There is ‘energy’ in our posture – a certain je ne sais quoi about how we are standing that pronounces how we are feeling. Based on my own personal and professional experience, posture has become an obvious reflection as to the state of one’s heart. I remember a time when an acupuncturist I was seeing commented on my posture. I was sitting in a chair, slightly curled over in the chest, shoulders slumped, with my head down…a combination of punched-in-the-stomach, not having the energy to sit up, and instinctually trying to assume the fetal position. At the time, she commented that she knew I was extremely sad and traumatized. I thought she was psychic. Although, now I see what she saw – my body was saying to everyone who saw it, “I am wrought with sadness.” I didn’t have to verbalize anything. Her impression was that I was protecting my heart – and she was right.
If we can project our emotions outwardly by how we are standing or sitting, we also can project that ‘energy’ inwardly – either accentuating or perpetuating a state of mind or emotion. I’m definitely not saying it’s a bad thing, in fact, I believe our bodies have infinite wisdom and instincts to assist us on our grief journey, and that our bodies assume postures they need at the time, for whatever reason. What I hope to project, however, is the idea that we are in some control of how we use our bodies, which can affect our mind and emotion. Whether it’s within our control or outside our control, our posture can give us information about our present reality.
When my acupuncturist associated my posture with the idea of energetically protecting my heart, it made immediate sense. I was trying to curl up into a ball to comfort and protect myself. Now, I cannot generalize my experience to the entire grieving population, but as I have come to teach yoga to students who are grieving, I do see this posture more often than not. When I do, I see it as a physical expression of an emotional state – whatever that may be. Everyone’s grief experience is unique. It’s our yoga practice where we can go inside our bodies and be curious about our own experience. And, learn how we can use our bodies to transform our experience.
In yoga, we practice tadasana (mountain pose) as a classic standing posture. It is the foundation for all other standing poses. See the photo below, and notice the ‘energy’ or feeling of how the woman is standing. It’s very different than the feeling behind the other pictures depicted above.
In tadasana, we practice standing with our feet firmly planted and our legs strong. We roll our shoulders back and down, and press the crown of the head up. Symbolically, we stand in our here and now. We could even take the symbolism further and ask “what does a mountain mean to me?” and, “what qualities of a mountain can I bring into my mountain pose and my life?”
It’s important to see our physical bodies as allies in our journey through grief, by noticing the messages our bodies give us, take heed, and honour what is found. This develops compassion as we become aware of what parts of our bodies, mind and soul are in need of tender care.
We can use yoga to therapeutically explore our grief – noticing how the ‘energy’ of tadasana feels, and if it is different than the energy our commonly assumed body posture. Considering the idea that our posture influences our outward and inward energy, remember that we can choose to take tadasana anytime we want. Tadasana fosters finding stability, strength and confidence, and with that intention, we can use yoga, and the movement of our bodies to influence our mind and emotion. Tadasana can be practiced daily -wherever you are – simply standing with an expression of strength in the limbs, openness in the heart, softness in the breath and mind…and see how this transcends into daily life and off the mat.
“The energy accumulated in practice has a lot to do with my ability to get clarity about the reality of things.” – John Friend