i’ve got (my) back

10351825_10152504996033746_8547168182269551440_nI hurt my back. In a gentle yoga class. During the first pose.

The irony continues…

I carved out the gift of this single yoga class from a busy week spent at The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

The irony doesn’t end there…

I was at Kripalu to assist at a Let Your Yoga Dance teacher training program–where I danced day and night–without a problem. It was only when I stopped, sat down, and reclined, open-hearted, over a delicious set of cushions, that I was hurt.

This irony suggests an invitation more than an injury, doesn’t it?

But a month later, the invitation is still hurting.

Bending over backwards is the mind/body connection that comes to mind.

But wasn’t I bending for myself?

I made a special request to fit that yoga class into a tight schedule. I rushed to make it happen. I couldn’t wait to surrender to it.  And yet, even after I felt the alarming twinge in my lower back, I refused it.

“This posture is great,” I said to my back. “Come on! Enjoy it.”

And when my back continued to complain?

“What’s the point of taking the cushions out now? You’re already hurt.”

So maybe I wasn’t so much bending over backward–for myself–but bending over backward for… busyness?

Assisting at Kripalu had an alarmingly familiar tempo to previous life incarnations; ones that I consciously left behind: from managing a family of origin to managing a restaurant, to managing a classroom and then a succession of non-profits.

Ironically this new role held none of the responsibilities that once weighed me down, and it also included meditation, hugs and organic food.

So what was wrong with me? Hadn’t I made enough progression? Couldn’t I tolerate a few days of intense scheduling given the obvious benefits?

Apparently, No. I arrived to opening night with an impressive fever blister (my first), and shortly after developed a full-blown migraine.

The most outstanding irony in this entire drama is the fact that I didn’t have to be there; and I couldn’t even blame it on money… I was volunteering.

(Kelly. Kelly. Kelly.)

Once I returned home, that silly, gentle-yoga, first-pose, invitation continued, until I was forced to attend to it with a myriad of practitioners: from chiropractic, to massage, to naturopathic.

It only felt worse.

Finally, I succumbed to bringing it where it belonged: the psychotherapist.

With her guidance, I take myself back to the reclining pose on the soft cushions at Kripalu, and realize that I WANT EVEN MORE SPACE, more than this yoga class, more than this mat, more than this open-hearted pose.

This hunger for space has been a constant throughout my life–as the oldest of 8–parentified by alcoholism–orphaned by divorce–driven to exhaustion at work.

But the truth underneath my desperation for space is that I don’t want to give up on anything else to have it.  I want the joy of assisting, the gift of a family, and the delight of professional pursuits.

What I need to learn how to do is this: Occupy the space I need, ALL the space I need, in the midst of it all.

With this realization, the pain in my back grows louder and louder, until I want to crawl out of my skin and become spineless.

The familiar reclining chair in my therapist’s office becomes so uncomfortable that I am forced to move to the floor while she carefully guides my attention to the story behind the pain:

My grandmother appears. Not the one I adored. But the one I abhorred?  Because she was mean? And fat? (obese really.)

Energy moves from my right side to my left side, and then wraps around my belly where this grandmother’s dark and heavy pain is lodged inside of me.

This is where my doctor placed his hands last week to contrast the muscular differentiation between this and my thighs. “Your weaker abdominal muscles may be contributing to the vulnerability of your lower back,” he suggests.

But here’s what I heard:

“You hurt your back because you are fat and lazy and out of shape.”

(Yet another invitation masked as injury/as insult.)

“I don’t want to connect with the energy of this grandmother,” I say to my therapist; but even as I say the words, and realize how afraid I am of this journey, I know that it is my next frontier.

I pick myself up off the floor and climb back into the chair, reconnecting my heart to my lower back; surprised to find that my spine suddenly feels like a source of support again instead of agony.

10301211_10152601746673746_16322046353505728_nMy mind flashes back to Kripalu, to the ritualistic closing of each demanding or vulnerable or evocative Let Your Yoga Dance training session: We circle up, wrap our arms around the bodies touching ours, and take turns whispering into one another’s ear:

“I’ve got your back.”

I stand to say goodbye to my therapist, and I smile as I walk out her door, whispering to myself:

“I’ve got my back.”

 

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the three gratitudes…

Spring brings us into the heart chakra, and with that, the practice of gratitude.

My “three” were harvested from a page in my journal from 2012, but they still resonate true and deserve this echo, even if my heart has grown a bit rusty around these gifts…

And you…?

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WORK

I am so grateful for the clear awareness of that which brings me alive. I am so thankful that I now realize that there is path upon which I can meet my need for contribution and connection; a creative outlet and a spirit offering.

YOGA

I am so in love with the gift of my body. I am fortunate to be to use my body as a meditation in motion. My body is my ally, my friend, my lifelong companion. It is such a joy to be able to teach and lead others with my body and my mind. I am so grateful that yoga reminds me that everything, every feeling, every situation, every breath is my yoga–and that the practice is infinitely more important, more relevant than any achievement.

