August 5, 2014

Don’t Shy Away from the Shake. ~ Dani Cirignano

yoga lady black and white

One of my favorite yoga teachers is incredibly gifted.

In the grand scheme, she hasn’t been teaching all that long (I think three or four years), but her skill and knowledge and intelligence of the body is second nature.

I’ve been taking her class weekly since January and I am mind boggled after every one.

It’s super subtle work, with very few chatarangas or dramatic heart openers or other fancy stuff, and yet I feel a strength and skill developing that far surpasses all the crazy shit I used to do back in those wild (and sometimes idiotic) Anusara days.

The instructions she gives us as we move through the poses are very detailed and specific.

We hold poses for much longer than in your typical flow class and there is often a shaking that arises in our physical bodies when we put ourselves into familiar shapes with fresh attention. For many of us who have been practicing for a while, or are used to classes that move so fast you barely have time to breathe, slowing down and moving our bodies in ways outside the familiar patterning is deeply healing—but also makes you shake like a maniac.

Leigh gets excited when we start to tremble, encouraging us to stick with it, to let ourselves fall, to not go as deep.

She gives us space to explore while keeping a safe, nurturing container.

It’s radical, in every sense of the word.

It’s hard not to connect the dots between what goes down on my yoga mat and what goes down in my daily life.

I tremble and shake in every class but it was only last week that I saw the connection between the trembling that occurs physically when we re-pattern stuck stuff in our bodies, and the emotional trembling that happens when we start to re-pattern stuck stuff in our brains. Whoa!

How many times have we been dealing with something like a big life change, or something goes wrong, or not the way we wanted, and instead of leaning into the tremble, we do everything in our power to maintain things exactly as they are?

We cling so fiercely to our old, familiar patterns that we don’t even realize how much damage they are actually doing until one day something breaks down and we have a big mess to clean up.

Physically, for me, this manifested as chronic lower back pain resulting from thousands of misaligned backbends—it felt good until one day it didn’t and I could barely twist left or right without a sharp twinge in my sacrum (thanks to Leigh this is completely gone).

Doing advanced backbends did not make me a better yogi; but they sure did make me question why these extreme poses were so important to me, which led me to question other areas of my life I’m striving and pushing beyond the point of being healthy.

It’s so scary to be in the tremble but usually the shaking is a good sign we are onto something we really need.

Other times the tremble is caused by something objectively bad, but the only way out is through right? Why not learn to lean into it and actually discover something new (and potentially transformative) in the process?

As someone who dwells primarily in my head and experiences anxiety and has to practice shifting this default every day lest I fall prey to some of my less healthy patterns, I can tell you from longtime experience that these patterns cannot shift in the mind alone.

Therapy, coaching, writing, talking things out are all vital and important—but equally important is healing the relationships we have to our bodies and the imbalances and twinges and bloating and self-hate and stuck-ness we all experience to some degree or another.

I guarantee 150 percent x 1,000,000 + infinity that if you clear the stuckness in your physical body, the stuckness in your brain will clear as well.

That is why, in the work that I do, movement is considered the key: it has the power to unlock everything.

It doesn’t have to be yoga. It could be dance. Or weightlifting. Or running, walking, tai chi. The most important thing is consistency and working with someone talented and experienced who can guide you safely and purposefully.

I know I say this all the time but truly: if you are feeling trembly, or shaky, or unsure about what to do, about anything, if there is confusion/fear/anxiety, please go move around.

Take big, deep, expansive breaths. I promise something will shift—it might even turn the key.

And then you can prance on through a new door.



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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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