The Body as a Barometer of the Mind

Recently, I was interviewed by YogaU on healing, and what came out was more a discussion about my premise that the practice of yoga is not about the pose, but rather should be more about the movement. I went on to relate this to pain and how we, as yoga therapists can help our students and ourselves get out of pain.

I love helping people get out of pain, I love teaching them how to become aware, and I love how each person puts the process together in their own unique way.

It is at that moment, that is so juicy, when it starts to come together – when it isn’t really about anatomy, although it is. . . it isn’t about movement, although it is . . and, it isn’t about compensation or the nervous system or how someone is or is not distracted by their thoughts, and yet it is. I all sounds rhetorical doesn’t it?

What my students get, is that their body really is a barometer of their mindm and they become completely empowered as they tap into the subtleties of that relationship. Simultaneously, they realize the power of just paying attention to their signs and how when they do something with that, when they integrate that which they become aware of – they heal.

It is so cool. And I share that this is why I so love what I do, and why I train teachers to do what I do. Who wouldn’t want to share this with others?

This is how it played out in a recent private session.

A client arrived to my studio and as he was taking off his coat. I asked him how he was doing, and he replied, “okay”.

So I asked, “just okay?”, and his response was, “considering the circumstances”.

As we walked into the studio I asked him what was up. He told me about some familiar pains and strains that had shown up after a few long days of work (he is in senior management). I looked at him and said, “You know, this is your pattern. This is what happens as a result of a few days of long hours”.

He continued sounding a little frustrated, “Well, I look to you, Susi as a role model. You move well, you intelligently take on more athletic challenges, and yes, while you have had your fall down the stairs and you have had your ‘life’s curve balls’, you have recovered. You don’t have pain. And you move through life easily.”

I saw this as my opening to explain in a bit more detail how the “body as a barometer of the mind” works.

I said, “Something you have to understand is that I have learned to pay attention to the subtleties of my body, and that really, I do see my ‘body is a barometer of my mind’. To truly heal, it isn’t about doing the right exercises. It really is about understanding what your body is saying to you and then acting on it (and not ignoring or suppressing it).

I could see he was continuing to look at me intently, so I added, “I recognize and believe that my body doesn’t lie. I can tell myself a multitude of stories, and every time I do, my body outs me. I can be in a situation where I know that I am right, and yet, my body is closed down, and strain rises. I can actually feel that happening. So while I may be “accurate with my facts”, there is something deeper in me suggesting that maybe this isn’t about “accuracy of facts”, that maybe this is a time to grow (or grow up!).”

He still continued to look on intently, so I added, “You have to understand, this way of living, living by ‘your body being a barometer for you mind’, is not for the meek. It can get really tough and your ego will get hammered. There are even times when it frickin’ sucks, and, you just can’t hide from it.”

The session continued and as I helped him move more purely and reduce his compensations, his pain went down. I could also literally see his tissue change, his face shift and soften, and his breathing become more easeful. He became aware of more subtle patterns to which he could recognize as pre-cursors to his pain patterns, which in turn revealed even more. In a very short time, his pain went away completely and he was standing taller, clearer, lighter, and with more awareness. He also had tools and suggestions for how to integrate the gains in subtle awareness so he wouldn’t have to repeat his pain pattern. It was transformative and awesome!

So, tying this back to the interview and the statement about yoga not being about the pose – it is about a much more interesting dynamic that is at play. You need good skill in anatomy and biomechanics, a good understanding of the condition a student has, and a good ability to articulate instructions and cues. And, there is more. There is recognition of the magic that lies in the mind-body connection and the interplay between the two. It is about meeting the person where they are at, at that moment, and providing the stimulus that will give them the progress they need to step into their sense of being and becoming. Not only is it a powerful and mind-blowing experience, it is where healing and recovery happen.