I keep coming back to Maggie’s talk on the first day of Camp Mighty. She laid out 8 pieces of wisdom that really summed up what the whole weekend was about. Some were reminders of things I too easily forget – that our opinions of ourselves are not fact, that it’s about who you love and who loves you. And some were affirmations of things I’ve already experienced and keep trying to practice in my life – like “my body is a compass.”
I had said almost the same thing the previous evening at the opening party to a new friend and fellow Mighty gal – hey Caroline! Your body never lies to you – it knows what it needs. It knows when it’s tired or hungry or stressed. And it knows when you are trying to convince yourself to do something you don’t want to do. It also knows when you really want to do something but are trying to talk yourself out of it. See the opinion thing mentioned above. That comes from the brain. Not the body.
I started dabbling in yoga off and on post college. It didn’t really stick until the mid-’90s when I found a studio in the suburbs of DC near where I lived. The predominant style taught there was alignment-based, and the students definitely skewed a little older, a little more suburban mom than you might find in a more urban setting. I was approaching 30, not a mom, but I needed a place to feel safe and get out of my very judge-y head. And I don’t know why I had this wisdom at the time, but I gave myself permission beginning in the very first class to not pay attention to anyone else around me and to accept whatever I was able to do. I had lost about 40 pounds in the previous year, so I wasn’t feeling self-conscious about my size, but I wasn’t flexible and I wasn’t strong, and I just really wanted to be in a place where I wasn’t thinking about shoulds and coulds and woulds.
And hey, guess what? It worked. I figured out how to give myself that space. I even, to my utter amazement, ended up teaching at that studio for several years, and several more after moving to New Mexico. And along the way, I became a distance runner, because, you know, the process of training can be very yogic. Listen to your body. Pay attention to your breath. Put one foot in front of the other. And figure out how your body works. When is it truly aligned? When do you have all the support you need? That’s how I ended up teaching Chaturanga on the pool deck at 1 am in Palm Springs – damn I wish there were pictures! This will have to do.
The hard part, once you’ve figured out what your body is telling you, is putting it into action. It’s one thing to take the rest you need if there’s no one expecting you to show up at a meeting or pack a lunch or make cupcakes for class or produce a client deliverable. When exactly does that happen? And then there’s the aforementioned brain talking you out of some deep dream for fulfillment or creative expression, the kind of dream that makes you feel all butterflied in your stomach and rushing in your ears…and your brain is desperately trying to translate that adrenalin into “WARNING! WARNING WILL ROBINSON!”
There’s a difference between fear and anticipation, between not wanting to do something and really really wanting to do something. The trick is learning the difference and trusting your body to steer you right. And making sure that you have the support and the alignment – of intention, of action, of vision – to see it through. Besides, the worst thing that will happen is falling. And you laugh and get up and try it again. Life is a process and falling, and failing, is inevitable. Just do it with style. And learn from it. And listen to your body. It’s a mighty compass.