I often used to wonder how I got into this body. It seemed so separate from me. Sometimes, I would float above it and other times, I would hover around it. It truly was a shadow of me and to me for most of my life. When I was young, I was an athlete. I defined myself that way. What do you do? I am a gymnast and a soccer/volley/baseball player. I am competitive, and I like to win. My body was this thing that propelled me forward and offered me some rewards if I worked hard enough, and it was always a question of whether or not I was enough. In my environment, I was completely judged by what my body could do, and when something didn’t come out the way I needed it to, I resented it. Injuries were inconveniences, and it was nothing to play a soccer game on an ankle that I’d twisted in gymnastics. I was not about to admit, ever, that I was weak. And the irony is that throughout all of this feeling defined by my body, I never actually felt like I was my body. I was never grounded in myself; I never knew myself.
This little war that I played with my body erupted for the worse as a high school student. I began to smoke, drink, take drugs and have sex, not knowing anything about how any of it would affect me, yet drawn to the effect it all had of turning everything off. I abused my body because I was mad at it, and I gave up dreaming because it was easier to give it up than to come to peace with who I was. I distanced myself from myself, and that was just fine with me.
In my early 30’s, I began to practice yoga. I enjoyed it because it came pretty easily to me. There was a lot of pleasure in looking around me and seeing that despite the fact that 15 years had passed since I had done my last backbend, I could still do it better than just about anyone there. Yoga was cool, because I could do it well, even though I was completely missing the point. Despite the fact that I had some amazing teachers, all of that enlightened discourse about not comparing ourselves to others and honoring our bodies was lost on me. Child’s Pose was a sign of weakness; my injuries, which I largely ignored, were frailties that I had difficulty acknowledging. When I did address them, it was because they offered me an excuse as to why I couldn’t do something anymore. When the backbend became too painful to power through, my wrist became my scapegoat. With all of this going on, I couldn’t stay in the game. Because I still wasn’t in touch with my body, or with me, for that matter, I didn’t stick with it. I’d let it go, and then get back to it for a minute, only to let it go again. It was lovely, but it didn’t fulfill me, because I wasn’t able to fulfill myself.
I finally returned, happily, gratefully and with a different mindset, about nine months ago. While I still wasn’t honoring my body 100%, I was open to the idea of doing so, and at that moment, that was sufficient. One day in class, I listened as my teacher told us that we could move into Child’s Pose whenever we needed. Of course, I didn’t need to. And I wouldn’t have, except that she went on to talk about how Child’s Pose is also called the Pose of Wisdom. Oh, damn! She had me now. This one comment touched a chord deep inside of me that was ready to be struck. I realized that I had been taking it all way too seriously; that I had been taking myself way too seriously. Jesus, Janet! Let it go already!
I am a total proponent of Child’s Pose these days. I love it. And I see the wisdom of the child that teaches us to honor our bodies, to respect them intuitively and to have fun with them. It’s still a struggle some days; I may never be able to completely give up wanting to be the best and to be acknowledged for that, but what I do know is that my body is this amazing vehicle for my spirit in this time that I have here and I am grateful to it for that. I also realize that my spirit is love and joy and laughter, and if my body is a vessel for that, then I ought to have some fun with it. (Oh, the wonderful, not child-like implications of that statement!)
A few weeks ago, I attempted full Mermaid Pose for the first time. On the first side, I totally got it; I mean, I nailed it, which is exactly how I smugly thought of it. I went on to the other side cocky and full of myself, only to fall out of it, over and over. The joy of this was that this repeated falling out of it cracked me up. I laughed at myself for falling, I laughed at myself for my arrogance, and I laughed at myself because it felt good to have a laugh at my own expense. After class, my beautiful teacher came up to me and hugged me, and said, “You have no idea how great it was to see you laugh like that when you fell.” Actually, though, I do; I really, really do.