“The human body is the best work of art.” ~ Jess C. Scott
I have found Yoga to be a beautiful practice. It wasn’t always the case. When I had my first dose of yoga ten years ago, I thought the point was to copy my instructor, leading to a sore back and a lingering association with torture that would haunt me for years to come.
My second encounter was abroad, where I raised eyebrows for not attending the free classes which were on offer. You don’t like it? They asked, searching my face as the physical-education-related fears threatened to surface.
P.E classes at school had been an onslaught of competition, comparison, and criticism. And the memories were rising from the dead before my very eyes. It just… hurts. Was my answer. I went anyway.
After a few sessions, I began to understand what all the fuss was about. Turning in, instead of looking out… well, it changed everything. My body was honored, protected, nurtured, and I could play with the boundaries of what I was able to do.
I went on to find an excellent teacher, who encouraged me to make each pose connect to my own unique body and its abilities, rather than see poses as access to some kind of bragging rights. I was entering into some kind of dialogue with my inner self, rather than the outer shell. It was heaven.
Yet I often notice, how people see yoga as the only way to explore the body and its limits. Now I’m not talking Spinning, or Aqua Zumba. To be honest I haven’t tried them, and I’m not really planning to.
Here are five other practices I have tried and read about, which I have found to build an immense sense of connection with yourself.
Thai Yoga Massage
My first encounter with Thai Yoga Massage was pretty darn brutal. Meant to release demons from the Ten Sen, or energy line system, the practice requires another person (the masseuse), to sit between your legs, rock you, and generally pull your limbs around.
Because of this, perhaps, the experience was too strong. I didn’t know what I was getting and was more than a little shocked. This practice is not recommended if you’ve been a victim of sexual violence, or are in any way triggered by lying spread-eagled out in front of a stranger on the floor.
Paradoxically, it can heal trust issues, reparenting and self-honoring, as well as aid with numbness in the body after a stroke or in patients with Mulitple Sclerosis.
My more positive experience of Thai Massage therapy was with a woman, and involved all the nurture and space-holding I needed. I was also pregnant at the time, and found it to be life-changing.
Ok, so it’s officially yoga! But acro yoga for me takes trust to a whole other dimension. I’ve actually only ever been able to receive acro yoga, and lift children. It’s scary!
For someone who has trust issues, I simply cannot lift a fully-grown adult with only my legs! It hasn’t happened… yet, but maybe one day.
Acro yoga is basically yoga and acrobatics, (or playing superman with your brother, age 6), and can be great fun. Imagine suspending yourself on someone’s legs and hanging upside down like a bat, then seeing how many variations on the poses you can do.
Letting go of hands and balancing is a great way to connect and let down the barriers we build up around ourselves. You can also feel the stretch.
My hamstrings aside, acro yoga is definitely one to try, simply because it brings people together and makes them smile. Best done outside in the sunshine with people you trust.
This one will come as a surprise, as it’s not really a bodywork practice. Plus I haven’t directly tried it, but it sounds like it brings down the walls.
Standing in for various family members, the constellation group will create your individual constellation and help bring up unresolved traumas in the family system. This may date back generations, and practitioners will often discover an unresolved trauma that originates in abortion or war.
The facilitator is equal to you, and, as Doris mentions in the video, sessions need only take one try so there is no dependency on the practice.
Again, I haven’t directly tried this, but having done a huge amount of trauma work, I am very intrigued. Somatic Experiencing was developed by the father of trauma therapy, Peter Levine, and is primarily for sufferers of PTSD.
It works by first addressing the issues which have been coming up, and then by noticing the tensions in the body and easing them through rocking and methods which will help them release the shock response they are frozen in.
The various body postures we make, relate to our mental state, and so it’s very informative and interesting to reconnect with our natural gestures and where we hold tension in the body. The reconnect, perhaps, comes with ourselves. With the self who was traumatized in the first place and needs to be coaxed back to a regulated state.
Like Thai Yoga Massage and Somatic Experiencing, Family Constellations really depend on the facilitator or therapist that you embark on the journey with, so choose wisely.
Qi Gong, however, has to be my favourite out of all of these. Best done outdoors in the morning, it is mind-boggling how effective moving Qi around the body really is.
Working with the elements and more rhythmic and repetitive movements than Tai Chi, my experience with Qi Gong actually brought me, jaw-droppingly close to the feet of the positive masculine.
I loved waking up every morning, meditating, and then going outside for some invigorating (but loving) Qi Gong. Again, depends on the instructor, but after a week or two of this, your body will be singing with joy, and in full working order again.
What I love about Qi Gong, is that it really connected me with nature as well as my body. And, as with any Chinese-related practices, I could actually feel the elements in my body. In a sort of macro-cosmic/micro-cosmic alignment, all imbalances were seen off, and my Qi was reawakened.
After a few weeks of Qi Gong, my feet were firmly rooted to the ground, and I felt a sense of peace I haven’t experienced from anything else.
Now we’re at the last practice, I’m realizing how I could have written about Pilates (scary teacher shouting at me about how to find my pelvic floor), or Tai Chi (fun, but I never quite ‘came back to myself’, the way I did with Qi Gong), yet there are no second thoughts.
I stick by my list as the most influential practices to reconnect. With yourself, with nature… with the person you once were before shock and trauma struck.
There are so many ways to reconnect. Each practice, although they may not always be that taxing physically, brings the practitioner back to their body, and is all about reconnecting to their true selves, rather than pain. These practices, might literally, change your life.