Approaching the Body as the Guru
Ryan Maher, MA, LCPC, CYT
Pause for a moment and notice how your body feels. What words might you use to describe the feelings you notice? How do the muscles in your neck, your shoulders and back feel? How does your jaw feel? How does your chest and belly feel in this moment? What is your breath like? Your heartbeat? How is your posture? And what might this all suggest about how you are doing in this very moment? What might this indicate about your past, your story, and the patterns you’ve developed throughout the course of your life?
We all have a multilayered and sometimes complicated relationship with our body. For some it may feel like a distant object that is unfamiliar and strange. For others it may feel like a hostile entity that is unsafe and threatening. Even when the body feels like a safe refuge this can conflict with media messages that induce insecurity and shame. In addition, overwhelming experiences, even if they happened long ago, may alter the way we experience and relate to our body. Fortunately, there are many ways to promote a connected and attuned relationship with the body, one that brings a sense of peace, self-acceptance, and wholeness.
The Sanskrit word guru is generally associated with a guide or teacher. Additionally, the word guru comes from the root gu, which means “darkness” and ru, which means “removal”. In this context, guru can be translated as “the remover of darkness”. Our bodies possess an abundance of information relating to our particular experience in the world. When we learn how to connect with and listen to our bodies, how to relax and deeply experience our bodies, we are able to more fully understand our past and present experience. When approached this way our bodies hold immense potential to be our guru, our remover of darkness.
Yoga and guided imagery are two doorways into a healing and positive body connection that will be explored during the workshop Body as Guru. These practices are accessible to everyone and are effective techniques in fostering both physical and psychological wellbeing.
In this workshop we will explore three branches of yoga: yoga asana (physical poses), pranayama (breath), and dhyana (meditation) and how these practices benefit the body and mind. You will be guided through a gentle sequence of yoga poses, breathing exercises, and meditations that you can use to manage stress, promote physical health, and nurture a positive connection with your body. No prior experience is necessary. Keep in mind anyone can practice yoga regardless of religion, flexibility, strength, etc.
Following an exploration into different yoga practices, we will embark on a guided imagery activity. Guided imagery is a gentle and deeply restful practice that activates the imagination, different parts of the brain, and the senses. A growing body of research demonstrates the many benefits of guided imagery, including improving anxiety and depression and calming the nervous system. In addition, guided imagery can help to stimulate creativity, deepen the awareness of the mind-body relationship and how this manifests in each individual person’s experience, and aid in identifying and meeting specific goals.
Through incorporating yoga and guided imagery, the workshop Body as Guru, will facilitate a therapeutic mind-body process of discovery and empowerment. This will be an opportunity to gain understanding into the unique story your body contains and learn techniques that allow you to connect with your body to promote healing and growth.