October 20, 2013

The Power of Embodiment: A Head-Heart Waltz Uncovered in Yoga.

‘What the mind can perceive, it can achieve.’



Check this:

Of course I’d heard these words a zillion times before; even echoed them myself while in teaching mode.

However, on this particular day, clearly something had shifted in my way of listening.

Embodiment is the word that springs to mind to describe the paradigm that I encountered and ultimately lived.

As former Peace Corps volunteer cum re-invented Prana Flow trained yoga instructor Sienna Creasy led us through yogic motions for 75 minutes on this glorious fall morning in the New England area, I found myself easing into asanas or postures that up until now, had remained ‘unavailable,’ as we euphemistically say whenever we can’t contort our bodies as our egos would like.

Here’s the yoga deal for me: being able to ‘do’ the asanas doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Whoa! Hear me out:

Of course, I have a healthy dose of respect for alignment and in fact my mantra in both my practice and my teaching is:  be mindful of your core. With a strong core we stand a greater possibility of maintaining our balance and equanimity both on and off the mat. In other words, that which is out of alignment cannot function at its optimal best.

Being in alignment with our centers creates a state of responsiveness as opposed to one of reactiveness in all areas of our lives. And as anyone who has ventured onto the mat knows, if you’re moving from your extremities; i.e., from your arms and/or legs and ignoring your center, the only thing that you’re accelerating is your ‘crash and burn’ process. Why hurry?

Whenever we’re new to the practice of yoga and find ourselves in postures that our minds have deemed impossible, there is a tendency to get excited; congratulatory and understandably so.

But, but, just stay with me on this one, here’s where the yoga kicks in: can you practice equanimity in such moments?  Can you become the witness to your progress from a place of utter detachment?

Being conditioned along a reward and punishment continuum from birth, yoga challenges the practitioner to release all attachment to outcomes.


For example, if you find your way into Parsva Bakasana, i.e., extended side crane or some variation thereof, great!  And if on the other hand your find yourself falling out of an inversion posture such as handstand, then kudos to you too.

Why?  The essence of the practice lives not in the attainment [or non] but in how we respond to what programmatically we interpret as success or failure.

‘Lead with your heart and not with your head.’

Hmm.  Another one of those potentially over-used clichés.

Pause again.

Let’s not abandon either at the cost of the other. [My] experience reveals that we need both. Our lesson lives in how we integrate both facets into our lives, thus creating equilibrium.

Invite your heart to guide you towards your intrinsic self. Then embrace the wisdom of the mind to help you in charting your course. Remember though to allow sufficient space for both aspects to breathe. If we allow ourselves to get locked into a rigid mind map, chances are we that we’re likely to miss out on some awesomeness in our lives.

Y/our role/lesson once we’ve conceptualized and embodied anything in our minds is then to give ourselves the freedom to dance—from our heart-centers!

At the beginning and end of the day, our yoga practice serves as the microscope that invites us to explore the cells of our lives. Through the movement element of yoga we discover our expansiveness and our limitations.

Just sayin’!


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Ed: Sara Crolick

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