Folding upon a pile of yoga blocks, bolster and soft, inflatable ball, I try and fail finding comfort for the few minutes that this pose requires. The tension in my shoulders won’t allow resting my arms together, so they have to take turns in what becomes a half-Yin yoga pose for me. I feel restless, and the tension encases me like an iron armour which I can’t escape. Her yoga is as gentle as her eyes and voice, and yet this body refuses to fold, or rest, or reach as the pose requires. I use a strap to reach my foot and fold the leg behind me, in a stretch that undoes the chair sitting shape. The pain is sharp and seems connected with pressure in my head, neck and shoulders. Visual memories begin to flash, parading on my mind’s eye while tears start flooding my face in hot, flowing streams.
I am a dancer, and yet, I married a man who doesn’t dance, nor does he walk these days, and I stopped dancing. I see myself sixteen years ago, walking with him and an old friend of mine and his wife through a trendy neighbourhood of Toronto. My soon-to-be husband was having a gout attack and was walking with a cane. My friend asks me in Romanian: ‘Tana, are you sure this man is right for you? You are such a dynamic person, and he walks with a cane’. I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t dare look at my doubts.
The physical pain is subsiding as my body melts under my breath into the pose. I cry softly, and breathe long, full breaths, letting my belly arise round and full, squeezing the air out on the exhale.
I remember Victor, the high school flirt whom I dated upon my arrival in Israel from Romania when I was twenty-four. I was excited with passion for my new life, and wanted to see the sights, travel, hike, dance, play, live – and he was busy, a full-time student with an evening job. He was busy and sedentary, and I was restless for a while, until I resigned to a lesser exuberance, like an energetic puppy tied to a long rope.
Tears keep flowing, breath and belly keep rising and falling, and I cry the dances that I haven’t danced, the hikes that I haven’t taken, the life that I didn’t live because why? Whose life have I been living? I am a dancer, have always been a dancer, since childhood, when I danced ballet, and the dancer inside me is angry and trapped and paining my joints with sharp, hot, pointed pain.
My parents’ voices are competing with each other in my head: my mother, who, when I was ten and signed up for a crafts workshop as an extracurricular activity, sent me right back saying: ‘You need to move. Sign up for something that lets you move!’ (I went back and signed up for Romanian folklore dance, which I loved). Then there was the stronger, louder voice of my father, the Engineer, who said that sportsmen were just well-trained animals, and that I should sit and solve some math exercises every day. My father’s voice has won for many years, when I lived mostly from the neck up.
Dad had more surgeries than I can count, and he can barely walk now. Dad, Mom wins.
The happiest times that I remember were times when I danced, when I received good quality bodywork weekly, which helped clear the pain and trauma from my body, and when I moved –and touched- in different ways. I felt free, light and joyful.
There have been times when I have felt entrapped, imprisoned in some adversary circumstances at home or at work. I notice the hot pressure behind my neck, the heaviness that brings my chest down and hunches my shoulders over the front of my trunk, the tight gripping sensation around my forehead and eyes, and I feel entrapped, imprisoned in my own body’s tension, unresolved trauma, and unexpressed selves. Could it be that my external prisons are mere projections of my internal one?
She brings me paper tissues, and lays her warm hands on my back. I am still crying: her yoga class has brought this catharsis and I am allowing it to happen, as quietly as I can so that I don’t disturb the others, and I keep breathing. The sun is out after who knows how long a time of heavy greys, and is now bathing the studio in a golden glow through the skylight.
Freedom and liberation, I think to myself, is an embodied affair.
And now, thank goodness, I am moving.