02 Feb Lovelee Storytime | MOVEMENT
“If you can learn to listen to the body’s whispers, you can save yourself a lot of screams” – Ancient Proverb
Throughout my healing journey I have immersed myself in an array of alternative therapies and practices. Yoga, Qigong, Tai-chi, Massage Therapy, Physical Therapy, Acupuncture, using food as medicine, and the list goes on.
I’ve experienced growth in all of these modalities, and there are a few that play starring roles in almost every chapter of my healing story.
The Bowspring is one of those stars.
It was a two day workshop in Austin, Texas almost a decade ago…
On the first day I had a breakthrough… and on the second day a breakdown.
Yoga was my first entry point into the land of healing. I discovered Anusara Yoga at my very first Yoga teacher training. I was intrigued by the level of commitment and training needed inorder to become certified in this specific style of Yoga. I also loved the refined awareness of the postural cues – and let’s not forget the lovely little song that began each session.
I was delighted when I found a wonderful Anusara certified teacher, who had – up until this point – supported my journey of healing with Yoga. One day this lovely man informed the class that the founder of Anusara, John Friend, was coming to town and that he had something new. In class that day we practiced a new version of the traditional ‘downward dog’ as the posturally adjusted, ‘crouching cat’. My body said yes.
“Always rocking the boat,” my teacher had playfully said of John Friend.
I have been known to be quite the boat-rocker myself. Bring it! I was interested in meeting the man who had crafted such a system. I then learned that John Friend had not been associated with the school he had built for sometime. Due to a publicized ‘scandal,’ he lost reputation with the greater Yoga community.
It is not in my nature to take hearsay at face value and then drop harsh judgements on people I do not know. I wanted to meet this man and make my own assessment. I am grateful I took this stance, because what I found was a great friend and masterful teacher.
The session commenced with John Friend welcoming the group, and to my surprise – front and center – a small pretty woman. He spoke of a new alignment and a different way to approach the body. This method was different from his previous decades of teaching, different than my beloved Anursara. He described his own personal transformation as a result of this new perspective, and introduced his new partner in Yoga-crime. They sang a new song. A little melancholy with a dash of hope and a triumphant melodic ending. I loved it.
As practice began, the floor was given to this woman – seemingly the seed of this new postural revolution. I was skeptical. I didn’t come to learn from this woman. One or two internal judgments later and her musical singsong voice was floating me into curves and shapes unknown to modern postural yoga. I got an eye opening, body bending, ass kicking, in the best way possible. I was elated.
Not only did Desi give clear masterful instruction, but she simultaneously performed some very impressive and highly entertaining tricks along the way. She looked soft and femine yet her level of advanced practice would imply a magnitude of strength that I usually only saw in body builders or olympic athletes. This intrigued me and I wanted to know this “rooted-lightness” she was going on about.
It was clear to me she was bringing something of immense value to my table. My first woman teacher, I noted. I left the studio that day singing the song of their new invocation. I glided down the street on my longboard seemingly high on life, feeling light and open – no pain in my body – hopeful and spirited in my mind and jubilant in my heart.
I felt better – better than I had ever felt after a yoga class.
There was something to this new alignment. Again, my body said yes. Hungry for more, I arrived at the studio the next day for more of this movement medicine. Not five minutes into the second day’s session, for what seemed like no reason at all, I started shaking and crying.
At this time in my life, I held strong to the story that I was very skillful at being able to pack down emotion and not cry in public. Later, I would find out this was a shadow of mine – coming to guide me to a precious gift. Nevertheless, I wasn’t able to bottle this emotion up. There was no way to keep it down.
This was different from my recent big-breathing experience, where my conscious state was altered and emotion overflowed. This time, my conscious state was not altered to an extreme and I was fully present for the emotional turbulence. In contrast to the day before, it was night and day. This communicated something to me on a deep level, and I knew I would be taking the deep dive into this radical movement practice for years to come.
Indeed, for the next four years I traveled to Denver to attend week long immersions. I attended each and every one that they offered. I didn’t skip a beat. I committed to this practice as my physical therapy. I knew my body needed the medicine, and I knew it was the right medicine. If I wanted to live a life with a body that functions, then I needed to tend to this body daily, and I needed the right skillset and strong mindset.
The Bowspring, I would discover, is no quick fix. No band-aid, or magic pill or occasional drop in exercise routine. It requires unwavering dedication to first learn it and then steady discipline to maintain it. The initial learning was unlike any learning curve I had yet encountered. Each weekly intensive for many years looked something like.. me and my body having a total breakdown and then me rebuilding my body/mind one carefully laid brick at a time. Desi often likened the practice of the Bowsping to Mr. Miyagi’s – wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off – indeed.
After years of traveling to Denver for practice I decided it was time to relocate permanently so that I could be in the home of the Bowspring – the heart of my practice.
The Bowstring method and its unique alignment has offered me an algorithm – a tool towards freedom in my body. The dynamic function that comes from posturing myself in this new way gives me access to mobility without pain. When I consciously posture myself in this special way, and move my body mindfully and skillfully, I discover a path towards freedom in functionality.
The body is constantly adapting and shifting. The Bowspring has taught me that I can mold these shifts. I can learn a new physical language. Parts winding and unwinding, learning and unlearning. I can be grounded, balanced and centered – physically, mentally and emotionally.
My body’s language speaks, and with skillful application I can learn to listen.