Today was the second (of four) core anatomy sessions in my yoga teacher training program; and this session focused on the upper limbs of the body. (Arms, shoulders/shoulder blades, hands, and a little bit on the vocal diaphragm [as opposed to the stomach diaphragm].) The class was amazing, and overwhelming, and thought-provoking; I left full of appreciation, and humility, and awe.
But before I jump to the end, let’s start at the beginning.
We discussed how movement really is the key to life; how when movement stops, life erodes very quickly. The teacher offered this analogy: “A fountain keeps its shape not by staying static, but by flowing, by moving.” When I think about this concept as it has applied to my own life at various points in my personal past, I can see the truth of it quite easily. So, a powerful reminder to me to keep moving! (I can be quite lazy, so I was grateful for the nudge to keep stretching, keep walking, keep active, keep moving.)
We then began an exploration of our own arms. We studied the two primary bones in our lower arms, and got to experience how they actually spin around each other when we turn our palms up and down. (You can try it if you want: Put one arm out straight [bend slightly in the elbow], and then gently put your hand around the arm, 2-3 inches above your wrist. Close your eyes. Connect with your breathing for 10 seconds or so. When you feel connected with your breath, spend another 10 seconds connecting with your arm as it is right now. Let the hand that is holding your arm feel the two main bones of the arm. Don’t exert a lot of effort to do this; just allow whatever sensations that are there to be there. Then, when you feel connected with your arm bones, slowly turn the palm of the extended arm. [And you can slowly flip the palm back and forth a few times if you want.] Did you feel the two big bones spiral around one another?! Pretty cool, non?!) : )
We did other exercises with our own bodies, and I had similar amazing awarenesses of my shoulder blades (I didn’t realize how much they move when I raise/lower my arms!), and my lungs (we did an exercise where we were able to breathe out of only one lung; that was a crazy-feeling experience, and super, super cool), and my middle finger (I got to feel how the very tip of my middle finger connects all the way up to the ball-and-socket joint in my arm/shoulder – amazing). It was all amazing.
The main theme of this class session (and dare I say of the entire yoga journey) was interconnection: how everything is connected to everything else. Our arms aren’t just two sticks stuck on to the sides of our bodies that we flip up and down; they are beautiful evolutionary ruminants of our ancient ancestors. Our fingers don’t just end at our palm; they extend all the way up through our arms, into our shoulders, and down our back and spine. Our body isn’t just this big house for our brain that we have to drag along in the world with us; our body is as intelligent as our minds are (and sometimes [often times?] even more intelligent than our brains). We can listen with our whole bodies, not just our ears; we can breathe with our whole bodies, not just our lungs; we can move with our whole bodies, not just our limbs and our spine; we can think with our whole bodies, not just our head.
Like I said: amazing, overwhelming, thought-provoking. A college pre-med anatomy class this was not; and I wouldn’t have wanted it to be. I got a lot more out of this session than I suspect many first-year med students extract from their formal training. And I have oh-so-much-more to learn…
P.S. To answer the question of this blog post title: The throat. Seriously. Crazy, huh? Crazy, and crazy-cool.