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Stretching Our Way to Happiness

February 11, 2011

I am so pleased today to present a guest post by a friend of mine and yoga instructor, Michelle Fabrey. I asked her to write about the connection that yoga has to our body image, because I’ve noticed that doing yoga makes me feel so much better about my body. Based on this post, I think she agrees. Please enjoy and share your thoughts with Michelle. (And yes, if you ask, she’ll give you pointers on how do Down-Dog, Fish, and my personal favorite, Pigeon.)

The Intelligence Within

by Michelle Fabrey

While dressing my daughter each morning, we laugh, giggle and smile at each other. I kiss her belly and she squeals giddily. I take off her diaper and she kicks her legs up to her head, rollicking and enjoying the simple freedom.

I am amazed by the glee with which she delights in her body. As I unwrap her blanket and unzip her pajamas in the morning she revels in the process of waking up.  Eyes closed, she smiles, and at a leisurely pace she stretches, wiggles and rocks with what can only be described as uninhibited joy.

It makes me wonder, at what point did we stop doing this? At what point in our lives do we stop waking up with a feeling of joy and gratitude for our bodies?

In Women, Food and God, Geneen Roth reminds us that we arrive in this world fully anchored in our body. It is only as we travel thorough life that we end up distancing ourselves from it. When I started practicing yoga in my mid-twenties, I realized immediately that I had found my way back home, back to my body.  Through years of practice and exploration I have relearned how to ground myself in my body and in the present moment.  When the pose permits me to, I practice with my eyes closed and I use my asana practice as an opportunity to explore the subtle and internal world of my body with as much interest and curiosity as I explore the external world.  I approach each posture as an opportunity to connect with the innate intelligence of the body, an intelligence that transcends the mind. With regular practice I find that my mind is calmer, and I feel more connected to the unbreakable spirit within. Roth tells us that God is in the muffins; through my practice I find God in my breath, muscles, heart and spine.

Off of the mat and beyond all the sweat and spandex is where I have noticed the most dramatic changes in my life. Through the steady incorporation of asana (postures), pranayama (breath control) and yogic philosophy into my everyday life I have established greater equanimity and joy. Most importantly, I practice santosha (contentment) and ahimsa (non-violence). These elements of yoga philosophy remind me to be content with my body as it is and treat it with the love it deserves.

Regardless of whether you view yoga as a form of exercise, a lifestyle, a spiritual path or just a class you take at the gym, increasing numbers of Americans are doing it every year.  I have a feeling it is because we all enjoy feeling like my daughter does when she stretches: connected to our bodies and the intelligence that resides within.

How do you connect with your body?

If we are born with a strong connection to our body, how do we lose that connection?

What forces in the modern world have taken us away from our bodies? What forces can bring us back?

Image: “Yoga at the Botanic Garden” by Albuquerque BioPark via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.

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