many thanks for the task. Below you can find the reflections for Task 11 and further down the description for Task 12.
- Savasana with book under the head: A symphony of the intestines.
Once the mind quietens down a bit and the space in the neck opens, the body begins sounding. John Cage said that listening to a busy avenue never ceased to surprise him. I would say the same for my bowels: rumbles, growls and gurgles in all sorts of duration and pitch produce. A deep sense of gratitude emerges: ‘thank you for letting me speak. This is the song I have been writing the whole day and now I can finally sing it’.
- Crouching position (not exactly a yoga posture, looks a bit like Malasana): WOOOAAAA
If I spend enough time in this position and bring my attention to the small of my back, it lets go. It says ‘Fiiiiiinaly’.
- Downward Dog: Aaaaaaah
Hamstrings and calf muscles give a big yawn whereas the shoulders make a ‘hamphhhh’. ‘You do realise we have been working all day long’ – they say – ‘and now you push us further’. But after the first complaint they grow quiet, especially when the armpits silence them with another yawn. ‘Ahhh’ the armpits say as they flatten and get a good perspective of the world.
- Tadasana: Back to mute
I come to standing and this standing feels different from all the standing I’ve done during the day. The heels murmur to the floor ‘I am smitten, I want to become one with you’. The front pelvic rim comes out from its hiding place and says ‘Here I am’. The shoulders lose their grip on the neck and retreat without a sound. The neck says to the shoulders: ‘I appreciate this. I would be really grateful if you stayed where you are. You don’t need to wrap me and hold me. You stifle me, you know? I can stand by myself! I do not need your protection!’. It continues murmuring a bit more – sometimes in a language not fit for a blog post – but I can’t blame the neck. The shoulders can be bullies sometimes. Once it lets off steam, the neck does what it knows best: it puts my head back in its place. ‘Go on you can do all the talking now’ the body tells me ‘and I will withdraw back to absence’.
Task 12 – Likes and Dislikes
The above sequence is one I repeat more or less every day. It feels nice and as you can tell it does not ask a lot of the body, in that it is neither vigorous nor athletic. The task below comes from this place of comfort as well as a certain perplexity I keep grappling with.
I remember my yoga teacher complaining that we (the students) tend to practise the postures we ‘like’ and avoid practising the ones that feel difficult (as you can see in my case, she is right!). There was the assumption that if we only practise those postures that feel ‘nice’ we keep deepening the same old furrows in the body and mind and thus miss the opportunity to move beyond and outside the very habits that the practice is grooving. There is often this sense in yoga, at least in Iyengar, that a posture, when it really ‘works’, i.e. when it takes the bodymind to new territory, should cause discomfort, a bit of pain, or at least a sensation of unfamiliarity. It should have a bit of ‘grit’. Hence, my teacher’s admonition that we ‘shouldn’t be lying on bolsters!’. When I started working with somatics, I encountered a different approach. Here comfort was not only accepted but sought for as a ground of exploration. At least, lying on bolsters did not make me feel as guilty…
I have made discoveries in both ways, and I still cannot tell for sure whether one way of working has to offer more than the other. But I do wonder what are the differences between the ‘easy’ and the ‘hard’ way in terms of what and how one learns. So that was my big preamble for a simple task:
Make a list with the postures you like and the ones you don’t. What you like and what you don’t like depends on whether the posture feels comfortable and you want to do it or whether the posture feels hard and you would rather avoid it. You can have a third category with postures that do not fall in any of these two categories. Once you have made the lists, next to each posture write the ‘thing(s)’ that define your predisposition.