“The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power.”
— Joseph Pilates
I don’t always listen to podcasts, but I have made a point this year of listening to Jenna Zaffino on Pilates Unfiltered. If you have no interest in Pilates it may not be of interest but I find her on point with so much. One of the big things she has repeated this year is that “She has something to say”. Those words ring so true, not just to me but to so many of us. We all have something to say so why are we holding back. What is blocking us from speaking up or speaking our truth?
Major news right now is the #MeToo movement. So many women have posted their hashtag and perhaps shared an experience. It is so important to share and strip away the shame that comes with abuse of power. There have been many days where I was feeling confident and the comments from a male on the street or at work have stripped the confidence away. It feels like a lock in the chest. I recently felt this at my last apartment with my super who abused his power by texting me inappropriately all hours of the day, asking why I was single and commenting on how good I look (in front of my child). It is a struggle we deal with daily. It is common place but it is not OK. I love that so many women are standing up. I think that we also need to support each other as women. The power struggle is not always between men and women sometimes it is also with the same sex. I have also experienced power struggles with women. Sometimes this shows up as jealousy and sometimes it shows up in authority (with a supervisor or teacher). The problem arises when you allow someone to create the feeling of “I am not good enough”.
When you easily give over your power you then become powerless. Sometimes it seems easier than confrontation, sometimes the rage and anger radiating from another person can push us to shut down and become subordinate. This happens. It still happens to me and I am aware of it. But don’t shut yourself down. When it happens, acknowledge it and simply state in your mind I take my power back, you do not have control over me and send their energy back to them. Recently this happened to me and I held onto it longer than needed. Finally at night I was able to sit in meditation and visualize the daggers that I saw coming into my field and I plucked each one out, turned them into daisies and showered them onto the person who through them toward me. It is a day to day practice. The world as we know it is not established on equality and each day we need to acknowledge when we try to use our Power to control others or when we give it away.
Mind: It is important to explore your connection to shame. Shame is not real – it is our perception of real events that we interpret on an emotional and physical level to mean something significant. What one person finds shameful will not always be the same from person to person. As children we begin to build our associations to the world and what is “right” or “wrong” and it is at this point that we begin to be taught what is shameful (to be hidden) and what is acceptable. For some people showing off the nude body is beautiful and acceptable and to many in the Western world it is something we are taught to hide. It is important that we first start with acknowledging what we find shameful in our own lives and then begin to strip the stigma by speaking out. For instance if you are ashamed of being naked in front of people (or even in a swim suit in public) I am not saying to strip down and walk the streets of NYC but perhaps simply saying out loud that you are afraid. Begin to explore where these ideas of covering up came from and speak about them. Some culture believe in fully covering their body but the difference is this is not done out of shame it is done out of respect. It is important to understand your own ideas and not project judgement onto others that you perceive may be like you.
Body: There are two areas of the body at play with issues of Power. One is near the Solar Plexus. This is where you may feel like you were kicked in the gut, sick to your stomach, or even sensitivity if someone has scolded or dominated you. You may also feel pain or discomfort in your throat or neck if you held back from speaking up for yourself or others. “I wish I had said…” I should have said…”. In both instances you have blocked your energy and diminished your Power.
Spirit: The spirit is most free when we are honest. If you do resonate with holding blocks in your body either your throat or solar plexus simply acknowledging this and being truthful to yourself, honoring yourself is freeing for the spirit. I love visualization but any form of release will work to release some of these strings thrown at us in a Power struggle. Writing and movement can also be powerful.
- Inhale through your nose feeling a full expansion in your abdomen. Having one hand on your stomach will help as you will feel it move outward.
- On your exhale, tighten your stomach muscles feeling your hand contract in toward your spine
- I also find it helpful to practice this lying down on the floor with your knees bent or with your back against a wall in a sitting position.
- Continue this exercise for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Sun Salutation Series
- Mountain pose: stand aligned with both feet flat on floor, abdominals engaged, and eyes focused forward
- Raise arms to your side bringing them over head with palms together
- Forward Fold: Reach arms away from each other and toward your side as you hinge at hips (bending knees if needed) bringing your torso toward your thighs
- Reach torso halfway up
- Plank pose: Step feet back to come to plank pose, hands under shoulders, abdominals engaged, legs straight, eyes focused forward with a long neck
- Chaturanga: (option always to bend knees in this pose) Shift forward to toes, bend elbows while keeping wrists and elbow aligned
- Upward Facing Dog: Tops of your feet will press into the floor, lifting your thighs off the floor (or option to keep thighs active but on the floor). Bring your chest forward and straighten your arms continue to engage your abdominals lifting the navel upward. Keep your collar bone wide, chest forward, neck long and eyes focused upward.
- Downward Facing Dog: Lift your hips and work to press the soles of your feet into the floor (your heels may be off the floor). Press down through your hands and the soles of your feet as you lengthen your spine (sometimes it helps to bend the knees to feel more length in the spine. Open your chest toward the feet and focus your eyes between your feet.
Pilates Version of above on the Reformer: Plank, Upstretch and Downstretch series