Yoga teachers develop what I like to call “X-ray vision.” How many times have you been in class and the teacher walks near you while teaching, and gives the cue YOU need to feel the pose more clearly in your body? How about when the teacher is on the other side of the room and calls you out by name, asking you to elongate your inner leg or extend from your heart or tilt your gaze down to lengthen the back of the neck?
Yoga teachers develop the art and skill of seeing the body energetically and structurally. Over time, yoga teachers can help you see where the blockage or congestion is in your body, or where energetically you are not connecting, numb, turned off, or simply absent. This is one of the benefits to practicing in group classes or privately with a teacher: someone else is viewing your practice, and can help you see things you might not be able to.
In the last couple of weeks, since I started getting chiropractic treatments at Alive & Well Chiropractic in NYC, the x-ray vision is turning inwards, towards my own body, with the most interesting results.
Most yoga teachers are already aware of their own bodies, just as they are aware of the bodies of others, and our insight grows as we work in different mind-body modalities that deepen and refine our awareness. Through chiropractic, I have learned that the left side of my body is about 100% tighter than the right, as well as which vertebrae have subluxations (distortions of the structural body).
The x-ray vision I normally apply on my students as well as on my own body has become something profound in the last few sessions on my mat. I feel like one of the crew on “Fantastic Voyage.”
I am now able to feel very clearly subtleties I was not able to access before: the two halves of my pelvis and the rotation of each half (is the illium tilting forward or back?); the erector spinae tight around certain thoracic vertebrae, affecting rotation of the spine; even the space between my sacrum and illium (sacroilliac, or SI joint) and the quality of that space. This new x-ray vision is very handy when it comes to feeling the state of my inner body and helping myself find balance in my spine and all the limbs which radiate off of it.
When I’m practicing with this x-ray vision, my asana practice is unconventional. I almost never do standing poses, preferring supine or seated poses, and even the movement is minimal to get into these shapes. The shape is the container in which we explore. The shape (the asana) is not the goal; the asana is the vehicle. Or to not mix metaphors, asana is not the goal, asana is the football we carry down the field on the way to the goal (health, vitality, and self-realization). The football is our body, a leather sack. Don’t be attached to the leather sack, it won’t be with you in the next lifetime anyway!
This increase in my ability to see through the leather sack into the skeletal, energetic, and even emotional patterns that govern the structure of our bodies is something that helps me offer more to students in their own practice. Adjustments from skilled teachers are often an “a-ha!” moment, where suddenly you feel the energetic and structural essence of a pose in a way you never did before. Exceptional adjustments from exceptional teachers are transformational, truly “before and after” in the way your mind and body approach a particular pose.
X-ray vision is a healing (and diagnostic) ability native to all human beings. It’s just most of us are so far away from ourselves. Yoga and other mind-body modalities can help us reconnect to this intuitive healing gift.