What gifts do you have to offer the world?
It’s a worthwhile question to contemplate and one that Ana posed to us this morning: “What’s keeping you blocked off from sharing your gifts? If you notice you go into thinking that you don’t have anything worthwhile to offer or that you’re worthy enough of receiving love, can you recognize these thoughts as the lies they are?”
As we moved through the morning practice of backbends, we focused on connecting into what gift we have to give and working to remove the blockages that stand in the way of our doing so. Since I’ve been in a state of being confused on exactly what I want to achieve and have my career life look like, this was a helpful way for me to work on getting out of my default mode of feeling incompetent and hopeless. Instead, I started looking at how I can use confusion as a way of getting curious about what feels right in my life.
We did a lot of new variations of backbends with neck traction. I found that dropping my head back in many of these backbends felt great on my neck. Even though Ana was not cueing us to do so, I felt empowered to go with what felt good for my body as long as I wasn’t compromising my breath or my intention to do so. The backbends built to an apex of two strong poses for me: king and queen pigeon poses. It was empowering to me to feel successful and proud of the persistence and long work it took me in my practice to get to the full expression of these poses.
I was eagerly awaiting the afternoon sessions and they did not disappoint. The first session taught by Brian Campbell was on anatomy, bodywork, and yoga. We learned a number of different techniques for releasing the low back and hips. After a brief presentation and demo, Brian had us work in partners to practice a number of hands-on bodywork adjustments. Hands-on assists are the biggest challenge for me and I’m nervous about trying to replicate a move even after I’ve just watched a demo. However, Brian made it a comfortable environment for experimentation. “Anyone can do bodywork,” he said and encouraged us to have fun with it and meet our partner with the breath and explore what works in each other’s bodies. It helped me to explore with an understanding partner, both as a receiver and a giver of the assists.
Through Brian’s teaching, I truly got a sense of the parallels between bodywork and yoga. With an assist, you hook in with the hand and when you meet the first point of resistance, traction with the hands. Gradually you may be able to work in deeper as the body releases. The same is true in a yoga pose. You go into the pose to that edge of resistance, breathe there, and perhaps deepen into it as you release into the pose. Brian also pointed out how bodywork is a form of meditation. Rather than shutting off the mind or staying in the “thinking mind” that is scattered all over the place, bodywork focuses the mind by connecting in with another person in a beautiful way. Keeping this in mind helped keep the bodywork a learning and explorative process instead of a nerve-wracking, “am-I-doing-it-right” experience.
The second session of the afternoon was on empathing and seeing energy with Willow Ryan, Kelley Rush, and Suzi Zorbist. The three both have an engaging and playful style and good rapport with one another. First off, they explained that everyone is an empath, although we all have different strengths and ways we perceive energy. People tend to be very visual (“I see”), auditory (“I hear”), or kinesthetic (“I feel”) with how they empathy. We looked at the five different means of empathing (hands, eyes, inner ears, heart, and overall sensing/empathing).
Some signs you might be very empathic: “Have you been told you’re too emotional or overly sensitive? Do you find you take on the feelings of others?” We explored ways of honing our empathing skills to strengthen the areas in which we aren’t as empathetic, yet at the same time, finding a way to use our empathing strengths as gifts without depleting ourselves in the process. For example, using your compassion and intuition to connect to a person, without taking on their feelings and emotional baggage. Through partner exercises, we practiced using empathing skills and then shared with our partner what we observed. “Even the best healer only gets it right about 70% of the time,” Kelley said. Empathing is not a perfect science, but it’s a way of practicing and refining our intuitive skills.”
I really related to Willow’s comment that often people who are sensitive to the emotions in an environment tend to close down and zone out as a response. Zoning out and going into “doing” mode is a common coping pattern of mine. A big part of my work in Forrest Yoga is to keep myself from spacing out and staying in my body and present in the moment. This workshop helped me to think about techniques that can help me strike a balance between keeping emotional boundaries without closing myself off to powerful emotions. Both sessions were good compliments to each other for exploring ways of focusing the mind on one of the most worthwhile focuses out there: connection with other people.
Speaking of connection, one of the observations my partner shared was that she sensed I was connecting big time this weekend. She was stunningly accurate. From hanging out with my roomie to chatting with new folks, to looking around a workshop room and being excited by the folks there who’d been in teacher trainings with me, I felt my fingers tingling with charges of connection.
And connection is what yoga is to me.