At our recent Open into Strength Spring Posture Clinic & Playshop, one of my students asked me a good question that I’ve been mulling over.
Let me interrupt myself before I even get fully rolling to say that I often find the English language frustrating and not totally in line with my values. If I were to say the truth of the relationship, as I feel it, she is someone who practices yoga with me and who I’ve trained and supported in her on-going journey as a yoga student and who has also done the 200 hour teacher training — myoga apprentice programme — as well as a human. She also teaches me by her very presence and willingness to learn, as well as her thoughtful questions, challenges, and discoveries along the way. Saying “my student” is incorrect on several fronts — it continues to promote a possessiveness I don’t agree with. How is she “mine”? She’s her own person and becoming that more and more each day. And “student” perpetutates a hierarchy of learning that is not only inaccurate, but I find it to be unhealthy as well. It’s important for all of us to recognize what we contribute to relationships. Without “students” there can be no “teachers”. Just like without an audience there can be no performers. Which then means that if one part of the dynamic is missing, the medium itself is missing — the class or performance can’t exist without both parties. And a party sounds like more fun.
Having said that, you now have a clearer idea of who Dasha is, though I will also add that she has been practicing with me for nearly 8 years and those have been very formative, early 20’s, years. I have all-ways felt an awareness of how impactful the learning can be at any age, but particularly in the 20’s when our formulation of self is so fresh and so freshly in contrast to the influences that have been so busy “making” us — parents, extended family, early partnerships, schooling systems, first jobs. Plus I remember feeling in my 20’s like every decision was a crucial one because it felt like it determined not just my path forward, but THE REST OF MY LIFE! Which of course every decision does have this potential anyway. But at this age it feels like a wrong step is a wrong step for life.
Towards the middle-end of my 20’s my older, more traveled, partner said, “You make a decision, you can make another decision.” He was getting as frustrated as I was with my inability to commit, which came from feeling like I needed to be sure before I committed. It was scary first steps for me to maintain the depth and import of the decision but not let it stop me from making another decision shortly after, even if it meant I felt like I looked like I was indecisive! Over time and practice, the rhythm has become to consider, decide, act, assess, reconsider, re-decide, re-act (which is not the same as react!!), re-assess. And on and on.
Even with this valuable insight and methodology, making decisions AND feeling at ease in my 20’s was not an automatic marriage. And then there was the Saturn return when the emphasis, and often a heavy emphasis at that, was on the import and depth of the decisions, more than on my trust in the longer journey that would allow me to more fully enjoy the process of deciding my own life. It wasn’t until somewhere in my early 30’s, safely on the other side of the impossibly narrow funnel I’d squeezed myself through to get there (AKA the Saturn return), that I realized none of my big life questions had disappeared or magically been answered. What had dissipated was the urgency and heavy concern around answering them. This reminds me of yoga — how those who have fully engaged themselves in the rigor of the practice are the ones who can more fully release at the end into the stillness of the integration poses. Those who are fidgeting in Savasana are usually the ones who held back from fully engaging earlier on. They’re only partially wrung out & that half-assed-stirring of self is agitating.
The full commitment engenders the full rest.
So, her question a few weeks ago. It came before the earthquakes here in Wellington, let me say that much. Our focus in Spring practices is on “1st” and “2nd” chakras — again I disagree with the structure of the languaging as it’s inherently hierarchical and I work spirallicaly so there simply is no “1st” or “2nd”. We’re talking the base energy centre in the tailbone, legs, and feet — our roots, our foundations, our ancestry. And also the energy centre in the pelvis, hips, and sexual organs — our relationships to self, values, power, and one another in the most intimate of ways — the sharing and commingling of our bodies and emotions. Muladhara at the base is often equated with phrases like security and ‘our right to exist’. Svadisthana, as the water element held by the earthiness of Muladhara (if we’re balanced here!), is the sweetness and sense of home we gain when we’ve disambiguated, or individuated from our tribal origins, and allow ourselves to be and become ourselves. This is usually best understood by being mirrored in our most intimate relationships. Though, with awareness and skill, we can do this without muddying the waters by intermingling with another. That’s what monks and nuns might seem to do, or desire to do, but my guess is they lose a lot of the juice of this area in the process.
At any rate, her question during our 3 hour intensive was a good one because it went beyond the physical to the yogic anatomy of these energetics inherent in our physicalization. And it was this:
“The word associated with Muladhara is security – but when I imagine it, security is synonymous with being locked up, like a secure house dead bolted with alarms turned on. In terms of our bodies and areas that we can “lock up”, particularly elbows and knees, how do we maintain security and trust from the grounded-ness we practice without locking or shutting off ?”
Now before I launch into any sort of answer to this, I will point out that a good question — when we do the work of formulating a clear, concise question — will get us more than halfway to its own answer. So if you re-read her question you’ll likely see that the answer is couched within it.
Did you find it?
You may have other insights and I would absolutely love to learn from you so please feel free to comment below! My own insight comes from re-organizing the last line to her question:
“How do we maintain security and trust from the grounded-ness we practice without locking or shutting off?”
I would answer her question by rewriting it, “We maintain security BY trusting the groundedness we practice, without locking or shutting off.”
HOW do we do this? By doing it.
In the safe alchemical crucible I see the yoga mat to be for trialling and strengthening new ways of being our truer selves in the wider world, we remove our locks and alarms. We do this to whatever extent we currently can, based on whatever trauma or prior life instabilities we have had, in the experimental and supported space of the yoga practice. Let me give you an example. We’ve just had earthquakes in Wellington. For some this does not deter them from showing up in the studio, even if the building’s earthquake proofing is on the lower end. For others they show up shaky and ungrounded. For still others they can’t show up in that space at all. They are all practicing in the ways that they can, particularly if the ones at home are doing as I suggest — and doing yoga anyway, even if not in the studio.
We are all practicing here. There is no performance.
On that note, here’s a personal example. Tomorrow I am dancing with another, in what we’d call a performance, yet my solo is not a performance. It’s a continuation of what I endeavored to do in PocaHAUNTus a few years ago, which was to mix Western performative storytelling with Indigenous transformative and interactive experience. So even though I will be sharing my yoga with you in a public space, it is not a performance. It is a practice. A practice of me sharing with you my on-going inquiry with my body, my breath, my spirit. It is a poetics of shapeshifting the seasons and spiralling through the chakras and calling in the directions. It is a prayer.
So how do we maintain security, our very essential right to exist on this planet, this glorious blue and green and brown globe?
We maintain our right to exist by fully claiming it, by fully existing.
By flinging open the doors of constraint & judgment & denial that keep us from breathing, moving, living, and honoring fully.
Nothing is stable in the way our small separatist minds would like to make it. Our only stability will come from embracing the fluid nature of our own on-going unfolding within the wider dance of the very same. On my list of blog posts yet to write is “What it means to Wear Your Riches” and this comes to mind here. Another way of saying this is Trust the Longer Journey AND Blossom Now! Turn off your alarms. Unlock your limbs. Let yourSelf be free — to whatever degree and in whatever capacity you can breathe into freely.