February 2, 2016

Stretching Comfort Zones On & Off the Yoga Mat

painting nude woman beach

There is a concept in yoga that encourages going to your edge, but not too far beyond that, so as not to injure. In my own practice, I have often gone beyond, just to prove that I could which was nothing new since I had long been a competitive kid.

Diagnosed with asthma at four and having foot and leg issues throughout my childhood, I felt like I had to scramble to keep up, pushing the limits and the envelope in most areas of my life.

It was when I was in a class many years ago, gazing at a statue of Kwan Yin who is known as the Goddess of Compassion that I literally heard her comforting voice questioning why I was so hard on myself and wasn’t I ready to drop the struggle and love myself as is, where I was at any given point along the stretching spectrum.

It was not the first time, nor would it be the last that sweat wasn’t the only liquid that splashed on the mat. Healing tears cascaded down as I realized how often I judged myself for not being “enough,” or “too much,” in an attempt to overcompensate for my perceived shortcomings.

I became adept at hiding the truth of who I was so I wouldn’t evoke disapproval, which at times felt like obliteration. If friends and family could see beyond the facade I desperately gathered around me like a cloak of protection, they would know that this seemingly confident woman harbored insecurities. Who doesn’t want it to appear that they have it all together?

Second guessing myself and my relationships literally became second nature. If someone didn’t respond to me the way I thought they should, based on how I would have handled an interaction, I would find myself (or lose myself) in a dizzying spiral of self doubt. Had I done something to have provoked their response; or lack thereof?  What I attempted to do in answer to that snarly inner voice was to remind myself not to take it personally since each individual lives in their own reality. That was a stretch to accept that perhaps my values and those of others in my life are not always in synch, as much as I might want them to be. I am learning to let go of beliefs and, sadly, people that no longer do my heart and soul good.

A recent stretch has taken the form of expanding my creative and professional work into the realm of teaching about sexuality. It has long been an interest and I sense that I came into the world curious about the topic. My mother used to say that my younger sister never needed to ask questions about many things, since I did it first and they were often about sex and usually at the dinner table. She did her best to answer them.

For many years, I was the “go-to person” at the psychiatric hospital and counselling centers where I worked, for clients to talk about sexual issues. Although, by no stretch of the imagination could I give Dr. Ruth a run for her money, I am at ease holding space for those who are dealing with challenges in the intimacy arena. Body shaming and sex shaming is a multi-generational psycho-physical epidemic that wreaks havoc in relationships.

I think back to my own history with regard to sex ed. I was blessed, as I mentioned earlier, with a mother who was open to answering my buddingly curious questions. On a few occasions throughout my adolescence, my experimentation was met with comments like, “I think he is getting a bit too passionate,” in response to coming home with a glowingly purple love bite on my neck, placed there by my high school boyfriend. In the summer between high school and college my mother walked in on the two of us, on the sofa we had in the kitchen, with my pants around my ankles. Bless her, she didn’t turn on the light as just said, “I think it’s time for him to go home now.” If memory serves, another word was never spoken about it.

As a 57-year-old seasoned woman, I have gotten a whole lot stretchier in terms of my fantasies, desires and requests. One of my favorite things to explore is intimacy.

There was a time when I lived a double life, fearful of being thought of as going too far past someone else’s edge of their impression of who I am supposed to be and how I am to navigate through the world. When I worked in mainstream psychological settings, I was far more cautious in letting it be known the kinds of classes I attended and had been percolating to teach. One of the reasons was not wanting to run into former clients, since boundary setting is crucial. At one recent event, I looked around the room and acknowledged, “Nope. No former clients here. What a relief.” It was only then that I could relax.

Some friends have expressed concern that this twist and turn in my professional road could cause harm to my reputation. I assured them that there is no separation between spirituality, sexuality and psychology. It is the erroneous belief that this is so that has caused sometimes irreparable damage in many lives.

This weekend, I attended a workshop that honored the body and was clothing optional. The people there primarily considered themselves nudists and so were at ease in their birthday suits. I have never been uncomfortable buck nekkid, since we are all nude under our clothes. Emotional nakedness is a bit more challenging, but I’m getting there too.

The workshop was taught by my new friends—Charmaine Armatas and Beth Nolan—who encouraged stripping off all the layers at our comfort level. One of the exercises was called ORB (Orgasmic Reflex Breathing). It encourages living orgasmically as well with senses fully drinking in pleasure.

Beth describes the experience in this fashion,

“Orgasmic Reflex Breath incorporates specific principals of sound, movement and breath to jump start and amp up your orgasmic life force. ORB allow us to connect deeply with Source, the love that is our birthright. This conscious breathing has the ability to bring insight to the emotional blocks that keep us from living life fully.”

As I lie on my yoga mat, engaging in the breathing, sound and body movement involved, I became aware of others in the room, having their own experience. I was tempted to ride their energy called Auditory Voyeurism and allow it bring me even higher. I kept reminding myself, “Come back to yourself.”

As I rode the waves and focused on what was going on within my own skin, I heard the words, “You are preparing the body temple for worship.”

I welcome a partner with whom I will share mutual adoration.

Charmaine encourages people to make an altar of their partner’s body; a place for veneration, for offerings of love. I renewed my own intention to treat myself the way I want to be treated by a beloved other.

I annoint myself with holy oil as I stretch my comfort zones into the beyond.


Author: Edie Weinstein

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: iamcootis/Flickr

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