Opening the body, opening the heart

Posted in Personal Practice, Uncategorized at 6:30 pm by tracichildress

Joy, trauma, transgression, experience, live in the body. I feel resistance to unfolding my history at times, as it inevitably unfolds in the practice of yoga, in the stretching and the creating of space that happens in the practice. Sometimes I experience this resistance in my posture, in the habit of my stance, or in my yoga practice.

I have very fluid joints. When I am comfortable and move, I move fluidly. This fluidity has evolved with me over a life of needing to move and adjust and protect myself with my ability to do so. These are my samskaras (habits). In standing, in my asana practice, I hang in and push into joints that have not had to be held by muscular action. I allow my back to move inward, projecting my chest forward. My tailbone escapes. My back carries responsibility for creating the appearance of strength in me—my lifted sternum comes from my back. And so it is that my samskaras create new samskaras, and I experience pain in my back. I have known this for som time. And as I work to see this habit and to change it, I have made new discoveries. I am now sensing the tightness in the front of my body. I am now learning to lift up towards the crown of my head from within— “to open the blinds of my ribs” as Patricia Walden used to said in class, rather than pushing my ribs out from behind.

These are the elements of my new information, my new discoveries: I push my ribs forward with my back. This makes not only my back ache; it locks my ribs so that I am unable to create space between them. This is about HEART, about letting others love me, trusting love and others (my back), and allowing myself to love and honor myself, and my knowledge (my chest/my ribs). These actions, these habits, are related to the action of my tailbone (to my root(s)). As I bring my tailbone in, as I go to my roots, I feel my heart finding its place in my life, in my chest. My rib cage finds its natural place, my back opens and widens; I begin to love myself; I begin to trust in the love of others; I become conduit for the love of God as God moves in and through me.

This is profound. This is deep. This is becoming present. This is what the yoga sutras call “skill of yogic action” (Yogah karmasu kausalam) (Iyengar). This is seeing that “created or constructed mind springs from the sense of individuality” (nirmanacittani asmitamatrat) (Iyengar, Sutra IV.4). I begin to understand the oneness of living and life—the presence of god in all things and experiences as I learn to see from my heart. My yoga practice teaches me this way of seeing.

Iyengar writes of this in his commentary to Yoga Sutra IV.14: “Truth is One, and we must experience it in its real essence without distinctions. If it seems to vary, that is because our intelligence and perception vary, and this prevents us from seeing the essential truth.” Letting go of habits, recognizing them and permitting them to change is part of the skill of yogic action.  Letting go of samskaras begins to loosen our tight hold to the self—the individual—that we worship, adorn, praise, and berate. This act, this practice of recognizing samskaras is a letting go of the created/constructed mind, that feeling like a self, which frames the little self, the ego. This little self is held in place by habits, which are mine, my family’s, my culture’s.  As I learn to release this, I begin to experience communion with the larger Self, which exists outside of and inside of the self. I begin to commune with God.

I want to come back to HEART. I am working with my heart and its connections to my roots. I have created a mantra for myself:

I open my heart
to love from others,
to love others,
to love myself,
as it is
as they are
as I am.

I choose to be soft in response to life, to keep my heart healthy. To explore the idea of a compassionate warrior, which according to Pema Chodron is someone who recognizes “that the greatest harm comes from our own aggressive minds” . Learning to see this involves both our roots and our hearts. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery, writes, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”