‘Off the Mat’
Yoga musings with Ali Rose
As talk of how we will leave ‘Lockdown’ gets underway, I have noticed a small voice inside myself whispering ‘I think I’m happy like this actually, I’ve kind of settled into it!’
I recognise this voice represents my anxiety’s and fears, not only about what the ‘new normal’ might be, but also the need to turn and face the real global challenge – the climate crisis. One way or another, Life will need to change. These are uncertain times.
You might be wondering as a student of Yoga, where is this leading? If your curious read on, but if you would simply like to short cut to the ‘Web of Life’ somatic relaxation meditation I have recorded please follow this link: https://youtu.be/AHfesU7_s70 Enjoy!
As the conversations about leaving lockdown become louder, I am hearing the word ‘resilience’ referred to more and more. I feel my muscles respond to this word – the shoulders tense , engaging ready for the action or resistance required from me to muster the resilience I will need to face this changed world.
As a student of Embodied Anatomy, I deep dive into aspects of body/mind, exploring how different body systems can support us both physically and psychologically. What words and images come to mind when you think of muscles? Strength / stability / power / doing / Hercules or the Hulk?! Will it be these qualities that build our resilience as we re-engage with the post lockdown world?
At school we probably learnt about muscle – ‘the biceps engage to bend the arm at the elbow’ etc. We certainly talk a lot about muscles in Yoga! In fact, it’s been said that in the West we have reduced Yoga to asana (postures) and asana to hamstrings! Implicit here is that the western paradigm is reductionist and mechanistic. We look at parts not wholes, machines not systems. This limited and outdated view of the body and animals came from examining dead bodies . Let us not confuse this map for the territory.
The human body is a living system, as is the beautiful planet on which our lives depend. As the mystics and alchemists have long told us, the microcosm and macrocosm are connected, ‘as above so below, as without so within’.
‘To see a World in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower’
New methods of observing living body systems has brought the word Fascia onto the lips of all who study and work with the human body. What are its properties, why the excitement at its ‘discovery’ and how might fascia re-frame and support our idea of resilience?
Fascia is a multi-dimensional web of elastic connective tissue interweaving from head to toe, “one fabric clothing all”. Its fluid filled threads glimmer like a dewy spider’s web and give shape and position to each cell, muscle and organ, allowing them to be individuals within a web of whole-body connection. The old view that muscles and bones gave the body its form has now been superseded. It is understood that it is the matrix of fascia, like a spider’s web, that gives the body structure, where stability and space combine in flexibility to connect, communicate and respond to changes throughout the system.
It is our understanding of fascia that explains why massaging the soles of our feet allows us to forward fold with so much more ease – the ‘mysteriously’ tight hamstrings no longer such an issue. Seemingly separate parts of the body influencing each other through the fascial web. You can see where I am heading with this?!
A ‘new look’ resilience can be linked to flexibility, self-awareness, connection and contribution. As we move out of lockdown and are called to be resilient in the face of a changing world, maybe we can update our ‘embodied model’ of resilience from muscle to fascia?
Our strength can come from our flexibility, the spaces in the web allowing for the Mystery that is the Source of Life to find expression in the welcome unexpected and unimaginable solutions. The more muscle bound and rigid we are around how life unfolds from here, the greater we are bound to suffer when life takes its own course!
In the ‘web of life’ we can feel supported by the felt sense of connections that have grown out of lockdown, now experiencing ourselves to be individuals’ part of a neighbourhood, community , a ‘whole’. Our sense of empowerment in knowing our contribution is important, that our individual actions, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant when viewed in isolation (remember the old paradigm of reductionism and muscles?!) do matter and will affect the whole.
And what of self-awareness? Like many, you may be asking yourself what is my part to play? Margaret Postlewaite expresses this beautifully in her poem ‘The Clearing’
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognise and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.
Please feel free to share this for the benefit of all. May your Yoga practice continue to support you in these extraordinary times.