Kinks, Aches and Unconscious Clenches


I don’t know about the rest of you, but my body’s riddled with kinks, aches and unconscious clenches. Some of them are in full flower, others waiting ready in the wings. I move my right hip and the arch of my foot goes into a spasm. A few sun salutations and my upper back is tighter than when I rolled out my mat. My attention bounces from one rebelling site to another, rarely lingering long enough to squelch the insurrection.

Years ago, a teacher suggested zeroing in on one single body part, regardless of how pertinent it seemed to the poses, throughout an entire class. I was especially into jaw-clenching at the time, and chose to focus on loosening that tenacious lock. It was remarkable how often I had to re-release those diligent muscles, clasping my mandibles together, as though practicing for rigor mortis.

When, finally, my jaw relaxed, so did my neck, and then my shoulders, followed by my upper back. A ripple effect. My mindset changed, too, from survival mode to an awareness of willing participation and engagement; a surrender with a feeling of victory.

Like everything on the mat, the experiment surfaced a real-life parallel—an initial tendency to steel myself against what's happening around me, to react with apprehension rather than immediately diving in and relishing the swim.

Holding that micro-focus through a single practice was elementary, but had a resounding effect. By introducing my ambitious jaw muscles to the concept of a time out, I was reminded that intention, however narrow in scope, is the heart of significant change.

--Margot Dougherty

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