the poses that I used to be able to stretch into so easily, I recognize that adding the core strength (and probably the years too) has limited my range considerably. At first, I was a little shocked and saddened to realize how much tighter my body feels everywhere—but then I realized that the smaller range that I can now stretch into, I can also defend with my core.

Core strength translates into an inner wisdom of what I am truly capable of, without injury. Not surprisingly, I discovered this same evolution occurring in my most intimate relationships.

In the early years of my marriage and making babies, I boasted about my multitasking, juggling-16-things-at-once flexibility. I stretched beyond my personal boundaries as though they didn’t exist, wanting to be the “full expression” of the roles I had given my life; I had little understanding of the strength that comes from personal boundaries or, even more deeply, defining my own inner space.

Like my exercise practice, time had its way with me and as my family grew, I had learned how to tap my own deep emotional strength that didn’t depend on anyone else seeing, appreciating or recognizing me.

My newfound inner strength allowed me to balance what I could give without giving myself away; it was a watershed for my relationships because it enabled me to offer what I could, say no to what I couldn’t—and be compassionate with my own limits and the limits of life.

Like my yoga practice, I recognize that in some ways, my range is smaller now—even within my most intimate relationships. But, there is also considerably less injury now, no quiet resentments…and no unspoken conflicts live between me and those that I love, anymore.

The most inspiring gift of all is realizing that how we live in our bodies is always the truest reflection of the work we need to do in our hearts, with the people we love.



Editor: Bryonie Wise

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