Blockages

I began thinking this week about the intelligence of our body in creating blockages.  I imagine the body saying “No you can’t get pregnant now, you have to take care of yourself first” or “You tend to hyperextend that shoulder, so I’m going to build some tightness and scar tissue around that spot” or “You keep forgetting to drink water, so I’m going to literally create an internal blockage of constipation to remind you.”  Blockages challenge us in all aspects of life – in our careers, spiritual life, relationships, in our body.  Women meet many of them during the preconception process, pregnancy, labor and postpartum.

And they are frustrating.  Even the word blockage sounds frustrating, mainly because we really want life to come easy, to be able to do all of the things we want to do right now, when we want to.  We think we know what is best for ourselves, but I’m not sure we really do.  Life must be full of blockages for a reason.

My practice of yoga has really informed my thoughts about blockages.  I have always been a very tense, tight and wound up person.  In yoga class, I have come into contact with many many blockages, physical, mental and spiritual, on a very regular basis.  I have struggled through tight shoulders and hamstrings, an overactive mind in Savasana, battles with Headstand, the penultimate pose of doom for my body that displays every single one of my physical and mental limitations, a negative attitude towards my own abilities, and also have struggled to develop a regular personal practice.  All blockages, all the time.  So, why am I drawn to the practice?  Why don’t I just give up?  Because by working through blockages, we find freedom, enlightenment even.

One of my favorite passages from Guruji of all time comes from “Yoga Wisdom and Practice”, a compilation of his insights into life and yoga.  I find myself reading it regularly, to myself and to my students.  It says in part:

“Many people see the photographs of asana and think that the supple (i.e. flexible) body alone can perform such asana.  But one should know that often the supple body…cannot give any feedback to the brain and mind, as the body lacks sensitivity…A supple body does not trigger the intelligence to think what is wrong and what is right in performing an asana.  On the contrary, a rigid body has resistance, action, and counter-action, which triggers the intelligence to study the asana in the right perspective…the asana done without (this) resistance is an asana without life, like a stillborn child.”

If we take this commentary about asana and extrapolate it into the rest of our lives, then I imagine that if everything really did come easy to us we would lose the intelligence and perspective that comes by going through a process that is challenging (i.e. Guruji’s “resistance” or what I am referring to as “blockages”).  It would probably also signal that we were not sensitive enough to our surroundings, our bodies, our thoughts, to come into contact with a blockage.  I often tell the women that I work with during the preconception process that fertility is designed as a process for this very reason, so that each woman can become sensitive to themselves, so she can learn to care for herself and her future child.  Likewise, pregnancy and labor are processes with some challenges, so that our brain can interpret and integrate information, so that we have some resistance, so that we are sensitive to this moment of birth, so that we grow.

So, I am encouraging myself and will also ask you to develop a new perspective on blockages as they come into your life, your relationships, your body.  Rather than viewing them as unimportant impediments on the way to an end goal, can we reframe them as a healthy sign that we have an adequate amount of sensitivity to our lives and also as useful tools to teach us how to avoid suffering, find openings and continue our growth?

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