Reading a Body

23 Oct


Over the last month a lot has happened in my life. I have had some very tough times in my relationship. I have been searching for new clients and new ways of integrating yoga into the fabric of my life. I have been reading the sutras and meditating, finding new sources of inspiration and new ways to commit myself to daily practice. I have also had several inspiring visitors, each bringing their own gifts to challenge my assumptions or support my inquiries.

When my friend Megan was visiting from Chicago we took several classes together and she also came to one of mine. Megan gave me some incredible feedback about teaching, as she always does.

Quick aside. Megan and I have taught together for years—writing, quilting, faculty development, civic engagement, service learning—now we are developing a writing and yoga curriculum that we hope to debut next summer in a weekend workshop for people a lot like us, writers, artists, eaters, question askers, knowledge acquirers.

Megan doesn’t do hand stands. We all have our reasons for not doing things, and they are typically VERY complex. I will not go into all the reasons she won’t but in my class I challenged her to. And, she did. While we were debriefing in the evening over wine and risotto, she gave me some very interesting insight to why she decided to give it a try.

“You believed I could, so I did.”

So, um, can you explain that a little bit more, Megan?  What she went on to describe was the same feeling we all have. We tell our teachers, oh, I have this problem or this limitation, and then we have permission to not push ourselves. By telling them the limitation it some how exempts us from having to try. What is interesting about my relationship with Megan is that I have known her for decades, so I get that she has a bad back, separated stomach muscles from child birth, and an internal struggle with her waist size and scale number. But I also can read her. I know when she is faking it. I know when she can push and it won’t hurt her. I can read when her mouth is saying something that her body doesn’t believe. In that way, I can also ignore what her mouth says, and since she trusts me, can guide her gently to give her body the challenge that it’s seeking. Then later over wine, as we always do, we can deconstruct why we push each other. Megan did an L-shape hand-stand. Harder, I think, in many ways than a traditional handstand. And, she held it, with her feet planted on the wall, her weight pushing into her hands. Megan took the time to adjust her shoulders and pull in her navel. She took time to read her body and get a new perspective.

What I didn’t take away in the moment was what I learned at dinner that night. This is how I teach, how I have always taught. Whether it is Megan, Mary or Sue. I don’t always listen to what the mouth is telling me, but rather read the body. It’s how I get MFA students to trust their performance personas or encourage yogis to try something new. I am honest with their bodies about what is ok and that you can always come back tomorrow. I give them permission to say no or to fail and I am there to teach them how to trust themselves, the vehicle changes, the message–the same.

And, that is MY big lesson, in learning to read myself, I am open to reading others. Reading and listening.

Thanks. Megan. Now let’s move fast.


One Response to “Reading a Body”

  1. Mer October 23, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    LOVE this entry, lady. Love living from the guts.

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