We always know when people ask “how are you?” if they mean it or not, but nowadays it is very seldom that people ask the question as a question instead of a greeting. Really, who asks a question as a greeting? Well, a lot of people apparently. So much so, that I’ve given up on answering most of the time. However, a few people I know are driven insane by my always asking things like, “how are you?” and “how do you feel?” Pregnant friends often get the latter. Sure nobody stops to wait for an answer anymore but call me crazy, I actually expect people to know how they are feeling. And not only do I ask, I’m quite happy to sit there and enquire not just of the big stuff, but of the tiny little changes like a niggle in a shoulder, or a slight change in appetite.
Honestly, ask me three years ago, and I would have had no idea how I was doing. The thing is, between greeting everyone else, and not waiting for an answer (because time is money and it’s all about how many people you can greet instead of the quality of your greeting) how many times a day do we check in and ask ourselves how we’re really doing? Is it hard? As Bryan Kest would say, “it’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy.” You see, sometimes checking in with yourself is the hardest thing to do. Sometimes, you might not like what you see, or rather, that bit of you that’s known as the ego, constantly judging and raising an eyebrow, might not like it.
Les Leventhal in his classes often ask questions like, “how’s your breath?” and “how’s your life?’ Obviously in a yoga class you wouldn’t pipe up with an answer. Well some people might, but after the fifth time when you’re sweating buckets you give up even trying. However, in the silence, when you’ve got your foot in an unlikely place and an arm in an even more unlikely place, and you’re pretty much stuck there, you have no choice but to answer the questions to yourself.
I used to wonder why yoga instructors asked these questions, and to tell you the truth, it used to annoy me. I mean, how the hell was I supposed to know what I was feeling? Why the hell are we holding this lunge for so long? What rubbish is this hippy talking about? Converse with my body? How in fuck’s name would I do that? How the fuck would I know if my breath is speaking to me? Bodies don’t speak! Oh yes, a lot of pretty dialogue was going on in my head back then. There was a lot of shit that I carried with me on to the yoga mat. To be honest, I still carry some shit into my yoga with me today, but I think I’m conscious of the shit now so it’s manageable.
It takes a while (and occasionally your instructors go blue from repeating the same thing over and over again) but at one point, you get it. Nobody knows how you’re feeling apart from you (duh!). Your instructor can tell you to put your hip somewhere and your arm somewhere else, but they don’t know how you’re feeling. When do you start speaking to your body? When you pull back instead of pull out. When you stop pushing yourself so hard that your heart is falling out of your chest. When you know that line between pain and discomfort, and you just dance within discomfort. When you can actually smile instead of wanting to punch your instructor. When you start feeling instead of thinking. When your ego decides to shut the fuck up.
Now that I’ve started trying to teach, I am always asking how this feels and that feels, where they feel the stretch, how their breath is doing. Yes, I am the one instructing and teaching, but the best teacher is your own body. Your body knows where it can go, and where it can stay. It’s not your brain going, “yes, go deeper in the pose.” Stop. Feel. Muz would say that it’s like stepping into a hot bath. You don’t just jump in and scald yourself. You test the temperature slowly, and feel if it’s a comfortable before you lay back. Sometimes it’s a smidgen too hot, but slowly your body temperature adjusts to it. It’s all a habit of starting a dialogue with your body and with your emotions. At some point, you get used to asking yourself these questions, and you continue asking yourself through the day. So please, stop, breathe, feel and consider – how’s your breath? How’s your life? How’s your heart? How the bloody fuck are you doing?