Friday, January 16, 2009

Elongate Your Mind

My new friend Samar turned me on to a book by Gail Sher called Writing the Fire!: Yoga and the Art of Making Your Words Come Alive. (You know you've encountered a special and enduring friend when she gives great book recommendations.)

Sher begins her book with a quote by B.K.S. Iyengar, which reads, "Unless freedom is gained in the body, freedom of the mind is a far-fetched idea." I resonate so strongly with this notion that the body and mind are inextricably linked. The mind and emotions cannot be free if the body is locked in tight. Without breath, for instance, the body withers and so does the mind. We may know this on an intellectual level, but how many times do we keep trying to transform our thoughts with other thoughts by engaging in a sort of cerebral gerbil wheel, when perhaps what we need is to breathe or get a massage or do some yoga? When we feel physical tension it seems only natural to receive some bodywork. But what about when you're anxious or feel stuck creatively or when you have a hard time making decisions?

Sher writes about elongation as a way to create more flow both in the body and the mind. She writes, "Deep within the fibers a muscle is a hidden door. It is opened by breathing and once opened, it allows the muscles to undo themselves. Both lengthening and shortening muscles undo and ride the energy flow. There's no danger, fatigue, or residue. The process of elongating comes about by rooting, connecting, and breathing in which breath is the link as well as the fuel that pulls the mind-body along. In elongating, the muscle relinquishes its effort to do. Then it extends. Other body parts pick up the impulse and let go too. When the mind in turn lets go, writing flows freely."

Sometimes I feel like a broken record with this, but the phrase "when you're stuck move" has gotten me out of many a stagnant or perplexing moment. Sometimes I take a walk, other times I dance, and often I stop what I am doing and stretch. I breathe and stretch until I feel oxygen and blood flowing again--until I feel my body relax and my mind open. Sometimes something so simple as moving or stretching can feel so difficult to start. At times I resist and keep sitting, as if I am banishing myself to the "time out" chair. But once I move, take one little step towards attending to my body, my whole being sort of softens and succumbs to the flow. And after some time, I actually feel a bit taller, like there is space inside me--space for growth and transformation.

Try This:
When you are feeling stuck, stagnant, or in any way in a mental funk, try elongating your body. While taking deep breaths, do some gentle stretching (or yoga poses if you know them). Create space in your body for energy to move. After 10-15 minutes, return to your mental musings. Do you feel any different? Does your mind feel more elongated and free?