This week we went to see the Young@Heart chorus sing. It was joyful. There is really no other word to describe it. I smiled so hard for the entire duration of the concert that I was a little sore the next day. I am a content person. I am very happy about the start of my business, but I don’t do silly and I almost never do joyful.
My students at the YMCA have the option of studying with lots of different types of yoga teachers. Some of the teachers have loud voices and big personalities, others are cute and playful, others are sweet and serene. I am serious and intense. My devoted students think that we are having fun when we are exploring the Large Intestine or softening the Heart, not when I crack a joke. I’m okay with that.
But seeing all those old people dance around stage is not your typical level of joy. Seeing the house stand for a full standing ovation at the end of the first set is not your usual level of joy. The concert made me determined to be a little bit lighter and to laugh deeply more often.
One of my favorite characteristics in fiction is the description of someone with a quick smile. I don’t have a quick smile. My smile requires warming up and usually starts out kind of stiff and awkward. There are a handful of people in my life who can make me laugh so hard I lose control and actually start trembling a little because my body isn’t used to it. I keep them around with a fierceness.
In the midst of the days getting shorter and everyone starting to lose their minds over the presidential campaign I invite you to take time to find joy. Remember that game when you lay your head on someone’s stomach and someone else lays their head on your stomach and then everyone laughs as hard as possible. Why do we stop doing stuff like that? I want to do that at our next dinner party, though I’ll probably be too embarrassed to ask people to get down on the ground. We have to make sure we instead look for different, adult ways of being silly and joyful. I find being around children, especially babies, is the easiest technique. They are our best teachers of joy.
I’m including this picture because it is only picture I have of me really laughing as an adult. It was taken moments after one of my closest friends made me laugh hard enough that I couldn’t be camera shy or sensor myself. That is why I keep her around. Keep a picture like this of yourself around as another great reminder of joy!
In our society, even this word is loaded. This is one of the many fights of my life. I am a sensual person. If anyone has ever seen me sick or with an injury they know that I have a very low pain threshold. I experience all the sensations of the body in a rather heightened way. I’m talking about sensing. Noticing with the senses. Sensuality would be the enjoyment of this noticing. Sensuality is not by nature sexual. Sexuality isn’t always in practice sensual—though it should be, everything should be.
Society’s inability to separate sensuality from sexuality is where a lot of our problems begin. If people were comfortable finding pleasure with the senses (smell, taste, touch, sound, sight) they might not find the same drive towards an excessive sexual appetite or a food-based appetite.
I try to do a lot of partner work in my classes to encourage people to touch each other in a sensual, non-sexual way. Intimacy of touch is very reassuring to the nervous system and very satisfying for our need to connect with others, but it also is a skill set that some people don’t have. Whether it is touching the low back to feel your partner breathe into their kidneys in child pose or sitting back to back to experience the movements of the ribcage, it is obvious that these are not loaded postures. These are safe, easy postures that are very calming.
One of the ways I teach people how to stretch or strengthen is to encourage them to follow sensation. When my students actually follow sensation the atmosphere in the room changes and everyone’s postures are softer, easier and so much more beautiful. I know they’ve felt it because they walk out of class smiling.
I think it is important to have a list of favorite sensual experiences that can be turned to when you are feeling down or even stressed. So today I’m going to share my current favorite sensual experiences.
Recent Feasts for My Senses
- Bright green ground cover on all the farms in Western Mass
- Crunching of dry maple leaves on my walk to the office
- My fully recovered sitz bones that now don’t mind my bike seat
- New squishy handlebar covers that I can feel even through my mittens
- Wearing a scarf all the time again
- Pesto we made last week with all the basil before the frost hit Friday night
- How much faster and brighter a child’s pulse is than an adult pulse
- Twig tea with milk in the mornings
- Mt. Tom almost fully yellow
- Sleeping beneath my down comforter
If you need more inspiration check out this amazing article on why five senses is just not the whole truth.
Please share your recent favorite sensual experiences. It encourages people to go out and try them so the enjoyment spreads!
Any real ecstasy is a sign you are moving in the right direction. –St. Theresa of Avila. Trans. by Daniel Ladinsky
Maybe it is the teacher in me always at the front of the classroom, but on occasion I love to be the bumbling idiot in the room.
Last night I went to a Knife Skills Course at Different Drummer’s Kitchen. It was fabulous, I learned a ton and I got to feel that tense-muscles-can’t-remember-my-name-type of confusion.
After a ten minute history lesson about knife design and manufacturing I was already swooning in the beginner mindset and had lost touch with my body. When the instructor moved rapidly into basic knife holding instruction I went into bumbling idiot mode. I looked at her hands, then I looked at mine. Nothing. She forced my clamped hands to move and then put the chef’s knife on the carrot stick again. Nothing, I couldn’t remember how to move my own hands. It was great. Complete mind/body melt down.
It took several vegetables and a lot of extra attention before something happened. I was mid julienne and the knife suddenly slid across the cutting board in this almost poetic fashion. The beginner in me froze terrified that I would never be able to do it again, but the teacher in me was delighted. I had seen the flow. One second in time and I was convinced I would be able to chop vegetables. Almost immediately I could get it back for four to five slices at a time. Then the flow happened for 8 to 10 slices. By the time I got home to show off for my husband, it was there, the poetic flow had destroyed all my years of muscle memory because my hands and forearms loved doing it the right way.
It reminds me of alignment. Years ago I was working with a client with sacral instability. She had no sacral curve at all, in other words she had a flat butt. At the end of our lesson I taught her how to recede the pubic disc to allow the sacrum to free back so the pelvic floor could be open and wide. She did it three or four times and liked it. I told her to think about freeing the sacrum back every day when she went walking. A week later when we had a follow up lesson she was very embarrassed because she had become confused and decided to just stop thinking about it. But when I looked at her I had to laugh. She had a perfectly healthy sacral curve. The body felt how good it was to be in the right position and helped her forget the old way. She still studies with me today and she hasn’t lost the sacral curve one bit.
Our bodies and our minds know flow and ease and will always prefer it. Trust flow.
Check out my handiwork from last night’s class. Nothing like Beginner’s Pride.