A friend of mine told me the other day that when we were in our twenties, I told her that I live only above my neck. I don’t remember saying that. And I don’t really remember feeling that way. I was a bit hurt, actually, that she remembers that about me, because it means that she believed me, that that comment rang true enough for her to remember it for thirty years.
Hurt or not, I have to admit that I still do a lot of my living in my head, and the moments when I come into my body, when I’m here in all my physicality, can be profound. So many things are better in the body. Walking. Stretching. Watching. Hearing. Smelling. Tasting. Sex. And the realness, the flesh, the bones, the blood, the way we are put together… Coming into the body, into presence, coming into the here, the now, is, I believe, essential if we are to live fully, because we can only experience life in the present moment through our bodies.
I recently heard part of a documentary on CBC radio about a woman named Mary-Jo Fetterly, who was a yoga teacher when an accident left her a quadriplegic. Now, some years later, she has a lot of mobility back and she teaches yoga from her wheelchair. In the documentary, titled “If You Can Breathe,” Fetterly talks about the importance of the breath and leads a class through breathing in inspiration and breathing out release.
I have recently been yearning for yoga, and the few minutes of the documentary I caught as I drove from Van Dusen Gardens to Safeway convinced me that I’m on the right track. I remember getting frustrated with the emphasis on breath when I took Hatha yoga years ago. It seemed so irrelevant. I just wanted to do the poses and be done with it. I remember seething with fury. Later, I took restorative Iyengar yoga and each time when we got into our initial pose on the ground with a bolster down the centre of our backs and extra support under our heads, my body would open up and tears would trickle down the sides of my face.
Now, it strikes me that during Hatha yoga, I was staying in my head. During Iyengar yoga, the opening up of my chest drew breath into my body and pulled me out of my head. And the tears came.
It’s been a couple of years since I attended those Iyengar classes. A friend asked me the other day if I would like to sign up for one with her in the fall. I do believe I will.