Friday, June 26, 2009

Embody the Change

Ghandi challenged us to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Sherri Shapiro, a feminist dance educator, has posed the question: “How can we understand through our embodied knowledge what it might mean to live freer and more empowered lives?”[1]
Both yoga and feminism reveal that embodying our principles allows us to act with integrity.

In Anusara language, we activate skull loop to “be the change” we want. Skull loop starts at the center of the upper palate. It is a circular flow of energy that moves back and up along the back of the skull then over the top of the head and down the face to the starting point of the upper palate. It takes the hyoid bone back, keeps the neck open, and the head in proper alignment. It’s also the natural position I embody when I “walk the talk” of my feminism.

The action of skull loop, like the action of integrating ourselves with our feminist principles, allows us to work for social change from a more sustainable place. Instead of jutting our chin forward and forcing things to happen, or gritting our teeth together and willing change, we breathe, align with our beliefs, and move from there.

There are times when social oppression demands the urgency of reacting to violence and forcing change. But over the long haul, embodying our principles allows us to extend further in healthier and more sustainable ways. We stand tall in our beliefs. Rather than merely resist oppression, we create new possibilities.

Inspiration for Daily Practice:

Note: The following are some possible poses for skull loop. They do not consist of a complete daily practice with proper warm ups or sequences. These notes emphasize skull loop. They do not cover all the actions that must be engaged to safely enter and leave a pose. They can, however, be integrated into a full practice that is appropriate to your level of ability. As always, consult your yoga teacher and a physician before attempting new poses.

Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose): Activate skull loop to extend energy out the top of your head and elongate both your lower and upper side bodies. Once you have embodied your full integration, turn your head upward and radiate your potential out to the world.

Setubhandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): Skull loop helps you actually press the base of your head into the ground. You then have a firmer foundation from which to extend forward out your knees and through your pelvic core. A solid grounding in our principles allows us to act from a more centered place.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Backbend): When we move out of our comfort zone, we often resort to defensive habits and jut out our chins. Backbends can cause this reaction in a beginner. When going up into a backbend, remember to activate skull loop, to trust the proper alignment of your body, then press up. Trust that even in new territory, we have something to offer and something to learn.

Bakasana (Crane Pose): When we enter new territory, many of us experience doubts about our capabilities. Activating skull loop in crane pose helps you align with your potential, become lighter, and float up into the air. When we integrate into principles we know we can trust, we don’t have to so easily give into doubts. We can then surprise ourselves with the heights to which we can soar.

[1] Sherri B. Shapiro. “Toward Transformative Teachers: Critical and Feminist Perspectives in Dance Education.” Dance, Power, and Difference: Critical and Feminist Perspectives on Dance Education. Sherri B. Shapiro, Ed. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics, 1998. 7-22.