Yoga, AT and politics of the upsetting kind

QUALITY GOODSI went to a body work session recently. The practitioner I went to see is gifted in bodywork, smart and knowledgeable about healing.

She does have one little flaw, which is that she can come out with statements which are, to say the least, insensitive to immigrants or people of colour.

In this session, she happened to say “you know x is at least telling the truth”- X being a politician of the bullying, shouty variety whose tedious rantings have been amplified by the online and offline media. She had an unfair advantage on me, in that I was lying face down with my shirt off while she was doing something with my shoulders. So I tried to say something neutral and she moved on.


Normally, I just ignore what she comes out with; but in that session, she crossed a line. I didn’t say anything at the time but I certainly had lots to say later in the privacy of my own head once I started thinking about it.

In fact, I turned into a ranty shouty person pretty quickly myself!

So, I did some coming back to myself. I remembered my Alexander technique directions. I remembered some of the ways that I learn to centre myself in yoga. I remembered that when I get frightened, angry and hostile, the first thing that happens in that I lose empathy for myself and others. I calmed down and wondered what to do next.

I figured that it’s OK to have a reaction. It makes sense that it would bring up some very difficult issues for me, I’m very easily triggered by stuff which I perceive to be about lying, bullying, about being put down, dismissed. And right now, there seems to be a lot of that about.

What happens when I get triggered?

  • My stomach feels tight and even sore
  • I lose my capacity to just be in my body, I want to be somewhere else
  • I go into some sort of fantasy world
  • I watch too much TV
  • I fritter away my yoga / AT practice time
  • I withdraw, particularly from social gatherings
  • I’m kind of mean
  • I lose my alignments in dynamic movement and easily injure myself.
  • And of course, I tighten my neck and my jaw pushes forward

Like all situations involving nationality and race, it’s not binary. There are shade of nuance and meaning which need to be considered.

She’s an older woman from a working class background. She’s married to a person from another country and race. That means there’s a complicated power dynamic of practitioner / client with an underlying dynamic of man / women, middle class / working class going on beneath it.

Does that mean I need to keep quiet? No, I want to say something. It just means I need to be with what I want to say for a while longer than I normally would so that I don’t unconsciously say something that would reinforce stereotypes.

This is where some classic Alexander principles come in handy. Stop, direct, then do. Pause, then figure out what the yes plan is in this situation as opposed to getting fixated on what I don’t want.

I want to talk to her to let know what my feelings are. I want to ask for some change in what we talk about during the sessions. That would all be a start.

Phew! I can breath again.

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© Kevin Saunders, Yogaground 2016

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