It’s 6.30am, a beautiful spring morning and the early light woke me at 6. As I lingered in bed I remembered my commitment to writing a blog about Embodied Yoga Principles (EYP), which I have been training in and using in my own practice and work for the past two and a half years. I actually woke up with my arms wrapped around myself, which is reminiscent of the posture we call self-care in EYP. I lay there wondering whether it would be self-care to sleep some more, or to get up and write. Writing can be a form of self-care for me. It helps me to reflect, process things and learn. I write early in the morning or late at night. The early morning writing began when reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which advocates writing what she calls “morning pages”. You get up, and the first thing you do is sit down and fill three pages of A4 paper with whatever comes to mind. It’s for your eyes only. Writing for writing’s sake. Writing from a state of being rather than “doing writing”. I’m thinking about this as I type away, trying to write from being but acutely aware this is intended for public consumption. This, and therefore I, will be seen.
A few weeks ago when Mark Walsh asked me if I wanted to write a blog about my experiences of Embodied Yoga Principles, I said yes almost immediately. I knew that it would be a bit scary to share my thoughts and feelings on the world wide web. To be seen in that way. But as someone with introvert tendencies, I also really appreciate writing as a way to be seen in a more introvert way. Being seen and our habits around it is something we explore in EYP. There is a posture called “taking up space”. With this blog is a picture of me doing that posture, taken by senior EYP teacher Jamie Abrams during a Confidence for Women workshop we ran together. Being seen can require confidence but can also give us confidence.
I am reasonably confident being seen in my role as a yoga and mindfulness teacher. I am used to it - I’ve been teaching for ten years. But at times I still have to work at it a little bit, as it doesn’t come 100% naturally. But there are many other contexts where I feel much less confident being seen, and being heard – which is a part of it too. Can I use my voice in a way that fills the space around me? That commands people’s attention? Can I connect in some way with everyone in the room so they see and hear me? Essential skills for anyone who teaches groups. Practising taking up space / being seen has helped me a lot, professionally and personally. To take up space, we don’t always need to spread our arms and legs as wide as I am doing in the picture. It can be much more subtle than that – physically it may be about expanding how we are sitting or standing just a little bit, so we feel a bit more present in a room. We can raise our gaze and make eye contact with people rather than look down at the floor – seeing invites being seen. It can be about taking part in a discussion and giving our opinion. Being more comfortable naked in the presence of another person. Confidently talking about what we are good at in a job interview. The practice of being seen helped me to raise my hand in a room full of 200 people on a retreat and asking my teacher who I admire so much for his wisdom a question that might be silly, using a microphone. It helped me to stand up in front of all my mother’s best friends on her 70th birthday and read out 70 reasons I am grateful that she is my mum, whilst looking at her, with tears running down both our faces. It enabled me to speak at a close friend’s funeral attended by more than 100 people, talk about our friendship and guide a meditation in her memory. It helped me to stand up on a stage and deliver a presentation when I was asked to talk to a large audience of health professionals in Bhutan about the psychological benefits of yoga.
The practice of being seen helps me to do things that are very important to me and can help others in a more confident and comfortable way, and to not shy away from challenging situations which require me to be seen. I listened to an episode of The Embodiment Podcast last night in which Mark discussed public learning with Brooke Thomas, host of The Liberated Body and Bliss & Grit podcasts. I realised blogging could be a public learning experience for me as well as a being seen practice, which I also hope will help you, the reader, reflect on how you can use the embodied yoga principles to benefit your life.
In what ways could the practice of being seen help you in your life? Where and by who do you need to be seen more? How could you practice it? Feel free to share, if you dare, publicly!