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listening to the voice of tension
Photography by robert sturman

listening to the voice of tension

by anita brown anita brown
Practice Yoga | Personal Story

Eat pray love author, Elizabeth Gilbert was on Oprah Soul Series talking about her month-long journey into meditation and silence where she went to battle with the thoughts in the head. She realized this was not a battle after all. These fears, voices of negativity, past mistakes and shame represent parts of herself that one could liken to the little girl pieces that are crying out for attention.

One wouldn't scold the child and berate her for her needs. After years of  trying what doesn't work, one might find that with patience, love and light these "little ones" quiet and settle down, eventually acknowledging that "Mother" knows best.

I too have had a similar experience in Centering Prayer meditation numerous times. My description felt more like the "ugly, dark pieces of lead" wanted to be transformed into GOLD. By sitting with the inner blaze, following my breath, I could trust the alchemy-like process.

On my mat this morning, for the first time I began to hear the cries of my tension and stiffness as voices needing my compassion and kindness. Normally, I advise students to send breath to the sensation arising in the various parts of the physical body. Now I see for me the healing potential in identifying the resistance with a name.

Inhale up- arms overhead feel expansive and notice tightness between the shoulders in the back of the heart. "Ahhhh you are grief". Well yes I feel the depth of your longing to be known my dear. You are like all the grief ever felt in this crazy, sad world. You are the grief of abandonment. A father never met in 49 years.

An emptiness desiring nothing but acknowledgement.

Deep and bottomless. With breath and love I hope you eventually find space to calm and then rest.

Runners lunge, exhale fold over right leg. Lengthen torso with breath. Engage root lock and steady. Yes I recognize you as the "inability to trust".  

I know, I know.... I have not always been trustworthy.  

Studying the balancing of the chakras I have learned this stems from the abandonment wound to the root chakra, the base of me. Muladhara: this place in the body should have experienced stability during childhood; but the little girl, me, didn't know why her father left her. She felt unloved and unworthy. She went looking for attention in the world as the ego dragged her around with its lame attempts at wholeness and healing. But the ego was disconnected from the True self. How do I know this? None of it worked!

I was only left feeling guilt and shame. Yes, these beauties must live in my hips. That near constant nagging tightness. Bring on pigeon pose: stay, stay with this unease. Breathing life and spaciousness into the hips feels so necessary.  

I'll bet you can guess what word my heart whispered in our very first night of yoga teacher training when asked to allow space for one word to arise that will represent my primary area of growth over the 7 months---  R O O T E D!!  What is even more fascinating is the fact that something within me throughout our coldest winter in years was calling me to go out and lie on the ground. And each time I did this, a low level of anxiety I had awakened with would dissipate.

At the time, I wanted a word like the other students: love, connection, compassion. Now I see the accuracy of this single word in continuing to heal my childhood trauma. In a state of deficiency the root chakra can manifest as digestive issues, infertility, anxiety, poor focus and boundary issues. I suffered from all of these while I was disconnected from my physical body.

I trust I will meet students who will benefit from hearing how yoga has helped me find peace and healing and more teachers who will guide me to deeper and deeper levels of connection to myself and others.

I look forward to hearing from you and how yoga is putting the pieces of you back together!! Sign-up to and submit your story.