So much silence has surrounded me in the two and half years since I moved to Switzerland. Silence with a few glimmers of words here and there that I have been able to offer out from within the folds of myself into this blog, a newsletter or two, and more recently in little blips on Instagram. As shallow as the IG platform seems, it also feels like the most I can actually extract from myself at times. I have made many many attempts to begin a real writing practice again and mostly the essays collect dust in my drafts folders and remain there, half-written, half-hearted, and fully weighted with the heaviness of experiences I seem not to know how or be able to share.
There are countless reasons for my silence. In part, I have been forced to slow down and, at times, stand still in my new realities. Rather than treading forward swiftly on familiar ground, I have had to stop and feel. To listen. Observe. Even that shift in the way I participate in my life feels totally alien. This absolutely includes my yoga practice. These days, practice looks and feels almost nothing like it used to before I moved here, became pregnant, and subsequently became a mother... My body has since rejected what used feel like second nature, and thus I have had to embark on the arduous and deeply intimate (and often painful) process of reconstructing and rediscovering a dearest love. There have been many times when I have honestly contemplated moving on and quitting the practice... quitting teaching... quitting an entity which no longer serves me in the same forms (and, I might argue from where I now stand, never did). But I am still here. Something in me perseveres.
The practice rumbles its truths from the depths, whether or not we are ready or willing to listen.
I have had to reconstruct my practice, yes, and perhaps what has left me further stunned, speechless and silent, is that I have also had to do so in a space where I can no longer rely on the community I once took for granted, where I do not speak the language (although I am making great efforts to learn), and where I have had to traverse not only a rewiring of my approaches to practice, but my approaches to nearly everything. Because not only does my practice look almost nothing like it used to, but the same could be said for my entire life. New country, new city, new culture, new language, new students, new colleagues, new husband, new child, new body, new new new. I had absolutely no idea how powerfully destabilizing and jarring this much newness could be.
I recently bought a deck of beautiful cards while in the US visiting with some of my oldest friends in Ohio. On one side of these cards is a unique print of an original watercolor from the artist. On the other is a statement to contemplate and perhaps to shine insight into a situation. I am not one who presently relies often on oracles or decks of cards to guide my life. I find so much to be gained through understanding science and logic as well as through the perception of real, felt experience, and intuition based in that somatic awareness. And yet it would be wrong to say that I do not believe in such things. There has always been a shimmering inner layer of my being who simply loves all that cannot be explained away or distilled into pros and cons, dualities or answers; who relishes in wonder at the miracles of all that we do not yet fully understand or which stand just outside the boundaries of what can be tested. And so, I have been lovingly handling these cards.
More than a week ago, I pulled a card that said "Erupt. What have you been holding back because its release would be too inflammatory? Volcanoes, though violent, decimate the past and provide unique conditions for growth. Allow your molten soul to collide with open sky. Erupt."
I have contemplated this card every day since. There is so much I want to say, to share about practice and what I have witnessed in myself and my perceptions since I have had to start anew. I want to scream it sometimes, to let it flow without holding back. I reflect on the last years and see that my life erupted. My past has been decimated with violent repercussions, I left behind everything that was familiar and safe and comfortable with some very real consequences physically, mentally, emotionally. I have been shaken to the depth of my core... but there is now a possibility for some incredibly unique growth and here I am to stand in that power.
To erupt is to abide in the intensity of my truth.
For a period of my life, the yoga postures served me well. I grew through them and they offered healing to my wrecked dancer's body for a time. But then, as many of us do, I allowed the postures to guide my physicality and I ultimately suffered because of that. On the surface, I was incredibly strong and flexible. The problem was that I unwittingly pushed myself to be strong and flexible only in the places the poses required and in the end this was not balanced or wholesome, no matter how much alignment and breath and safe sequencing I applied.
When I was in my final months of pregnancy and just afterward, my body was pulled apart where it was weak and disconnected. I am not alone in this experience and it definitely doesn't just happen to pregnant yoga practitioners, although the elevated levels of relaxin in the body along with the increased abdominal pressure certainly enabled this to worsen quickly. Through the process of reconstructing myself in the last two years and working with many other students who I believe have been harmed by yoga, I have realized how insufficient the posturing, and more specifically how insufficient so much of the instruction in this work is.
I am not saying the postures do not contain insights, for they do, endlessly. I am simply saying that they are not enough by themselves. We have to keep looking beyond, beneath, inside and through them. The postures are patterns we set into bodies that already contain their own patterns, imbalances, incongruencies, imperfections and deeply individual insights. How can we not take the individual into consideration as we apply them? Alignment, as we may witness in some forms of yoga, takes us only so far on a personal level before it causes us to become rigid. Geometry certainly has its merits and beauty in certain yoga styles, but it doesn't break down or build up everything; it doesn't give space for all of the organic nuance and multitudes of asymmetry, in my experience. Flow is wonderful for moving without overthinking but it falls short in the realm of detail and precision, no matter how clear instructions may be. Breath work and opening pranic pathways means nothing if the physical structures are not addressed with integrity and after all, what ARE pranic pathways? What does that actually mean?
There is infinitely more to this practice than the simplified and overreaching claims (often not backed by any research or science) many of our teachers have shared. For me, it is time to stop posturing. Meaning, in every sense of that word, it is time to stop trying to impress students (or our own egos) with fancy terminology or claims backed by little more than "my teacher said" or "this ancient text says so, so it must be true" and it is also time to take a good look at the why and how of the physical postures. Beyond the alignment and discussions of prana and sacred geometry, there is human variability and brilliance that is infinitely more complex than any system designed to observe it. The patterns of postures are equally infinite when we give ourselves permission to see beyond the static tendencies so adored by our human desire to categorize.
I am honestly not sure if I will survive this eruption of my personal truth on a professional level. Many students and definitely many teachers err toward what is familiar and safe. But as two of my own teachers have recently nudged me to do, I can stand nowhere but here in this volcano. I can not abide by a past that has not been adequate in addressing my own body and certainly the bodies of my peers and students. Perhaps it may feel inflammatory to challenge the status quo, and most especially in a place that is not my homeland... but here I am.
The lava is flowing. I am standing in the growth that rises from the ashes.