When I was introduced to yoga, I was a physically well, able-bodied child. It was my emotional state that needed the assistance. Brooke Thomas, creator of the podcast, “The Liberated Body” had a very different experience than mine. Growing up, she explains, that she had a spinal injury at birth and that gave her chronic pain and a limited range of motion. Compared to the other kids she felt very different. This also was, as the question asked, her first real way that she noticed her body. And to quote Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of happiness.” When you are a kid, to not compare is something that is very difficult to do, if you are even aware that you are doing it. She had a difficult time all through adolescence and through to her last year of college.
She saw a doctor and he was one of western medicine, but he also recommended meditation and Rosthington therapy (a type of massage.) She said that though she was very far from being “cured” her result after her first session was so significant that it inspired her to later go and get certified to do that herself. As having a similar, “this helped me, I would like to help others with it” experience is a profound feeling. Becoming a body worker helped her learn to love to be “in” her body more.
Brooke expresses that her interactions with some people is an understandable, yet frustrating “I will do activity x once my body feels y.” This is all too common when people feel pain, they don’t want to learn to inhabit their bodies. People look to body work as a way to not feel pain and then letting their bodies be “Fleshy machines that do our bidding,” which is not a very reasonable expectation for our bodies. Sometimes we feel pain, or more so, discomfort to notice our bodies. To quote Benjamin Lorr’s book “Hell Bent,” Lorr’s favorite yoga teacher has a stroke and still comes back to teach and take practice. Hector, Lorr’s teacher, tells him, “There are a lot of people who walk away when it turns out yoga has not made them immortal. They think yoga has let them down.” I am sure that this is true for all sorts of body work.
Many times the mental affects the physical and vise versa. Delving into the philosophy, they have a similar conclusion to how I have felt. It is that body work is not a way to transcend and escape your body, but a way to truly inhabit it. With that, we can truly connect to others. She said in this episode that, we are not souls that inhabit bodies, we are holistically a soul. She refers building a relationship to the body as like building a romantic relationship; it needs love, attention, and connection. We want to cultivate wisdom through experience. Though intellect through books is great, when we learn through experiences, it becomes ingrained into our bodies and thus with us in the form of connections to be utilized in the future.
We learn so much through our physical form, we absorb so much around ourselves. If we learn to listen to our bodies, grow with them, and love them through the good and the bad, we genuinely learn about the world and people around us and how to connect with them. So, practice your physical art, love the full spectrum that is your body and mind, and balance will find its way to you.