The Radical Intimacy of Yoga.
I came to yoga for the usual reasons.
I was looking for:
~ a mind/body connection
~ a community
Since having a dedicated practice and becoming a yoga teacher over these last two years I’ve realized that yoga has given me all of this and something else as well:
A radical intimacy with my body, and myself.
This occurred to me the other day in class when we were given a cue in Utthita Trikonasana (triangle pose) to flatten our top ribs. I almost always want try a new cue but it takes me a few moments to find and connect with that exact spot in my body. This time, I found it and it created new space and length for me in the pose, in my spine, in my body.
That’s when I realized how intimate I have become with my body.
But it’s not just that kind of intimacy.
It’s becoming intimately aware and connected with all parts of my body. Feeling my way through each pose, shifting a rib here, tucking a tailbone there, breathing into that soft space behind my knee, peeling open my hipbone, pressing the outside of my back foot to the mat in Warrior II and feeling that strength riding up the whole outside of my leg.
It’s about making tiny shifts to find my edge.
It’s about trusting my body. Trusting that it knows how far to go, how deep to go.
Trusting that I know my body.
Trusting that I am connected to my body.
It’s also about trusting that I am so much more than my body.
I have become radically intimate with my Self. With my mind—that crazy dark jungle of tangled thoughts, beliefs and judgments that we all carry around with us.
I took a writing class years ago and we were asked to write about our Shadow. I seriously had no idea what the teacher was talking about. None. These days, I am becoming intimate with my Shadow—those traits that we disown. Those parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of.
I no longer have a place to hide.
I have become intimate with all the places I usually go to escape.
Behind computer screens, phone screens.
Speaking when I need silence.
Staying silent when I need to speak.
Doing when I need rest.
Resting when I need action.
I have become intimate with the stories and energies stored in my body.
The shame that lingers in the pockets of my hips.
The losses that snake across my low back.
The anger that blazes a path between my knee and hip flexor.
I have become intimate with my breath and how it guides me exactly where I need to be. Following the path my breath traces through my body, seeping into blood and bones, opening up space, opening up wounds, old stories and releasing them with a great whoosh of exhaled breath, letting go of what I no longer need to carry.
This radical intimacy with myself means that I can be alone but not lonely.
It means that I care more what I think of me than what others think of me.
It means being fully present to each moment.
Feeling, seeing and hearing the autumn leaves stained the color of blood crunching beneath my feet as I walk around the lake.
Tasting the sweetness of a Honey Crisp apple bursting in my mouth.
Staying in Pigeon Pose, allowing my hips to sink into the mat, breathing through the resistance that rises up as the knots and stories in my hips come to the surface.
It also means that this intimacy I’ve nurtured within myself can be extended outside of myself—to my marriage, family, friendships, community.
It means I am becoming radically intimate with the connectedness of all things.
It means this radical intimacy I have found through trying to live my yoga on and off the mat is a mere drop in my body, mind and spirit that is sending ripples of awareness, mindfulness and compassion out into the Universe.
It means this radical intimacy with myself allows me to be completely grounded while soaring far, far beyond this tiny collection of cells and stardust that I call my Self.
And that is, indeed, radical.
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Author: Kim Haas
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Used with Permission by Ajay Krawczyk at Trimurti Yoga.
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