“Consciousness is a causative force in the human body; It reshapes the body.” ~Paul McLean, Nobel Prize Speech
Back in my 20’s when I first learned about yoga I would go to class, eager to mold my body into the shapes of crow, cobra, triangle and others that my beautiful teacher demonstrated in her words “the full expression” of the position. Fortunately or not for me, I was very flexible back then. However yoga taught me that I didn’t have the strength to back up my flexibility. Sadly, I learned this through injury. Just because I could stretch into a place didn’t mean that I had the core strength to hold it. Eventually, my knee strains and low back catastrophes pulled me towards the strengthening work I needed after several pregnancies into a Pilates practice.
While I learned and honed my skills of core strength, I also missed the spiritual underpinnings that yoga brought to my movement. Now I have been fortunate enough to discover a path that combines the two as yoga has grown and matured into many versions that bring this consciousness of balancing flexibility and strength into one practice. My new yoga teacher has nearly as many hours or Pilates training as she does Yoga and my classes work my core in deep and meaningful ways. Her version of Core Yoga focuses our breath on the I Am of the third chakra which is a significant shift from the funneling my ribs in Pilates.
Interestingly now as I move towards the poses that I used to be able to stretch into so easily, I recognize that adding the core strength, and probably the years too, has limited my range considerably. At first, I was a little shocked and saddened to realize how much tighter I am everywhere, but then I realized that the smaller range that I now can stretch into, I can also defend with my core. Core strength translates into an inner wisdom of what I am truly capable of, without injury.
Not surprisingly, I discovered this same evolution occurring in my most intimate relationships. In the early years of my marriage and making babies, I boasted about my multi-tasking, juggling 16 things at once flexibility. I stretched beyond my personal boundaries as though they didn’t exist, wanting to be the “full expression” of the roles I had given my life. I had little understanding of the strength that comes from personal boundaries or even more deeply defining my own inner space.
Like my exercise practice, time had its way with me and as my family grew, I had learned how to tap my own deep emotional strength that didn’t depend on anyone else seeing, appreciating or recognizing me. My new found inner strength allowed me to balance what I could give with out giving myself away. It was a watershed for my relationships because it enabled me to offer what I could, say no to what I couldn’t and be compassionate with my own limits and the limits of life. Like my yoga practice, I recognize that in some ways my range is smaller now, even within my most intimate relationships. But there is also considerably less injury now, no quiet resentments, no unspoken conflicts live between me and those I love anymore.
The most inspiring gift of all is realizing that how we live in our bodies is always the truest reflection of the work we need to do in our hearts with the people we love.