“When my body thinks, all my flesh has a soul.”
Imagine you were able to take all the ‘sighs of relief’ you never knew you needed. Each and every one of those stored-up, sealed-up, tucked away exhales that never had the chance to escape. As I release another low, long breath in Downdog, I realise that every exhale on my mat is another something I’ve held on to. A harsh word, a loud sound, an unexpressed feeling, a complex emotion, a fear, a struggle, an aversion. And when I say exhale, I’m not talking about breathing out through my nose when the teacher tells me to. I mean those protracted whispers that take flight from my mouth. The slow release exhales of the let go.
As I come to my mat and my body moves, the pathways begin to open and the information super highway of my nervous system gets the green light. All the held breaths, layered narratives and undigested moments begin to shift into a softening, releasing and dissolving. But it doesn’t always require movement to experience these ancient sighs. It doesn’t mean a dynamic vinyasa class or something vigorously active. I get the same experience from meditation or lying on a bolster in a restorative class for two hours. Those deep, long, healing exhales. Sometimes it’s yawns, moans, sighs, sobs. But when something wants to move, I open the doorway of my mouth and let it all go sailing out. Every. Last. Drop.
And I wonder, ‘wow you must have been holding on to so much’. But of course I have. Of course we all do. We’re holding on all the time. To life. To each other. To what has been and what might be and the letting go is that descent into the present. Into the body. Out of the mind and beyond. The exhale is the letting go of certainty, knowing, owning and attachment. Those sweet sighs are the letting go of judgement, violence, assault and attack. They are the inner movements of what we can’t see. The tracks of our process, the coded messages that move through us so the space can be set for the next experience of ourselves.
“Knowledge has always originated in the body, starting with those sense receptors in the skin that mediate our relationship with the external world.” Marina Benjamin, New Philosopher.
We mediate ‘reality’ through our bodies. Our senses are how we come to interact with the world. Proprioception helping us to feel our way through space. Gravity holding us and pressing down upon us. In classical yoga, sense withdrawal is a drawing in of the senses but not a denial of them. In Tantra it’s part of the practice to embrace the sensorial, tuning into silence by first tuning into sound. We can come into presence when we become aware of all we can sense and that inner gaze is still described as a ‘seeing’. This dance between the seen and the unseen realities can come to us through our experience of embodiment. Of ‘being’ in this sacred human form.
“Gilles Deleuze […] suggest(s) that experience trumps reason by virtue of exceeding it. Because sense experience is not hampered by any pre-existing assumptions, what the body apprehends opens us up both to novelty and strangeness.” Marina Benjamin.
The body is vast and fascinating and I want to travel down to its molecular details with my awareness. I want to know myself intimately, from my cells to my selves. This body teaches me so much and I have only just started to speak its language. Only just begun to listen to its wisdom. Only just understood that there are secrets and guidance and ancient etchings in these bones. I’m learning how letting go isn’t just something I can ‘do’. It’s something I can ‘allow’. Letting go can be an intellectual, conscious aspect of our practice but through asana we allow the body to let go on its own terms, untying the knots, one exhale at a time.
In this practice of listening,
A moment may come when you just want to lie down.
This is a doorway – surrender.
Fall into the wide-open embrace of life.
You are the instrument breath is playing.
The Radiance Sutras