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Pagan Ritual, Yoga and the Art of Change

March 10th, 2010

I’m focusing on writing for the next week so Maria has kindly agreed to contribute a guest blog post:

Pagan Ritual, Yoga and the Art of Change – Maria Ede-Weaving

As Pagans, when we perform ritual, we are using the magic of action and movement; our bodies expressing and re-enforcing the intention of our minds to embrace and honour change. In Pagan spiritual practice the body is perceived as sacred, and we try to challenge those cultural preconceptions that the mind and intellect are superior. With an understanding that we have all been influenced by the body/spirit split that still dominates much of our culture, we attempt to perceive of these parts of ourselves as more holistically interwoven – as extensions of each other – and in doing so, open ourselves to a deeper understanding of self and other.

For the last nine years I have practiced Yoga, more or less daily; it has been woven into my Druid and Pagan spiritual practice and seems to complement these incredibly well. I was first introduced to it many years ago when I was sixteen. I was training to be a dancer and liked the physical challenge of the poses. Through it I first encountered meditation and with these techniques brought myself out of a particularly awful three years, post my mother’s death. Over the years I have left and come back to it, something in me remembering and cherishing the experience of that initial encounter. Through it, I gained my first real understanding that transformation was possible and that I could play a central part in its unfolding in my life.

Now that I am much older, my relationship to my practice has deepened. Some people mistakenly assume that Yoga enables the mind to control the body, forcing it into unnatural positions to tame its unpredictable nature. But I have found that like ritual, Yoga is a dance between body, emotion, mind and spirit, a coming together of these in movement and breath, focus and stillness. It reaches for the flow within us.

Our bodies are an extraordinary miracle. Through them we access the material world around us via our senses; the body is the boundary that separates us from others and our environment but also our gateway to sensuous and intimate interaction with these. Our bodies are deeply responsive to our emotional lives and over time, our emotions can sculpt the shape of our physical selves, displaying our wounds and struggles to the world around us. If we leave our bodies out of our spiritual practice, the chances are we are cutting ourselves off from a valuable source of knowledge and potential for change.

After a Yoga session, I am often surprised by the emotions that surface within me as I relax on my mat. Unresolved emotions are often stored in our bodies. When we involve the body in spiritual practice, we enable many of these to be released and processed. Barely acknowledged emotional stuff can block the conscious efforts we make towards change; they can sabotage the conscious plans we have for ourselves. When the body speaks, when our emotional truths are fully heard, we stand a better chance of embracing healthy change in our lives; of being more conscious and aware of our actions and choices.

Loving to write, I am aware of how much my mind enjoys playing over abstract ideas. I often become caught up in the chatter of that internal dialogue, entranced by the construction of systems, the placing together of language that I might ‘know’ the world a little better. Both Yoga and Pagan ritual has enabled me to coax out of myself the often ignored voice of body and feeling. At these moments of connection and communication, I am given the opportunity to open to a greater personal authenticity in the relationship I have with myself. It is not always a comfortable moment, however, there is an intense relief when we allow the truth of our beings to emerge (warts and all) and express compassion and acceptance of this ever unfolding self; it is the trigger point of our most important, life-changing transformations.

We hide so much of ourselves (or is that just me?), fearing that to express ourselves as we truly are might lead to rejection. I think there is a great healing in letting the body speak; in allowing it to articulate our deepest, most profound needs. Without doing so, we cut ourselves off from true intimacy with others and our environment; we become severed from our core.

9 Responses to “Pagan Ritual, Yoga and the Art of Change”

  1. Wonderful post ! Wonderful wording !
    Thank you ! Just coming home from my yoga class (the same class for about 14 years)… I am integrating more and more spiritual dance in my practice. “coaxing out the voice of body and feeling”…I never realised before how many feelings can come loose by activating the body !
    French greetings.

  2. Thank you D’Arzhur! I am so pleased you liked my piece! My Yoga has always felt a form of spiritual dance for me too and yes, it is really amazing what surfaces when we engage more and more with our bodies. I find it so fascinating and also very touching because I think our bodies are very loyal to us, letting us know where we are at present and where we need to go, if we take the time to listen. The wonderful thing about a good Yoga session is that it gives us the space to truly hear.

    Your class sounds wonderful – wow 14 years – you must have a great teacher. Thank you so much for your lovely comment!

  3. Yes, you are so right! This is one thing that has drawn me to paganism–it’s embrace of the physical. Yet, I’ve found it difficult to articulate the reasons why as well as you have. Thank you!

    I, too, have some experience with yoga, and I was surprised, as you mentioned, at the emotions I would often detect during my practice. So many people think they are caring for their bodies when they are only scratching the surface. Our bodies have so much more to teach us, if we will only listen.

  4. Thank you Riverwolf! I also find the connection between breath and movement so fascinating too. The breathing exercises – plus remaining conscious and focused upon breathing during postures – can be a very powerful experience. When we breath and move mindfully, we help ourselves to become more embodied, feel more present in our lives. I love the idea of movement being a form of worship, meditation and prayer. I feel like I am discovering new things about myself all the time through my practice which is exciting and sometimes a little scary! I have been struggling with some health challenges of late and my practice has helped enormously in being able to engage with many of the emotional triggers behind these problems. You are so right – our bodies are infinitely wise, both in health and illness. Many thanks for your comment!

  5. Oh YES !!!

    How glad am I to be able to read and understand your words, I should say feel them in my body and soul, and learn a little more about you…

    Please never stop dancing with your body, emotion, mind, spirit, breath and also pencil, your words are a delight….

    hugs from South West France

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