My body is my home, a home I can return to, to feel safe in, and to rest in. It wasn’t always this way. I have grown up with my body predominantly feeling like an unsafe place to be, with scary and painful sensations. Daily stomach pains as a child, the doctors recommended removing my appendix to resolve the pains whose physical cause they could not identify. Luckily for me, they did not go ahead with this surgery. It was only as an adult that I learned that these constant stomach pains were anxiety, linked to the trauma at home in my childhood. These constant abdominal pains also started to affect my lower back, and before I turned 30, an orthopedic surgeon told me to refrain from carrying anything heavy on my back, trekking, etc. The medical system increased my fears and anxiety about my body and led me to be more disconnected from my body.
I am grateful to have found modalities that have helped me connect better to my body, study it, and expand its expressive repertoire: physical theatre and West African dance in college in the US and in Senegal, studies in yoga at various ashrams and institutions in India, expressive arts therapy, and permaculture and connecting to the soil.
What I have learned along this journey is that my body is intelligent and that it knows how to heal. I learned to observe the pain in my lower back, breathe into it, attend upon it with love and curiosity, and understand and feel into my lower back and it connects to the rest of my spine and pelvis all the way down to my feet. I learned to align the various joints in my body in a way that affords my body more ease, and to move them slowly and with awareness in the variety of ways that they are designed to move in: anteriorly, posteriorly, in flexion and extension, adduction and abduction, in rotation, and with different elemental qualities of space, air, fire, water, and earth. Expanding my movement repertoire of these various parts of my body has made it physically stronger, more resilient to various loads and stresses, more responsive to its environment, and a better holder of my emotions and experiences.
My body is vast. It is a multitude of beings and connections and relationships. It is a team.
I have learned to interact better with my body, noticing its patterns. When I work it constantly without rest, it gets sick and is loud and clear about its need for rest. When i nourish it well, and listen to it keenly, giving it a good balance of movement and rest and expression and silence, it is at ease and is delightful to inhabit.
Philosophy and Embodied Practices at Abhyas
The past few months of studying with Navtej Johar, through the philosophy in his Indian Poetics course and the embodied practices of Abhyas yoga and somatics sessions, have been taking me deeper into my understanding and love of the body.
In the somatics classes, I give my body permission to move in new ways. I have been noticing the various ways in which the judgments of my mind constrain the expressiveness of my body.