Inner Work,  Inspiration,  Practice

Yoga and Instinct

I am currently reading Maps to Ecstasy by Gabrielle Roth who is the founder of the 5 Rhythms – a practice of ecstatic dance and a profound movement meditation meant to bring us into deep intimacy with ourselves.  I am completely spellbound by her words.  She is a healer, an “urban shaman” as she calls herself, and a woman interested in an immanent relationship with living.  No transcendence, no stoic unemotive state of enlightenment to chase – her work is dedicated to being in the world in the most whole way we can as thinking, feeling, emobodied beings.
I just finished a portion of her book on nurturing instincts.  She suggests that our relationship to our mother figures in the first 5 years of life is meant to teach us how to nuture ourselves for the rest of our lives.  We all fall somewhere on a continuum as to how much of this precious wisdom we learned or were taught during this time.  It made me reflect on my own relationship with my daughter.  I have felt from the beginning the my job is to honour her instincts.  Period.  She is much closer to her instincts than we are as adults.  She know when she’s tired, hungry, needing play time, quiet time, kick in every direction time, softer food, something to chew on.   All of these actions come as a result of her instinctual call.  I basically try to stay out of her way and let her lead.  Gabrielle suggests that we must “acknowledge and reinforce the validity of the child’s own internal messages” in this way teaching the child to “trust itself”.Based on our own experiences with our mother figure we will be more or less naturally able to trust the call of our instincts, to value and trust ourselves.  This is where yoga comes in.  The practice of yoga calls us into listening.  At first it may begin with feeling the pain of a tight muscles in asana, so we shift.  The call of something out of balance is heard, we respond intelligently and the foundation for regaining our connection to instinct is established.  Over time with our practices, especially under the guidance of a teacher well attuned to their own instincts, we become more and more subltely aware of our needs.  We listen and here the call of a hurt heart needing our attention.  We listen and feel the fatigue in our bones that needs restoration.   We listen and hear the call of our tummies needing nourishment.  Each practice becomes a time to be heard, either as an extension of how our mothers heard us in childhood, or for some, the beginning of this process altogether.When we have come to hear ourselves, we can then respond on the mat with a nurturing sequences of asana, breath and meditation to meet our needs.  So much of yoga has become mechanical, the expectation is that each practice be consistent and methodical.  To me this is a masculine approach that may work well for some.  Instead, can we let every practice be a compassionate response to our needs?  When we’re tired can we find a restorative practice?  When we are full of excited energy can we find rigor to channel it?  Mothering ourselves through our yoga practice means responding to ourselves as we are each day.  Such a practice will inevitably lead to a greater understanding of ourselves and deeper connection to the instinctual wisdom that has the ability to draw us into balance.   We come to do for ourselves what our mothers did or did not do; listen to instinct and need and respond compassionately.  To be able to do this through our practice is both empowering and the path to a profound trust of ourselves.  We can come to standing in our own skin that for some may be the ultimate gateway to a wellbeing never before experienced.