Yoga and Body Consciousness

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IT WASN’T until my fifties, after trying out the whole supermarket of therapies out there—psychoanalysis, group therapy, Reichian therapy, the Alexander Technique, Rolfing, bio-energetics, primal therapy—that I finally clicked with yoga. The trigger was a doctor that I visited for a minor physical complaint, who said only: “What do you expect? You’re over fifty.”

It struck me like a thunderbolt. That thoughtless remark ended doctors for me—and I decided not to ask somebody else to solve my problems for me. It was my body and I would have to deal with it on my own. To me, that meant that I would have to heal myself of whatever ills struck me: I would not go running to therapists, doctors, practitioners, or teachers to solve my problems anymore. And I would stop my blaming my parents and society for messing me up, and would cease trying to erase or reverse my personal history—which could not be changed, after all—and to see life instead as starting from where I was. Now, I vowed, I would work on myself by myself.

Believing as I did that problems were lodged not in some nebulous “mind,” but rather in the body, it was the body that I saw as the arena of work. Who else but I myself was the ultimate expert on this body? But my hypochondria was in full flower, and I saw physical deterioration threatening if I didn’t do something about my health.

It was instinct, really, that told me yoga was the right course, a discipline I could stay with into the future. Indian holy men had nothing to do with it. I knew by then, after succumbing to the lure of Eastern religions, that I didn’t belong to that mystical world, though some of its teachings made sense to me. I was after something gutsier than the merely “spiritual,” just as I am in my poetry.

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