31 Dec Yielding – The Beauty Of Giving & Receiving

“You can trip on a flat floor!”,  my parents used to exclaim, reflecting my clumsy, gawky frame that shot up to 5’9” by the time I was thirteen years old. They weren’t wrong. The ground seemed so far away as my eyes increasingly climbed the pole of my being. While through dance and other sports I could exhibit tremendous coordination through movement, simply navigating space and gravity to hold myself upright, my entire self seemed as confused as a great dane puppy skidding across a slick tile floor.

The negotiation of gravity and space is the primary issue of our moving. All body plans from geckos to kangaroos have uncovered a tremendous solution to work with the magnetism of earth through their uniquely formed structure. From the pronking of a gazelle to the waddle of a penguin, each creature carries the history of a few million years of evolution, evolving from cellular solution to matter in ever more elegant and sophisticated patterns.

The human is the single bipedal creature. This evolutionary push has given us tremendous advantage, particularly with the use of our upper limbs. As we all re-enact this upright maneuver when we learn to walk, there is a tremendous developmental brain push and corresponding body mapping. Yet as we move away from rolling on our belly and up to the vertical discovery of walking, we can sometimes lose our connection to the earth.

There is a longing reciprocity between the earth and our feet, that is rather like the tensile support of two humans pushing hands into one another to balance weight. The sweet feeling of the equanimity of supportive forces is a concept that comes from the world of Body Mind Centering®. It is called yielding.  

Yielding is a meta-concept. It is a balanced push-pull between forces that is demonstrated elegantly in Tai Chi or Qi Gong, the float of a butterfly through space, or the sweet curl of a baby resting into its mother’s arms. We can see it most clearly if we look at its extreme opposites: propping, which is harnessing one’s body force against gravity, in the way a military posture tenses muscles into an artificial alertness. Or collapsing, the slumped fall of the body into gravity, like a small child that has not yet found its own sense of support. Yielding is the sweet balance between the two. 

I can look at my clumsiness in growing up as an extreme pendulum between propping and collapsing. If I look back at class photos, holding an erect, upper thoracic thrust forward in an attempt to appear alert and “sit up straight”, I see the superimposition of propping. Pulling myself against gravity in order to appear correct. Yet the minute my attention waned, I would find myself slouching my height, overruled by gravity’s pull. Yielding, just like the perfect slide into traffic on the freeway, is that balance between giving and receiving with the earth’s pull. It is like partners balanced in a duet dance. 

In application it is not just one’s own body weight in relationship to the earth but also into the space around. The atmosphere of air. One’s hands can slide into surrounding  space like a swan’s body glides evenly through water. One can yield into a room, both receiving the activity of what is in motion, and also establish enough presence to become known in the space.  In asana we can give and receive our weight into the floor, bone into bone, body into space, pose into pose.

In sharing the practice of yielding with others the invitation is to melt into the easeful dance of life feeling both supported and easeful. Where do we prop? Willfully holding ourselves against gravity perhaps holding the signatures of our families of origin, our dance teachers, our own thoughts using more effort that is necessary to navigate.  And where do we collapse, losing our own bodies sense of integrity, levity and vitality, perhaps holding a slight tone of helplessness or defeat.

This is the beauty of yield. My now self has made a main practice of discovering this balance between giving and receiving, and finally I have been able to feel the gift of the flat floor reaching up to support my height. I have been able to grow from an over-sized puppy into a more graceful entity traveling through space with ease.

by Tara Judele