Rachel Yona Shalev
Yoga, Receptivity and Reactivity in our Bodies.
This fascinating subject is central to Yoga's deepest teachings, yet relatively unexplored in the Yoga world.
In our daily lives, we go about our business in the world predominantly from the fronts of our bodies. When we meet , interact, and share, we present our 'front'. We eat and speak from our mouth, see with our eyes, feel from our heart, react from our belly and show expressions and emotions in our face.
These actions, interactions, and expressions include an element of reactivity. The movement is from inside to out. For example, our eyes focus outward in order to see, our voice moves outwards to make sounds and communicate. We face people and situations, reacting from our 'fronts'. Like soldiers stationed at the 'front' lines, we often respond in soldier- like fashion to stimuli from the world around us; in reactivity and defensiveness.
A committed Yoga practice will naturally lead us to create a new relationship with our backs. We learn to breathe into our backs and into the backs of the ribs, widening the back, strengthening the back, and generally gaining increased awareness and consciousness in our backs. Our backs are a place of receptivity, not reactivity. Yoga immersion gradually hones our powers of receptivity. We learn to rely less on our frontal, reactive bodies, living and experiencing more and more from our backs.
How does this affect our lives?
On a physical level: By cultivating our backs, our front softens. The chest and shoulders relax and expand. The face, throat and diaphragm soften. The pelvis and core become the power centers they are meant to be, without the constrictions. Our entire body becomes open and free.
On an emotional level: The more grounded we become in our practice, the more environmental stimuli – life - can be experienced in non-violent, non-threatening ways. Events and triggers which may previously have caused emotional tidal waves lose their power over us. We are able to maintain calm equanimity at best, or at least be far less reactive than habitual past patterns would have allowed.
This is a direct result of absorbing more into our strong, stable backs, while reacting less from our volatile fronts.
What happens in Shavasana?
In Shavasana (relaxation/corpse pose), we lie on our backs and relax deeply by exhaling into the back of our bodies. As we breathe from front to back, dropping each body part more heavily into the ground, the front is able to gradually let go, surrendering to the back. The facial expression drops, making it neutral, the eyes drop into the back of the head, making them soft and inwardly focused. The skin drops towards the muscles, which drop towards the bones, allowing the entire skeleton to drop.
This process of 'dropping' and deeply relaxing the body make it more possible for our mind to 'drop'. Our thoughts slow down, allowing increased space between thoughts. We become more present to our body sensations and breath, causing us to feel peaceful and in the moment. This way, the Shavasana process of deep relaxation ideally brings us to a place of deep receptivity. Having dropped fully into our 'backs' we discover a blissful and joyous place.
With continuous practice, this place becomes increasingly available in our everyday lives.