13 Dec Taking Form
As I was watching the constantly changing shape of waves and weather at the central Oregon coast this past weekend, the word “form” popped into my head. As in: taking form, the form of things.
The obvious: forms in yoga
We play with form a lot when we practice yoga. Isn’t this what the yoga poses are? Forms we take with our bodies. The poses are all different ways we organize our joints to make shapes we inhabit with intentional breath.
That is, we put ourselves into an unusual position and we live inside it for a couple inhales and exhales. Within the form, we feel what we feel. The changing shapes require different parts of our bodies to be strong, stretched, grounded or mobile.
In some our breath is restricted and in others it feels open and easy. Neither is necessarily better, it’s all just a mindful exploration of experience.
It’s kind of obvious the different forms our bodies take as we move through life. At the very least, we’re either laying down, sitting, or standing.
It’s also fairly obvious that our moods take different forms. Some days we’re up, others we’re down.
The less obvious: forms of our personalities
What about our personalities? Do you ever feel like a chameleon; like different people bring out different aspects of your personality? Are you the exact same you in a formal setting as you are casually at home with friends or when you’re by yourself? Maybe. Maybe not.
This is part of the reason I like (forcing myself to) meet new people and make new friends. I fell into the habit moving around a lot as an adult. Contrary to how I seem to other people, I’m terribly insecure in social situations and have a lot of anxiety around groups of people (whether I know them already or they’re strangers).
But wow! There are parts of me I’d never get to know if I didn’t have all different kinds of people to interact with. Because the form of my personality absolutely changes depending on the situation.
Manipulation or empathy?
Partly because as a neurotypical human I have mirror neurons that automatically create a sort of copying motif when communicating with someone else. They cross their arms and I’m likely compelled to cross mine. They lean back in their seat and something settles me backwards, too.
Another reason is my motivation: I want people to like me so I’m on my best behavior, or a version of “best behavior” I’m real-time customizing for the person I’m trying to make friends with.
It may sound manipulative, but it’s also empathetic. We’re picking up on each other, and modifying our behavior for social cohesion. It’s a human need to do so.
I know you know that humans are social creatures. And unless there’s a rupture in society (cough), we try to be part of the group. Maybe that’s why these days I see so many people trying very hard NOT to be a part of that group. God forbid we get kicked out of ours. It’s survival.
Yoga is real-world training
So here’s a bit about the magic of yoga. Some of the yoga pose forms we take aren’t the most comfortable. We feel compressed, not able to fully express ourselves. Stuck in some way, or borderline incapable of making the shape. We try and we fail, we wobble and fall. This is practice.
Friends, does this not sound like being a social human to you? Is it just me that feels like a mess around other people? I don’t think the feeling I get around close friends would mean so much if there wasn’t such a contrast to the discomfort (however exciting) I feel around new people.
What’s cool is, every once in a while one of the new people becomes a comfortable close friend. And with each new friend I make, I feel more “me” on a daily basis.
I need the containers of other people’s presence to feel alive. I’m human. It’s just how it is.
Remembering to breathe in the container of a yoga class translates to remembering to breathe in the outside world. When it’s not eagle arms that’s making me feel short of breath, it’s trying to remember your name you just told me 🤦🏻♀️ ::face palm::