August is coming to a close and with it summer has begun it's transition into fall. Many find themselves moving into busier schedules or going back to the grind that inevitably comes with the resurgence of the school year. For this month's seasonal connections feature we are sharing wisdom from an incredible woman and yoga teacher Rebekah.
Here’s the thing, your body knows. Your body holds your entire story within every cell. There’s this innate intelligence, this cellular memory that holds our physical and emotional experiences. But most of us are living in our minds. When asked how we feel, we verbally explain. I feel angry. That really hurt my feelings. You just made me so happy.
Ok. But WHERE do you feel it?
When you’re angry, do you feel hot, is your chest tight? When you’re feelings have been hurt, do you feel an aching in your chest, a knot in your throat? When you’re happy are you buzzing, your chest light?
Existence shifts around us. Seasons change, bodies wither, the Earth turns, time as we measure it marches forward. Not for one moment are you or is the energy and matter around you ever standing still. Change is always faithfully present in life. It’s easy to get swallowed by the chaotic energy of transition. It’s easy to switch on autopilot and just go, existing without genuine attention given to the present moment or experience.
There’s something that happens when we get lost in that chaos of energy and matter swirling around us. We forget about OUR energy and matter. We forget about the atoms and cells and forces that hold this vessel together. We drift so far into our minds or beyond that we sometimes forget about this vessel entirely. We detach from the sanctity that fills every moment.
See, this is where that cellular memory comes in. As we experience this existence full of joy, sorrow, elation, disappointment, our body experiences it all with us. Whether we were paying attention or not, our body is always in the present. It fully experiences every moment and it remembers even when our minds and hearts don’t. Knowing this, there becomes this importance in creating a relationship with your body, this importance to being in your body, in the present moment. Like any other relationship, it requires daily devotion, sincere listening, mindful commitment and boundless love. And like any other relationship, it’s a practice.
Be Where Your Feet Are
The most simple but most powerful practice a teacher introduced to me is a tiny phrase with big power to shift your perspective. BE WHERE YOUR FEET ARE. You’re stuck in traffic, already late for work and you know you’re behind on a project. Your yoga teacher brings you into the most challenging pose and all you can think about is getting the hell out of it. Something triggers past trauma and you feel an anxiety attack welling up inside of you. When you notice yourself detach from the body and retreat to only the mind and heart, the thoughts and feels, invite yourself to come back, be where your feet are. Maybe you repeat the phrase to yourself, wiggle the toes, take your shoes off and touch your feet or walk barefoot on the Earth. Allow this practice to cultivate and evolve in a way natural to you.
Come Home to Your Body
As a yoga teacher, I’ve noticed a lot of students have never been in their body before. Yes, they’ve lived in it for a bit, broken it in, bumped it, used it. Yet so often they’ve never been asked to turn their attention inward, to LISTEN to their bodies. Our bodies are talking to us all the time. Its telling you exactly what it needs to stay balanced through the constant transitions we’re experiencing. GET MOVING and listen. Don’t just move to sweat (although a good sweat can be glorious), move to practice listening. Move mindfully, with care, listening to what the body has to say. Be where your feet are, even as those feet get to moving and grooving. What nourishes one body may not nourish another so even choosing what kind of movement serves you is a practice in listening to your body. Find what leaves your body feeling strong and your mind renewed and do it. Do it a lot. Do it with intention and purpose. Do it for you. Do it in a way that honors your body. Do it in a way that allows you to feel at home in your body. Come home.
Connect Your Body and Mind
The nervous system is our physiological connection between the mind and body. Nerves throughout the body gather information about our surroundings and send the info to the brain. This happens, all day everyday until the day we leave these bodies. So how do we make take this connection between mind and body from unconscious to conscious? We BREATHE, mindfully. Instead of allowing the nervous system to regulate the breath, we first turn our attention inward and then start manipulating the breath. Breathing with slow, extended exhales activates the parasympathetic nervous system, releasing calming hormones and slowing the activity of the body and mind. Focusing on lengthening your inhale will do the opposite, heating the body and activating the mind. In this way, we can see, understand and use the breath as the quickest and most effective connection between body and mind. We can begin to use the breath as a form of centering, as a practice of mindfulness, as a practice of presence.
Existence will continue to shift around us. Seasons will change bodies will slowly wither, the Earth will continue to turn, time as we measure will remain moving forward. As the chaos of change swirls around us we can take refuge in the sanctity of the present moment. We can find solace in the small but mighty practices of presence to reconnect with this experience. We can choose to switch off the autopilot and come home to the wisdom of our bodies. We can tap into the limitless potential of the self. We can choose to be where our feet are.
Rebekah Jarchow is a St. Louis based artist and yogi. She found yoga in 2011 as part of physical therapy for her body after 10 years of competitive swimming and lacrosse. Not only did it heal her broken body, it also began to heal a damaged heart and anxious mind. She finds peace in her practice and it has been a vehicle for change and a driving force forward in all aspects of her life. After developing a soulful home practice, in 2013 she became certified as a 200-hr RYT through St. Louis Yoga Source. Currently, Bek is pursuing her 500-hr certification from Agape Yoga Studio under the skillful direction of Jen Jones, Michael Johnson, Joe and Luna Taft, Cat Matlock and Bryan Legree. Along with this diverse background of teaching methodology, Bek combines her love of physiology, psychology and creativity to encourage open minds and hearts in her students both on and off the mat. Through art and yoga, she hopes to empower students to find peace within themselves, ignite passion, live life and be well.