LOVE

I am deeply blessed with lovers in all forms: from my partner, and our children, to my family and friends, to the water, the sun, the light and the scent on the air…

 

Among Women

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I realized that it was time to thank my friend, but it was too profound a gratitude to toss out on the playground or across the picnic table. Perhaps I should write a card.  A pretty one. But each time I let the words flow inside my mind, they felt too confined, begging a larger canvas.

I recognized that the gift my friend bestowed upon me was meant to be shared, not between two women, but among them.

For years, I ran from my flesh. Attempted to straighten the curves of my hips with the palms of my hands as I dressed.  Lifted my heavy bosom, confined it in wires and seams; distracted the eye with strategic attention to color and lines and layers.

I aspired to be trim and soon enough, I was–so trim that I barely weighed 100 pounds–as a grown woman. I hadn’t starved myself, but I had been strict, without knowing it; and yet, I could never fully rid myself of my belly.

“Hold your stomach in,” my father said, whenever he photographed me and my sisters and our mother.

Despite this admonishments, I had never really understood that flesh was bad until that afternoon at the river place, on the dock, as two young mothers, mine and a friend’s, climbed into the row-boat, in their string bikinis, and patted the folds of their tight postpartum bellies, complaining.

As I came of age, I would prefer reclining positions to upright. Horizontal to vertical. Waist high slimming slacks and snug belts to anything else.

Until the baby grew inside. And I found myself softening into flesh, delighting in the discovery that there was no point in holding in a belly that was filled with a baby.

5 glorious months of release ensued.

I was a lucky one. Not one of those who could fit right back into their best jeans just days after the baby was born (like my stepmother’s sister), but one who was easily freed of unnecessary weight after a week or two of nursing.

Despite the rapid weight loss, nursing itself was an apprenticeship in fullness. The tidal rhythm of my body rocked me into surrender. My engorged breasts would have nothing to do with wires and seams, and my babies would nurse for years.

When my body was finally mine again, I slowly returned to myself. Rediscovered exercise. Reclaimed a waist. Bought new contraptions to reduce and lift my bosom. Purchased new belts.

And then came 50, and with its approach, not only a fullness in the belly that refused to budge, but the radical demand for freedom.

For flowing skirts.

For going bra-less.

I remember the first time that I noticed my flesh without judgement.  I was in one-legged, down dog, turning toward the back of the room, when I spotted something misshapen, hanging from my mid-section. I reached down to adjust my tank top only to discover that it was my own flesh flanking toward one side.

I tried to muster disgust, like my father’s, but all I could manage in my state of yogic bliss was curiosity: “Wow, that’s me?”

After the glow of consciousness subsided, I considered dieting, but I had given that up long ago; and I knew that I could no longer tolerate its rigid lines in my flowing, expanding life.

I considered more exercise, but lately all I wanted to do was to lie around. “I’m getting in touch with my inner Garfield,” I’d say; and part of me knew that I needed that after a lifetime of overdoing.

I considered relinquishing indulgences. But they had been hard-earned after so much constraint.

And so I surrendered. And in doing so, I came to appreciate a particular friend–one whom I had never heard complain about her own ample curves; and who hadn’t hidden them either; and who allowed them full expression.

When this woman’s youngest child came of age, I noticed that she began to drop weight quickly, and I complimented her on it one afternoon, but she dismissed it as a form of rudeness–because it implied that there was some way for her to be better than what she had been before.

Her response was revolutionary.
The revolution dragged on for years.
It brought to question so many things:

Why was trimmer better?
Who said?
To whom did the body belong?

Eventually, my own growing fullness wore me down, and I began to tentatively welcome it.  I allowed myself a belly and breasts. I freed them from the confines of my mind and restrictive clothing.

When I doubted myself, I recalled my remarkable friend; and for the first time, I began to truly love my own body–as is.

And is if that wasn’t radical enough, I did the most defiant thing of all: I released my belly.

And breathing into the softness there, I forgave my father his ignorance, my mother her complicity, and the world its absurdity.

(Thank you P’tricia!)

I Hate You

In the therapist’s chair, I’m dismayed to discover that I feel…

hatred.

Me.

Non-violent communication me.

Yoga me.

Good-natured me.

Sunday school me.

The realization that I am this…

ordinary,

Stings

and bruises

and discourages…

Until

it sets

me…

FREE!

Kelly Salasin, Full Moon of April, 2012

Yesterday when I was less clear about how I really felt, I posted a gentler song. Here’s the real thing:

Inside the Mystery

Moments after the hail storm, Garden at Solar Hill, Kelly Salasin 2011, all rights reserved

The delight of

fingers

toes…

an infant’s wonder.

One

with the rise and fall

of the belly.

In the distance

I hear a voice

Something about knees and twists,

but it makes no sense

Inside

the mystery

of breath.

Kelly Salasin, June 1st, 2011