Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Body is Willing

It is hot in Nashville.  The temperature has been hovering the mid-90s since we arrived for the fifth of six modules of our yoga therapy training.  The training itself is heating up - we are past the halfway mark and the long days build towards a kind of energy that both sustains and exhausts.

At this point, we are spending a lot of time meeting with clients who volunteer to allow us to work with them, referred by the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt University.  We receive a very short description of the person - two or three sentences about who they are, their age and what their problem(s) are.  There has been a fair bit of debate about whether this information is helpful or gets in the way or totally useless.  Each day, three of us meet with our client while being observed by a faculty member and a group of about 6-8 other trainees.  It is a pretty unnatural situation but there really isn't any way around it as it is so useful to get the feedback that everyone offers and, as an observer, to be able to see the many ways that issues can be addressed.  There has been incredible synchronicity between the seemingly random assignment of client with student therapist - somehow most of us have been matched with people who are just right for us.

Yesterday was my day to meet my client for the first time.  It was an amazing experience and a challenging one.  If I had allowed myself to have any kind of expectations beforehand, I quickly tossed them out the window.  I had to be present with the person in front of me and all the theories about this or that tool or practice pretty much went out the window with the expectations.  But we had the most important thing - a real and immediate connection.  The whole experience was beautiful and I can only express deep gratitude to my client for coming in and sharing their story and life and letting me enter it, just a little.  We will meet again on Saturday for a follow-up.

After the client left and we debriefed as a small group and then with the whole group, I could feel a pain begin to rise in my left eyelid.  It is almost comical!  In the moment, I was (mostly) not stressed since my job was (relatively) clear.  Or so I thought.  After the fact, it is also clear that the added piece of being observed and having everyone in the group hear about and analyze my performance (hard to call it anything else) caused me more stress than I thought.

This morning, as my eyelid was about double its normal size, one of the faculty was discussing the role of breathing in our practice and our tradition.  She said that the body might be willing but the breath won't lie.  Meaning that we can force our bodies to do things that take it a little too far or override our sense of what is best for it but that pushing or overriding will always show up in the breath immediately.  It is a true barometer of what is really happening in our system.

I might add a little caveat that the body is willing - for a time - but the chickens will come home to roost eventually.  Perhaps, like many of the clients we have been seeing, the pushing and overriding has been happening so long and has been pushed so hard that the chickens are coming home in a big way that can no longer be ignored.  Or, perhaps like me, they show up immediately.  A little reminder that just because you can't see it or feel it in the moment, things are happening on subtle levels.  Indeed, it is this very fact that gives yoga therapy its power.  We don't know everything of what will happen or even exactly why.  It is lovely that scientists and researchers are starting to confirm what yoga has known for millennia but even with all that, there is still some mystery to it all.

And I say, thank goodness for that.  Swollen eyelid and all.

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