Embodiment,  Inner Work,  spirituality

Many People, One Mat

My mat sees many people.  Children, adults, saints, lunatics and tricksters – to name but a few.  Indeed, every time I step on my I am suprised by who shows up and brings their unique flavor to my practice.  I am talking, of course, about the vast assortment of “selves” within me that bring both brilliant variety and exasperating frustration to my life.  This “mosaic mind”, as authors Goulding & Schwartzcall it, is an accepted reality in many psychotherapeutic models and serves to make sense of the seeming internal contradictions most of us experience.This notion essentially points out that we have an internal “family” of various, sometimes conflicting voices within that all must honoured and heard in order to experience integrated wellbeing.  Sometimes, various characters are dominant relegating others to exile and a balance between parts of ourselves is lost.  For example, if the uber responsible, over-achiever part of some of us is dominant it we may lose contact with the child voice that wishes to let go of responsibility and enjoy playful things in life.  The responsible voice may a do a bang up job of convincing us why exiling the child is necessary for a successful adult life, but the real consequence is that we become fragmented, losing essential perspectives and experiences.  This is especially poignant to me given that yoga, as I teach it, is about becoming increasingly more whole.Of course, I began wondering how yoga can contribute to expressing and integrating the many people inside of us.  I’ve noticed with my own practice that I can engage a very externally similar practice from day to day but it has a very different feel to it.  These feeling qualities show up not just in practice but in life as well and bear very distinct identities or personalities.   In the midst of each of these practices the question is “who’s on the mat today?”  And, can I get to know how she/he moves and feels from asana to asana?  I also can use practice not only to hear the dominant character but to listen, in my deep sensing, for exiled or underrepresented aspects of myself.  How might these quieter voices move in this practice?  What form would they take in this posture?  How might they breathe?  All of this is an movement toward wholeness and integration.  We know in psychology that what does not get heard inside of us doesn’t go away, it gets relegated to the Shadow (the unconscious).  It then seeks expression in covert ways, often controlling our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.   Psychiatrist Carl Jung stated “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious”.  Can we, then, allow yoga to be an opportunity to become enlighted about what parts of ourselves are operating day to day in our lives, and be sensitive to allow all of us to show up to the mat?  Let’s move with the spirit of a child, the wisdom of a sage, the refinement of a perfectionist – none controlling, none repressed.  Let’s watch our practice become a mosaic of stained glass selves painting their unique personality on the canvas of our mats.

See my post on Yoga Modern for more on this topic – When Yoga and Anger Collide – A look at the rebellious voice that I sometimes meet in my practice!