Now, I can already hear you rapidly clicking away, losing interest and rolling your eyes. But wait. Give me a chance. When was the last time you stood and watched a peacock in its full breadth. Unless you were at the wedding with me Saturday night probably it’s been a while.
The reception of our family wedding was at a peacock sanctuary of sorts with lots of humans, lots of lizards and about 75 peacocks and peahens roaming around. We’ve all seen pictures of peacocks, we’ve all seen peacock feathers, but until you’ve stood before a peacock spread open and angry you really don’t know anything about stature.
One of the phrases I use in my teaching is “be powerful.” I instinctively know that power comes not from height or size, but from this prowess that radiates widthwise. Think the upright cobra snake ready to pounce, think a defensive cat turned sideways and strutting towards you, or just think of a peacock.
Width with certainty is not just powerful it is ferocious. Despite the silliness of the peacock when seen from the side a mere curtain of colorful feathers masking a turkey-like bird with little flying power, the effect of full frontal is closer to sheer panic. The bird looks unhinged, furious and ready to attack.
As someone who grew up skinny, awkward and tall, I’ve long awaited the arrival of width. Even when rowing competitively as a teenager, I was still more leaf-like than tree-like.
When I first started studying Embodyoga in 2007 I knew that its fundamental principle would make me as strong as I wanted to be. Yield first to oneself, then to the earth and then you can go outward. I had never yielded to myself. I was constantly hiding behind myself or trying to make myself disappear. I still have a tendency to do that from time to time at cocktail parties, but for the most part I take up more space than I used to. I yield to my body as all the structure and support I need. Then I yield fully to the earth. I don’t float above the earth as I used to with my center of balance up near my shoulders and head.
With those two yields intact I am able to move from my center. The Embodyoga image of a starfish is helpful for those who haven’t yet found that sensation of energy radiating outward into the limbs from the navel area. The starfish is great, but also try the image of the peacock. This little bird radiating outward through feathers and adamantly downward into the earth, as if you could easier walk through a concrete wall than pass an angry peacock.
Though most examples in nature are angry or defensive in emotion; width and power on the mat (or in the human world) don’t need to be offensive in nature. The power that I teach is really an equation or a set of guidelines. If you feel as if you are in your best posture and can be there with ease and comfort, free of all pain and weakness you will feel and be powerful.
In fact I think this expression of power is actually a step towards feeling more at ease and peaceful in our bodies. So much of my life I’ve felt insecure and self-conscious of my limited stature. But now when I get afraid I create in my mind all the physical and emotional sensations of chatturunga, cobra or any arm balance and I am immediately ready for action.
In the midst of our violent and erratic world the capacity to be strong in one’s body and mind is a solid step towards encouraging peace in others. I strive to empower my students to be self-confident and compassionate in this world. By definition yield is a soft, flexible support that allows for redefinition, integrated movement and preparation for anything.
Image credit: photoroad / 123RF Stock Photo