Originally written by Zara M on 05 March 2014
I have been thinking recently about how much I have taken my body for granted over the years. Before I discovered Yoga and Tango I didn’t really think about how my body worked at all. It was just there, like something separate from me, which served only to get me from A to B, and make me look good when I dressed it up in nice clothes. My body was a hassle when it wasn’t well or functioning right, and I resented it when I had little energy to do anything physical, because it held me back from living my life the way I wanted to. I abused it by drinking too much alcohol, and I left my body to repair itself over and over again. I didn’t eat well and I stayed up late even when I had to wake early. I didn’t give it the proper exercise it needed to function, yet I expected it to function anyway. I was young, and my body was in its prime, or so I thought. I didn’t connect with it though. I didn’t work with it, respect it, or enjoy building a proper relationship with it. It was just there. I hardly thought about the part my body plays in my life at all.
As you get older you change the way you think about yourself though. I know now that my relationship with my body is more important because I know that it defines what sort of life I can lead; and forming a connection between my body and mind reminds me that I have the power to choose how I want to feel every moment of every day. The mind and the body must form a positive and equal relationship in order to walk harmoniously through life together. (You can quote me on that if you like.) I am now thirty years of age, and I have only just started to realize how special my body is. It is the only one I have.
The reason all of this has come to the forefront of my mind now is because recently I strained my neck and it was jolly painful for a few days. I wasn’t able to attend the Yoga4Tango class last weekend because I need to rest it. Don’t worry, I didn’t strain it while I was doing yoga, I think I must have slept wrong. The small but deeply incapacitating injury has seriously made me evaluate how much you can take your body for granted. It has also brought my attention to how useful both Yoga and Tango can be to help resolve the physical and mental ailments of the body and the mind, and also how important they both are in helping you to develop these special connections; mental connections, physical connections and sometimes even spiritual ones; they all work towards developing who you are and how you approach life and the people you meet.
During the Yoga4Tango class I attended the week before, the instructor made a reference to pain, which stood out to me because it made me giggle. “Why create pain?” he asked, “It doesn’t make sense.” His comments made me smile because they were true, why continue to struggle through something when you can take a step back to re-establish what your situation is, and then find a better way? Sometimes it is important to feel the pain though, because then you can use it as a sign to back up and re-evaluate things before proceeding onwards. Often we don’t stop; we continue to struggle through. This is a mistake we make most when we are young, and luckily our bodies are fit enough to handle it. When you get a bit older you must learn to listen to your body.
If we feel pain in a yoga pose, it is because the body is not properly aligned or there is too much compression, and we need to come out of the pose in order to focus on the distribution of our weight, and breathing more air in to expand the body and allow for more space and flexibility to stretch and twist into the pose. We use muscle energy to generate the strength we need to establish ourselves in the pose properly before transitioning to organic energy, which allows us to sustain the pose, and breathe deeper into it whilst allowing the muscles to relax just enough so that we are comfortable, yet still strong and stable.
I think it is always important to question anything that doesn’t feel right, and anything we don’t fully understand. How often when dancing Tango, do you struggle with your back ochos, without attempting to understand why they seem so difficult? If you attend a few Tango classes, and there are plenty in and around London, you can begin to understand how the rest of your body needs to work and behave in order for those ochos to flow smoothly. It is not just about learning where to put your feet; your body must move as a whole and the energy needs to flow all the way through you, from the music and your partner, it must fill your mind with emotion, and then surge through into your shoulders, chest and heart; spiraling down through your core like a corkscrew so that you have enough momentum to swivel on the balls of your feet and step back into your ocho. (Don’t quote me on all of that though!) What I am trying to say is that when something doesn’t work properly or feel natural to you, there is a reason you are struggling. Struggle shouldn’t be continuous.
Even when something works perfectly, make sure you understand why it does! I have attended all of these Yoga4Tango classes week after week and not once have I bothered to find out why we all say “Namaste” to each other at the end. Everyone just looks happy and blissed out, so I have followed the crowd, and felt good too. I have just looked it up though, and so when I say it at the end of the next class it will feel much better because the gesture will have meaning for me. If you want to find out what “Namaste” means, here is the link - http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/822.