In the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy method of transformation and healing, befriending the body is described as "being present in our bodies, here and now...with acceptance". While recently attending a Phoenix Rising class for my own development, the teacher invited me to notice my body, the sensations and feelings that were present while in Bridge pose. I noticed a dull ache in my back, lots of effort and energy to sustain the length of time in the pose. Snarkily, I heard my mind say, "how am I supposed to befriend this?". Instead of accepting what is here and now, the ache and efforting, I persisted in holding bridge until he brought us back down to the floor. Later, while in knees to chest, he said, "Feel your body here, now. Embrace it..." Ahhh, yes, this felt much easier to accept, hugging my knees in closer and massaging my back. Then he said, "Thank your body for all that it does for you. It is your home and carries you every second throughout your life." I froze as I realized that I was the cause of my own suffering! My own habitual pattern of over-efforting and over-riding sensations, essentially ignoring my body created my achy back!
While journaling on this realization, I decided that I would watch for when over-efforting, striving or straining shows up in my life. You know the "Where's Waldo" picture book? Once you start looking for Waldo, he turns up everywhere! Over-efforting seems to permeate much of my life. As I inquired more deeply through meditation, journaling and with my personal Phoenix Rising Practitioner, I began to explore effort in my personal practice. When does effort begin when going into poses? Can I soften, breathe more deeply, be patient, and accept where I am today and what is happening in my body today? Rather than being snarky, judgmental or competitive with in myself, can I find a softer expression of the pose and still be engaging in the actions of bridge pose? And more deeply, why do I over-effort? This question allowed me to examine my own sense of not feeling enough...good enough, strong enough, smart enough...the list goes on. This core belief drives my ego-self to over-efforting even in Bridge pose during my personal practice! Now it's getting real! This simple inquiry of befriending my body led me to the deeper layers of my heart where this core belief has been driving my thoughts and behavior and wreaking havoc in my life!
It doesn't end there though. Our core beliefs that are hidden in the shadows of our consciousness not only create suffering in ourselves, they can spill out onto others. In a phone conversation with my son who's away from home for his first semester of college, he called me out saying that I can be so judgmental. I was taken aback, but upon reflect, I can see how I was pushing him to strive harder. The truth is that we engage with others in the same way that we engage with ourselves. When Jesus said, "love your neighbor as yourself", he meant it literally!
We all have capacity within us for love, acceptance, kindness and compassion as well as the capacity to judge, discriminate, criticize and hurt. Befriending our body leads to the opportunity to be present with and accept all the parts of ourselves. This radical self acceptance sets up the conditions for healing and transformation, to let go of false beliefs, to open up to love and compassion that also resides within us. As we conduct this inner work, we will experience greater acceptance, love and compassion for others in our lives as well. The next time you are practicing yoga, consider what is present in your body, here and now...with acceptance. And then ask yourself, how do I want to be with this right now?