By Bryonie Wise
The crowd falls quiet the moment I step onto my mat.
Each voice in my head, each thought, each distraction is stunned into silence—they pause, waiting to see what will happen next.
My toes, bright and red, shift around, as I root myself further into my purple mat, imagining that I’m sinking my feet deeper into the earth underneath.
My arms soften down by my sides as my spine stretches up through the crown of my head to touch the sky.
Breath comes, like a wave at first and then the familiar inhale and exhale, as if it was finding its way in through the soles of my feet, climbing up the length of my body.
My breath has the capacity to hold me, anchor me in place, as much as it has the ability to set me free.
The movement comes and I can hear the voice guiding me as I fold forward, like a waterfall, cascading over the tops of my hips; the voice is my teacher—me, the wisdom of my heart. The voice fills the room and then fades and the beat of my heart is the only sound, held by the gentle in-and-out of breath.
Palms ground, feet ground, belly lifts—the top of my head touches the front of the room and my heels push into the wall behind me; this ghost-like sensation inspires me to hug my muscles to the very bones of my legs.
I continue to move, I continue to breathe. Each part of me is engaged in this dance, this movement, fluid like water.
The crowd is still hushed, their eyes sparklingly with awe, for this is the body they’ve tortured and teased since I can remember. This is the body that was too fat, too thin, not strong enough; too many stretch marks and blossoming thighs—this is the body that we cut with a razor, to see it bleed, to see if that blood, that slice, would bring feeling.
And now, this body—my body—is transformed into something magical.
I inhale and float my left leg toward the sky, grounding my palms further into the mat, pressing my right heel towards the ground; as I exhale, I open up my hips, working my shoulders to square with the top of my mat—breath finds its way from the palm of my left hand, all the way up the length of my side body, working it’s way into the layers of tightness and tension and sadness and joy my bones hold onto.
I inhale again, basking in the strength of this body, put down so often, hidden away, shy and embarrassed—it’s never looked like the ones I used to obsess over in the magazines that I stopped buying a few years ago—my silent boycott of society’s definition of perfect pushed on me and you from the age of birth. It’s never been perfect and my shoulders are too wide and my ribs pop out and I used to wish my legs were long and slim, and for a belly that didn’t jiggle.
Moving through sides is like swimming through water, sleek as silk; my mother used to say when she jumped into our pool at night—This water feels like silk on my body.
I feel this now as I move, breath steady, sweat starting to drip down my back, I can feel my body getting stronger still—and I flow and I fold and I reach and I feel each movement from the tips of my fingers to the tops of my toes.
The crowd in my mind is enraptured now; I drink in their gaze and check in with my ego—am I still here, still present? Am I in this body, the one that was once battered and bruised by this very heart, these very hands?
My eyes are closed and I know that I am here, this is me. The real me, the one I hold in my heart; this is the me I want to be each moment of the day but I hold her back as I fear that her depth might frighten people away.
And then that thought goes and I’m still moving and breathing—the warriors all make me feel invincible and when I settle into my invisible chair I can feel the fierceness and fire alive as my thighs burn and I sink deeper still.
A swan dive forward relieves the heat and relief washes over me; there is always a point when I feel I could keep moving forever. Each practice is new and unique and its own; I find a new place each time I step into this world, onto this mat.
I am sweating up a storm and the desire to keep moving and moving holds until it’s time to come down to the ground and I feel my bones settle again.
The crowd has lost their voice because this being has transformed before their eyes and there is nothing they can say now that will make her—make me—weaker or less-than anything in this world.
Backbends are where heaven resides—I almost can’t wait to get there but I know that building up, building heat, building space into this body will help me to explore the bottom of the ocean—I will be able to go to a place I dream of at night.
I must have patience, I must take my time; despite my desire to rush and speed up, I’ve been down that road before and I know the injury and pain that lurks around the bend.
So, slowly (oh so slowly) I work my way up—small movements and gradually I lift myself enough to drop my forearms onto the ground and wrap them around my head. My head floats up and my perspective has changed; I forget that there were voices to begin with.
My rib cage is laughing with the joy of the sheer amount of space it can find here; my lungs are whistling with glee—breath, this essential, basic thing is happily finding new spaces to explore.
I slowly start to inch my feet together and then feel that familiar pinch in my lower back; this is where I must pause and breath and root down further through my big toes, allowing gravity to work her magic along my inner thighs.
Breath moves, body moves, and I am on a cloud.
This is who you are and this is the love that I am capable of, I can hear beating in my heart and in my ear drums.
This is who you are.
You were made to love and be loved and share love and give love.
You were made to feel and think and create and dance and laugh!
You were made to cry and feel sorrow and despair.
This is who you are.
I grace the ground with each bone of my spine, placing one hand on my heart (love) and one hand on my belly (truth) as I touch down, closing my eyes to listen to the vibration of my cells as they resettle themselves.
(I have learned to pause here, in this moment-between-moments, to savour the sensation of cracking open.)
A few simple closing postures—a twist to wring myself out and hug my insides—before I make my way into a seat, clearing the flesh from my sit-bones so they take root, eyes and breath softening in this place of stillness.
Some days, I will have found tears and some days, laughter—gratitude floods me for this body and this breath and the ability to move both. It doesn’t matter who showed up today for all of the parts are me and I am learning to love them equally.
*This piece has been adapted from the original, which can be found here.
Editor: Dana Gornall