Recently, I wrote about my problem with hands-on adjustments.
I’ve (almost) never enjoyed them; some have been deeply disturbing, seeming to threaten the taut threads that hold my body and heart in place.
I was surprised to learn that some students—and teachers—shared my sentiments. I waited for someone to tell me that I was wrong.
Yoga teachers have to touch…right?
But, no, many did not; others claimed to use touch only with great care and discretion.
Still, I kept waiting for someone to tell me that I needed to change my view, and why. Somewhere inside, I wanted this push.
Eventually, the criticism began to seep out, some as aggressive as the pushes on my hips. And then one man gently reminded me of a simple truth.
Without exactly saying so, he suggested that my issues with touch might have deeper underpinnings. True, some teachers could be more sensitive but perhaps pointing a finger at them only broadened the gulf between us.
His words lit me up; I knew he had a point and I loved him for making it—he didn’t blame or insult me for my feelings, just gently questioned why I wouldn’t allow myself to open to the wondrous possibilities of touch.
Why couldn’t I connect?
His question turned cartwheels inside me, stirring up excitement and fear.
Then, I picked up the book on my nightstand and found these words waiting for me in Katrina Kenison’s magical journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment.
“Touch is love made manifest,” writes the mother and yogini, “a way to connect not only human to human and skin to skin, but also with our universal life force, with that eternal, all-encompassing energy that unites us, that infuses us with life, that reminds us that we are indeed all one and the world is a hospitable place to be.”
She’s right, of course; by denying myself touch—and refusing to touch you—I am hunkering behind walls rather than breaking them down.
I am hoarding my energy and hiding from yours. But why?
I don’t think I need to mine my childhood for hidden horrors; I think I know why I do this.
Scared of rejection. Scared of my feelings, and yours. Scared of my body, and yours. Scared one of us might cry, giggle, get turned on, fart or worse. Scared to be real.
Scared to fully live.
I feel most alive when I’m close to my husband. He’s not much of a toucher, either, but oh how I love his touch. This afternoon, I curled up next to him; he smoothed the hair away from my temple, traced my earlobe and then trailed his fingers around to the nape of my neck.
Once, I had a lovely friend and teacher who caressed my shoulders, face and neck with eucalyptus and lavender scented hands as I floated in savasana to the haunting chords of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah.”
That memory lives in my cells; I loved her adjustments and I loved her. The bliss she brought floated within me like a bubble—it buoyed me.
I feel it still, though she and the studio are long gone. She made it safe for me to relax and allow her tenderness to touch mine.
When she moved away, I tried to imitate her movements in my classes but felt I fell short; I couldn’t do it the way she did. Students seemed to appreciate my efforts but I felt awkward and so I stopped.
The truth? I do want to be touched. I want to connect. Of course I do.
And I want to learn to be comfortable with touching my students, when it’s wanted—when it’s holy and helpful rather than forceful.
I’m not there yet but this exploration has brought me closer.
Closer to that place where—one of these days—I’ll plunge into the sea of humanity and learn how to swim.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise