There are many ways in which an embodied practice returns us to ourselves, whether it is feeling the pulsation of the heart or the passing of the breath, each allowing us to recognise where we are right now. Recently I’ve been asking students if they have a similar relationship with their bodies as they have with their best friend. Are the qualities of trust, love, kindness and compassion that exist with their best friend also present in the relationship with themselves?
If my experience is anything to go by, I suspect that some silently answer “No, I do not”.
The cultivation of an embodied, responsive practice is the step away from objectifying the body to fulfil the ‘ideal’ image, instead marking a return home to our centre, a place to feel safe and secure with ourselves. Yoga is less about the appearance and more about the feeling the practice engenders: trust, love, kindness and compassion for ourselves and others.
The relationship with the body is a skewed one. Both lauded and reviled for its performance and appearance, the objectification of the body is responsible for countless industries, including yoga. We’ve become masters at devising the multiple ways to abuse the body to create an idealised two-dimensional image on the cover of Vogue or Yoga Journal. The relationship looks more like that of a fledgling unhappy couple than a loving, supportive friendship.
Just as listening and being sensitive to the other are the hallmarks of a thriving relationship, I’m relearning to listen and feel to what is actually arising in order to explore this multifaceted body that allows me to form a minuscule fraction of the infinite web of life. It is through the body I’m able to witness, observe, and be conscious of the whole. It is the felt experience that unravels what I think is happening and reveals what is actual within and through this breathing, pulsating organism. In this moment there’s nowhere else to be but home.
Love After Love – Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.