The Body and Yoga Therapy – No Substitute for Direct Experience
~Written by Lori VanBuggenum
When I was a kid, I loved to paint by numbers. The dark black outline created a sharp contrast to the empty spaces that awaited my choice of color. At times I would paint using the color that matched with the corresponding number and other times I would go rouge, using whatever color I wanted to fill-in empty space. The image outline created a framework for me to practice self-expression, be it guided by numbers or my own creative color inspiration. I find myself using the analogy of “paint-by-numbers” when explaining a Phoenix Rising session. While I provide the outline or the structure of the session, the “colors” the client brings to the mat determines the “painting.” The client is the artist and through the Phoenix Rising process I’m offering them a canvas to create their own unique, personally meaningful self-portrait. As a practitioner I’m responsible for providing moment-to-moment support for my client through my presence, supported yoga postures, and dialogue. The intention is to create an opportunity for them to access their own unique inner knowing and to connect how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to their daily life.
Despite my analogy at times I have struggled to feel like I’m adequately “explaining” Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. In all honesty, “explaining” a somatic modality seems doomed for failure from the start. How do you explain something that is rooted in and understood through the body? To explain by definition relies on description and I find that often my words end up falling short of capturing my lived experience.
While words often fail in adequately conveying my own experiences, they seem especially inadequate and unreliable when it comes to capturing the lived experiences of others. Take for example vision and seeing in color. Even something as subtle as variation in our rods and cones creates a difference in how we each experience color, let alone the immense variations of social and cultural circumstances that shape our individual lived experiences. So while I can try to explain my experience and you may be able to relate to it in your own way, your experience of the same situation will be different, even if only subtly, from mine. No two experiences are identically the same.
So what is it about the PRYT process that supports profound individual results across a spectrum of individual uniqueness? How is it that so many artists, each with their own colors and styles of painting, are supported within a single framework? While the details of our individual experiences may be different, as humans we share bio-physical-emotional processes that create our somatic or embodied experiences.
In her book, Molecules of Emotion, renowned molecular biologist, Candace Pert, explains the way peptides, short chains of amino acids, work to connect the body and mind in a network of shared information. The central theme of Pert’s book is that the peptides that flood our bodies are, in fact, molecules of emotion. Emotions, historically largely ignored within traditional science and medicine, are actually the key to understanding how the body and mind affect each other. For example, it’s through the emotion-modulating peptides that an embarrassing thought can cause blood vessels to dilate and turn our face crimson red. In the same way, the molecules of emotion can mobilize immune cells to destroy a tumor. Techniques like meditation, visualization, and yoga may also act as forces to set those molecules in action.
The analytical thinker in me finds Pert’s research to be fascinating and her writing accessible for my lay-scientific brain to understand. There is a curious part of me that desires to “know” how PRYT works and has begun to feel satiated, as I understand more about how these bio-physical-emotional processes work. Yet there is also the “feeler” part of me that doesn’t really care. This aspect of myself places a high value on what I can know through my own lived experience. PRYT has been a tremendous catalyst for my own personal growth and I know this even if I don’t completely understand why.
The more I study yoga and mindfulness, the more I appreciate how these two parts of myself, the analytical thinker and the feeler, support one another. I accept each as valid and also recognize how each in isolation can be limiting: my analytic mind is susceptible to egoist tendencies, and both my mind and body can become stuck in habit energies and conditioned patterns of being that become sources of distortion and blind spots.
PRYT has been instrumental for me to develop clarity and illuminate blind spots that I had previously been unaware that I was living from. These blind spots have often taken the form of limiting self-beliefs that are no longer accurate and in some cases never were. While developing an understanding of the bio-physiology is fascinating, and for some people helps to create credibility, such as understanding how peptides support communication between the mind and body, I find that it too falls short of directly experiencing the work. There is no substitute for one’s direct experience of their body.
So while I continue to explore how best to explain the PRYT process and hope that analogies, such as “paint-by-number” help to make it personally relatable, my explanation is guaranteed to fall short of adequately conveying your experience of PRYT. The best way to answer the question, “what is Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy,” is to experience a session with your local practitioner for a peptide-induced, personally unique experience in self-inquiry and personal growth. You truly are your own best teacher.
For more information about or to contact Lori VanBuggenum visit embodiedyogatherapy.com