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Make a Poem of your Flesh

“This is what you should do: love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men…re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss what insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem.”


Whitman suggests here what every yogi knows–the choices we make with our mind are reflected in our bodies.  This is  beauty.  You know when you are in the room with beauty. Thinking back on all the beauties you have been around you know that it isn’t the type of beauty that Cover Girl is selling that sticks with you.  The beauty that you see in others is their poem and the memory of it is a song that vibrates through your own body poem.

As we move through various asana (yoga poses), we have an opportunity to try on different characters and ways of moving and being in the world.  One minute a warrior, then next a dog—only to transform with just one breath into a pigeon and end up a cheeky little monkey.  Through this experiment, we find that we can listen to the poem of our body.  Sometimes, the poem rides the rhythm of the breath. Other times, it is our grunts and the sounds of our effort.  Crow or cow face, there is no yogi in history that does not come up against some darkness.  Sometimes, the poem of our bodies in practice is a ballad uncomfortably narrated by cellular memories we have not before dared to expose.  Sometime, the poem of our bodies is like going out for dessert at midnight.  Delicious.

Here is a simple way to listen to your body and get in touch with the poem of your flesh:

Lie down on your back somewhere comfortable.  Before you lie down, take off your shoes and socks, watch and release your hair from any clips or bands.  Place one hand over your heart and the other hand over your navel.  Feel the rise of your body as you take an in breath.  Feel your navel drop down towards your spine as you exhale.  Do this for as long as you like.  The mind will wander, but you don’t need to follow it.  As soon as you notice that your attention has drifted away from feeling the breath move through the body, you just return to watching your next in breath. 

When you feel ready, bring your awareness to the soles of your feet.  As you inhale, feel the energy of the breath enter through your feet.  Relax the space between your toes, ankles and the bones in your feet.  Feel the connection of your palm to your heart and your palm to your navel center.  There was once a time when you received all of your information about the world and all that sustained you through your navel.  Allow this breath moving through your feet and palms to remind you of your origins, your roots.

Inhale a deep breath as you release your hands and bring your arms up over your head.  STRETCH and reach through your arms and hands as you point your toes.  Hug your knees in to your chest and rock from side to side.

Come up to sit for a moment.  See how you feel.  If your flesh was a poem now, what would it be?

Keep up with the poetry Pittsburgh yogis!

Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk
Director, Yoga Matrika in Pittsburgh, PA

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