Saturday, June 5, 2010
A Necessary Marriage
We stand at the end of triangle pose, the one that "works every muscle, joint, tendon and internal organ of your body." Faces are red, bodies glisten and drip, breathing can be heard throughout the studio like runners at a finish line.
"This posture is a marriage between your heart and lungs."
I get the analogy as I'm focusing on breathing in and out through my nose while my heart hammers away, and I'm pretty sure I can feel the blood coursing through every artery, vein, and capillary. The working together that creates a force larger than either is able to produce separately. The struggle that leaves both partners stronger. The interconnectedness of need and benefit.
What strikes me on this day, however, is which two organs are married, and which big one is left out. And as I follow that thought I realize it's a consistent pattern in yoga. We're told to breathe, to listen to our bodies, to feel our hearts. We're asked to listen and follow instructions as exactly as we can and to give our attention. We are never asked to think.
The closest is at the beginning of a class when we're asked to set our intention, which, I'm discovering, is only part mental. In a way, it's asking the brain to step aside for a while and to allow the heart and lungs to have the stage.
I spent most of my earlier life in my head. I learned early in childhood that it was the safest place to be. The one place I had control, where I couldn't be hurt. Because I was a good student, with a quick and curious mind that teachers appreciated, my brain became one of my best features. "She's got a great smile." "Look at all those adorable freckles." "What a smart girl she is."
A wise friend reminded me recently that a strength overused becomes a weakness. A brain allowed to believe in her own undisputed power becomes tyrannical and does not willingly give up her independence or her crown. There is never talk in yoga about the brain being married to any other body part. In fact the unstated focus is getting the brain to be quiet enough that other parts can have a say.
"The marriage between heart and lungs" – it's a beautiful picture and feels like a necessary wedding to counter the habits and force of thinking. The gentle constant rhythms of pulse and respiration joined together, made conscious in the extremity of triangle, insisting on their balanced share of being.
"If you're struggling in triangle, find your breath." And when I do, I realize my mind's voice becomes still - or at least I can't hear it as well through the ocean waves of my breathing and heartbeat.
It's a matter of trust and changing allegiance. Allowing myself to believe the open and vulnerable wisdom of my married center over the protective intelligence of my head. It's time to give her a well-deserved rest.
photos from Flickr