MindBodyBrew is ultimately about providing a space for written reflection at every step along the yoga path. We hope that by sharing assignments from our Foundation and Yoga Pedagogy students, we can expand their deep investigation into community-wide dialogue. The following is a piece written by one of our newest, current students, Megan Doughty, about a recent yoga class with TaraMarie Perri.
In architectural drawings, a centerline is indicated by a dash/dot line that extends out of an intersecting C and L. This symbol has always been one of my favorite drawing symbols because it’s clever (the C and L intersect each other at their own centerlines making it a code that can be read even by those who don’t know its meaning) and it’s exceptionally simple but able to convey a great deal of information and organize an entire building. The centerline symbol is used at every scale, from locating alignment of massive structures that literally hold the building up, to indicating the smallest of details such as where to drill an ⅛” hole inside a wall cabinet.
I spend a lot of time extending dash/dot lines through columns, 2x4s, and hinges, but have never thought about superimposing this symbolic guideline over my body, mind, and yoga practice—that is until Marissa’s class on mindfulness and centerlines at Steps. As we began class and were encouraged to be mindful of finding and engaging with our various whole body centerlines by rocking and bending from side to side, front to back, and head to toe, I started to envision drawing that dash/dot line through myself at each of these axes. With the progression of the practice and frequent reminders to bring mindfulness to our centerlines in a variety of ways—through our breath, through the use of props, through external and internal rotation, through activation of the inner thighs, through extensions of the limbs, through the ground—I found myself drawing all over my body in all different directions. There were lines extending through my shoulder blades, out my fingers, across my eyes, up my legs, and through my joints.
As I was mentally marking up my body from the large scale spine and pelvis to the small scale joints of my toes and centers of my ears, I realized that being mindful of these various centerlines allows us to organize and align our bodies so that they can be structural systems of support at any scale, much like buildings. For me, the centerlines became guidelines for balance and strength throughout asana, flow sequences, and transitions. They became reminders to fully work through postures by thinking of their expressions on every level, from their foundations down to the smallest of details; they became points of reference from which I could safely depart in exploration, because I knew where to return to for grounding and stability.
Thinking about my body as a drawing sent me back to Yoga Anatomy, and sure enough, Kaminoff and Matthews do at times annotate their drawings with centerlines, axes, and points of gravity. They also begin their discussion of the spine and its evolution by talking about how as organisms increased in complexity, they developed spinal structures and skeletal systems out of a need for “central organization and guidance” and out of a need for “a structure that allows for free movement but is stable enough to offer protection."
As class began to slow down, Marissa emphasized the importance of mindfulness not only in our yoga practice but also in our everyday lives. She encouraged us to take the time in our days or weeks to practice mindfulness, because much like a muscle, mindfulness must be used and stretched in order for it to get stronger. Admittedly, I’m not exactly sure how to do that yet. I understood it when applied to a familiar and practical concept in class, but mindfulness is relatively new to me and I often find it difficult, uncomfortable, and tiring. It’s reassuring, however, to think of it as an evolving process, and that much like (as Kaminoff and Matthews point out) spines evolved in our species in order to provide organization, guidance, structure, protection, stability, and freedom of movement, mindfulness must also evolve inside us in order to provide that same organization, guidance, structure, protection, stability, and freedom of movement for the mind—especially as our lives and the world around us get more and more complex. And if centerlines can be used as guidelines to locate these concepts in the physical body, I imagine they can be used as guidelines for our mental, emotional, and spiritual lives.
Since Marissa’s class, I have been thinking a lot about where to draw my dash/dot lines in my personal life in order to give myself datums that are always with me, no matter where I am, so that when I stray too far from my center and lose my balance, I can use mindfulness to return to those centerlines and once again find organization, stability, and support.
Photo by Flickr user