Susan's Blog

Thursday, July 9, 2009

As Simple — And as Difficult — As Breathing

I had a brief yoga session with a lovely friend about a week ago, and since then I’ve been trying to incorporate the breathing she showed me, periodically during the day. I am new to yoga, having misunderstood it for years, believing that only hard exercise is for me. Yoga, along with most alternative ways of thinking, both attracted and repelled me. Like most of us, I was raised to be fact-based, when actually, there are at least two-other components to our existence: feeling and instinct. Even the therapy I have followed over the years focuses on the mind, particularly the mind in childhood, and how it is formed by experiences that somehow leave an indelible mark on us and control us thereafter. Psychotherapy has told me that I have to struggle to understand these experiences in order to overcome them.

There has been so much struggle in my adult life. Struggle to manage OCD; struggle to become a competent adult; struggle to understand autism and do The Right Thing for Nat and my other sons. Struggle with my appetite.

Lately I’ve been realizing that all is not struggle. There doesn’t have to be this push-and-pull inside of me, or even external to me. Just as I’ve understood that fighting against Nat, trying to beat the autism down, is antithetical to a happy relationship with him, I am understanding that fighting myself is also a negative, punitive way to live. I do not mean I am giving up on helping Nat be his best, and on teaching Nat all sorts of ways to grow and learn and succeed in this world; I have, instead, been letting go of the hatred of not succeeding.

In this same connective way, yoga gives me an immediate, physical way to disengage from negative thoughts. It gives me a way to connect the parts of myself, particularly when I am dancing, so that the dance is not just about correct muscle movement.

So last night I tried to incorporate the breathing with my dance. Here on vacation I take my laptop Twilight Princess into my bedroom and use her music in there. More and more, I dance privately because it just feels uncomfortable around the boys. There are two mirrors in the bedroom, so it’s great for checking any position, and also a wide wooden floor. I have brought one or two bellydance workout outfits, no Egyptian beaded full costumes this time, tho in other years I have brought the golden one. Now I just have black dance pants and two pretty crop tops. Sometimes it feels really good and right wearing the simplest thing I own, rather than the sparkliest. I don’t know why, but I think that those times coincide with my quieter dance sessions, where I do a lot of hand movement and taxim kinds of things (standing mostly still moving basically one body part only), and fewer traveling steps.

It also occurred to me that it was time to try a new level of dance: breathing and smiling the entire time. I feel that I move up and down the levels, most often trying merely to stay lifted and stretched all the way up in posture so as to achieve true torso isolations. Lately, too, my posture has been mostly correct, so I’ve also been trying to layer as well. This takes tremendous concentration of mind and muscle, because while staying straight and tall, shoulders down, etc., you also have to shimmy (Egyptian-style, which is a small movement of just moving knees back and forth until you are going fast enough to have a constant shake) while doing a hip slide, while walking and also hopefully doing something creative with your hands (which also must be completely engaged, invisibly tense and yet soft-looking).

The yoga helps me think of the tension and isolations as concentrations of energy. I envision a small sun-like ball in my hands when making the hand circles, and this helps my hands stay curved and yet fluid, as if gingerly touching something very hot.

Lately it has occurred to me that it doesn’t stop at accurate, beautiful positioning; there is also a connection to your soul. If I view my dance as just another way of “how does my body look now?” then it is just another female way to feel bad. That’s why so many women say they “can’t dance.” They think it is all about how their bodies look, in that simplistic butcher-shop self-hating American way. We are not slabs of meat that must have this much fat content and this much muscle. I’ve been understanding in a new way that I am not divorced from my body. It is not just a thing to look at, apart from my mind.

When I concentrate on feeling energy through breath, I feel the connection of body, dance, mind, Me. Once I feel that, smiling comes naturally.


I've recently re-discovered yoga. I like it because it gives me some time to just…be. There are things that I think about constantly and when I do yoga I get to NOT think at all.

Sounds like you're really enjoying your dancing. Remember, you're fabulous.

— added by mumkeepingsane on Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 8:38 am

I really like the phrase "letting go of the hatred of not succeeding". It's definitely something I've been working on for awhile now.

— added by toadysmom on Saturday, July 11, 2009 at 12:50 pm

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