Authentic Movement, Yoga & Healing by Jaime Stover Schmitt

I call my work yoga movement therapy. It is concerned with personal evolution, which to me is a continuum that includes healing. For this yoga provides a very big context in that healing can be thought of as a process of spiritual development. A healing process may be thrust upon us in the form of illness, or we may voluntarily open to ways in which we can learn, change and grow. Difficulties we face in various aspects of our lives such as in relationships, health issues, even finances can be thought of as earmarked areas for personal growth. Authentic Movement is an invaluable part of this healing-growing continuum because through it we are able to step out of our ordinary orientation and develop a manner of perceiving that invites an even greater inclusiveness. Over the past thirty years of engaging in this work, I have come to believe that this manner of stepping out of ordinary consciousness is a necessary element of the healing process. Shifting our way of perceiving from a pedestrian orientation to a non-linear, non-logical, non-causal context frees us temporarily from the strategies we have in place for getting along in our lives. When we move beyond these strictures, we can open to new possibilities on many levels.

Not too long ago people in the U.S. thought of yoga practice as an embodied method for inner work; a way to learn about and consciously work through personal impediments to one’s fullest potential. For instance one aspect of yoga, posture practice can be a way to learn about personal mythology through the associations made while holding a pose, similar to what can be experienced while moving. I am sad to see the superficiality of commodified yoga exclude dimensions of inner work, transformation and development of autonomy.

Based on this lack of understanding, a “do it right” attitude toward yoga practice has become the current norm. Students who don’t measure up are sometimes criticized and unfortunately even humiliated in class. This causes students to become defensive. If you are defending because you’re anticipating criticism there’s no opening to being playful, so you will not learn anything new. From studying cellular biology I learned that even the simplest form of life, a single cell, cannot exhibit a protection response and a growth response at the same time. It’s going to be one or the other. The cell that has the greatest capacity for awareness and receptivity is most adaptive and able to thrive. It evolves through this process into an even more intelligent way of being. This is true for us too. When we are defending we are not receptive which results in our perceptions being quite limited. Our understanding as a result will be far less inclusive. We end up reinforcing our conditioning instead of releasing it into a state of expansiveness. If a state of receptivity is necessary for learning, then it may well be life saving when it comes to the changes needed for healing to occur.

Once the shift to a non-ordinary consciousness is made, I believe the next step in the healing process concerns trust. In AM it begins as an ability to trust the form and the witness, similarly in therapeutic work it entails trusting the method as well as the therapist employing the method. But at a deeper level this step is about faith. Faith is a loan without a promissory note; it implies risk. We each have our own way of assessing risk. Our worldview comes into play as we weigh what might be possible against what is at stake. Here again AM affords a marvelous opportunity to become familiar with the unknown and to cultivate comfort with the uncontrollable. And in life really there is very little that is fully known or ultimately controllable, it only appears so through the filter of the comfort-concerned cocoon of ordinary reality.

This act of faith is both an attempt to extend our zone of comfort and an opening to discomfort. We project a positive receptivity onto the unknown while at the same time surrender to that which is beyond our control. In healing, this produces a sense of direction even when one cannot be rationally ascertained. We may feel we are in a no-man’s-land but we grasp there is a purpose to it. It is not about lying to oneself or denying one’s situation, it is about walking the knife-edge between consensus reality and wonderment. AM allows us to move into this necessary state of wonderment so that we can progress along our path toward wholeness.

© 2007 Jaime Stover Schmitt, Ed.D., C.M.A., S.M.E., I.D.M.E., R.Y.T.


Elizabeth from Averill Park said...

"even the simplest form of life, a single cell, cannot exhibit a protection response and a growth response at the same time."

I so appreciate when I am able to drop into that playful space that feels like thriving instead of defending. Thanks for this well stated reminder of one of the many benefits of AM.

Anonymous said...

really enjoyed your take on AM...what a different world it would be if we all walked that line..thanks
liz windrover from amherst, ma

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all of your writings.
The intention of extending the zone of comfort is a beautiful concept. This seems similar to the goal of kindness which the Dalai Lama likes to talk about.