I teach yoga from the Kripalu Yoga Tradition. The core teachings hold that the body is central and seminal to who we are. It is what we come back to moment by moment; both on and off the mat. It is the entry point to Presence. It is the grounding place to further explore the mind and our relationship to Spirit. It is a starting locale for a healthy, happy life, and a deeper connection to All That Is.
Personally, this perspective and practice has saved me. It has provided me with a way not only back into right relationship with my body, but back into my life, and its connections to self, other, and Spirit. This is no small feat in the body-hating and alienating times and culture we live in. And in case you believe that the times we live in allow more freedom for how we express our bodies, personal and societal exploitation of the female form by both men and women does not, has not, and will never constitute a respect and reverence for the body; despite what many think, or have been taught to believe.
To come back to the body requires great skill in navigating your way through because many of us have come to see the body as a foreign, awkward, uncomfortable, de-personalized, and even dangerous place to inhabit. Which is why, as it turns out, so many of us just don’t. Which is why so many of us tap into whatever we can to avoid coming into contact with what is there through the seemingly infinite multitude of ways to numb out. We can do this so effectively and continuously as to dis-inhabit our bodies on a daily basis.
Take bodily need for instance. Pure, unadulterated, straight up, real live needs of the body.
An exploration of need would reveal that many of us have been told what it is that we need by an outside source. And that that telling has often been in contradiction to our direct experience of what it is that we actually need. And then, of course, there is all of the approval and the intrinsic reward of being someone who doesn’t “have needs.” Those of us who subjugate our needs for others. Those of us who never make a wave, issue a demand, or have any kind of a need that might even slightly inconvenience another, or rock the boat of the status quo.
How often have we been forced to accept what most assuredly does not truly feed us? Or make any sense at all to us. How often has the legitimate meeting of needs in our culture been relegated to the “needy” bin; disdained for its “inconvenient” and unsightly requests? How often have we been frozen and locked in terror around speaking a real need? How often have we been unaware that we actually have a choice around how our needs are expressed and met? How many years have we spent being conditioned into the inability to be able to properly identify what it is that we most need? Or bullied into believing that it is not safe to articulate such? And in how many ways have the avenues for healthy recognition and expression of our most basic human needs been closed off? Obliterated.
It takes great courage, commitment, and determination to know yourself at the level of raw human need. It is a scary and sometimes uncertain place. It is a place that might draw ridicule or censorship. Interestingly enough, the humiliation and censoring is just as likely to come from within as without. Through it all of course, is the conditioning that each of our minds creates, listing out all of the reasons why it would be best to not enter into the deep, dark, uncharted territory of pure human need. That it would be better to go without. Or accept what does not satisfy. Sadly enough, this level of neglect and denial will be supported by those around us who are trying just as hard as we are to deny and ignore real need.
Such a quandary. Where to begin in the midst of this? Why with the body, of course! And we begin with what is most basic. As basic as, do you know when you are hungry, and can you feed yourself in a way that nourishes? As basic as, do you know when you are tired, and can you allow yourself to rest? As basic as, do you know when it feels good or not to be in the company of another, and can you allow yourself to act accordingly?
The body cares not for clocks, outer imposed schedules, or social niceties. The body needs what it needs, when it needs it. Period. For your sake, and for the sake of the world, find a practice that puts you back in touch with the Timeless Truths of the body’s deepest and truest needs.