the words my body knows

My yoga practice used to be a big part of my life.  Now I go about every two weeks.  This is, for your information, the precise interval for maximum pain and difficulty: it’s hard, I never get stronger or looser, and I am always sore the next day.  I do not recommend this frequency but can’t seem to get out of its rut.

Every time I go, though, my body sinks back into the flow of the asanas with ease.  It’s a long-known language, embedded in my very bones, that I keep forgetting I know by heart.  I know the sanskrit names of the poses and my body finds them – sure, inelegantly, because I am both weak and tight – but it knows just what to do.  I’m always reassured by the familiar cadences of the postures, by the sound of my own breath, and every single time I swear to go more often.

It’s the deep memory that fascinates me, though.  These poses are buried in some fathomless pit inside my physical self.  They have burrowed into my spirit.  A very similar thing happens when I go to church (which I do even more infrequently than I go to yoga).

As I speak the service aloud, the words float up from some deeply-buried place.  The hymns, likewise, come to me from some unknown space of essential knowing.  The lilting language of the prayers of the people, the familiar meter of hymns that I did not realize I knew by heart: all of it swirls around me and creates a feeling of home that is surprising and not at the same time.

These – the yoga asanas, the words of Episcopalian prayers and hymns – are lodged in seam of my soul that is deep enough to be invisible to the eye.  They are part, somehow, of that truth inside my body that I began to recognize more than a year ago.  I wrote then that I don’t understand the meaning of this truth yet, but that I feel a conviction to listen to it, to that throbbing message that pulses in my veins.  I am still not able to articulate it, but I know better than I did before places where I can touch that profound, beyond-logic knowing, and two of them are in the yoga studio and in church.

Are there places like this for you, where you are reminded of a language you know in your marrow and spirit?

13 thoughts on “the words my body knows”

  1. Swimming Walden/open water, meditation, chanting – any form of exercise/activity that involves the breath & deep breathing.
    Breath/prana, chi, ki = spirit ….. which keeps us ALIVE!

  2. I love the old hymns. I discovered around Christmastime what an old stick-in-the-mud I am – I hated all the updated versions – I want my old Christmas hymns to sound like old Christmas hymns, darn it! Old hymns bring back memories of hymn sings at our pastor’s church, Bible Studies accompanied by piano and guitar, visiting my cousins’ church and goofing off in the pews … old folk music that my dad and uncles have always played has something of that same effect, but the hymns are more powerful.

    And any time I am near a lake or any large, calm body of water, I find an inner peace I have forgotten I knew since the last time I was there.

  3. This post really touched a nerve with me. I am having deep anxiety lately and I can’t figure out why. Everything in my life is going perfectly. I realized that I haven’t been to yoga in SIX WEEKS which is a long time for me. Just booked a private instructor tonight. Am hoping it brings me the peace I need! Thanks L!!

  4. Oh I love this. I hear Rolf’s voice in my head telling me to breathe into the place that is always still and that always knows.

    More and more, I think we are all part of a divine consciousness or pure awareness. I am beginning to believe that that pure knowing is our birthright and not just an accident. xoxoo

  5. PS – nothing hurts like yoga does the next day. I went to my first Hot Yoga (not Bikram) class last week and almost had a heart attack. How can something that looks so easy be so hard????

  6. I can totally resonate to the infrequent yoga and the way that my body remains tight and makes the practice hard. I wish I felt a bit more like you, though, in that I don’t often feel like my body knows what to do. I more feel like my body is unhappy with me for being an infrequent yoga practitioner and that it cries out to me during the session 🙁 Perhaps I will try to listen to it in a different vein. xo

  7. I just started doing Cardio Barre – which, btw, is kicking my ass – but I grew up studying ballet so every time I do a jete now, it touches on that deep body language of which you speak. It’s like coming home, and I didn’t even know how much I missed it.

    In a more spiritual sense, I get it every time I visit a creek or waterfall in the mountains. That triggers an ancient awakening and settling, even more so than when I visit the ocean.

  8. It might sound crazy and cold, but this is how I feel in a quiet pool hall as I practice. I just get in tune with myself, hear the clicking of the balls, seeing the balls go into the pockets (if I’m lucky!). But seriously, I think it’s about being in tune with something that is all muscle memory. It is freeing.

  9. I need more yoga, more ocean, more nature in my life. I too used to go 3x a week to yoga and felt amazing. Now 1-2x a month and like you I struggle – love it while I am there – and then it’s another stretch before I go again. When will I learn?

  10. For me, I find this happening when a really old song I haven’t listened to in ages comes on the radio or is selected by my iTunes player on shuffle. The words are just there. I can even sometime remember listening to the song — a younger me so much different than I am now.

    I have had an on again off again relationship with yoga. I had hoped to get to the point where my body began to just flow with the poses, but I could never make the yoga classes work with my schedule. And now, it has been months since I’ve been to a class. I miss it and my body does feel different now that I have effectively given up my practice. I hope that when I have a more stable schedule going for me, I can return to somewhat regular yoga sessions.

  11. This is the exactly the way I feel in church (Catholic for me). I am long past my days of dogmatic belief and only attend Mass when I am at home visiting my parents, but I feel a sense of calm and familiarity when I find myself reciting the responses or singing the hymns from what seems like ancient memory.

    My husband and I are raising our kids outside of any faith tradition and I lament, sometimes, the fact that my kids won’t have this calm, safe space to fall back on.

    Beautiful, resonant post.

  12. Always with water, whether I am within that water and moving or it is my moving that brings the water from my body. It is my everything.

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