Sandra Heider is a practising body psychotherapist, trained at CBPC, and also a yoga teacher. We were lucky enough to have her at our Afternoon Session at this year’s AGM and to discover how biodynamic practice informs her yoga teaching.
Some of us there had done lots of yoga, some still did yoga, and some not very much at all. But we were all biodynamic massage therapists and were intrigued to find out whether there could be a meeting between yoga (which one attendee described as a more ‘top-down, structured approach’ to physical practice) and biodynamic massage. How would it make it different?
Sandra’s approach was one of allowing ‘gentle curiosity’ with ourselves, as our bodies followed her instructions. How does it feel to constrict the breath in ujjayi breathing? How does it feel to wrap our arms and hands around each other and bring our elbows together? What is happening internally when we take on the detailed positioning of each part of the body? Bringing a level of attention to the internal aspects of taking a pose not only meant we worked more interoceptively but also with an added sense of taking care of ourselves. Often Sandra would remind us to relax our necks and heads – often forgotten when we are concentrating on aligning ourselves. Using our hands to hold our own heads as we came out of a pose also gave an added feeling of safety and care. In a way that is more typical in body psychotherapy, we also encouraged to make sounds and movement in the usually silent and still savasana (corpse) pose at the end of the session.
The session generated much discussion on the balance or co-relationship between outer and inner alignment. How much of either do we need? We like instructions but sometimes it can leave us needing more – a deeper investigation into what it is we are actually doing when we practise yoga. Can doing yoga practised in this way bring psycho-somatic changes similar to those experienced in biodynamic massage (Was anyone aware of their peristalsis?)?
One attendee felt that whilst yoga and biodynamic massage can be complementary, there would always be a certain tension between them even thought they both encourage a greater attention to our bodies, and a healthier way of being embodied. While Yoga seems to offer a more top-down, structured approach, biodynamics are always more to do with individual processes and comfort level.
For my own part, I hadn’t done much yoga for a few years – mainly because biodynamic training can do strange things to your internal sense of yourself. The deepening of the sense of embodiment, the creation of new neural pathways and connectivity across the body, interoceptive changes, both horizontally and vertically, had meant that what ‘I felt’ when I was doing yoga changed. Taking poses became much more provocative in terms of energy and sensation, and often over-whelming. So I stopped doing it and concentrated on my process.
This time it felt different, and perhaps reflected how far I have come in my training. Although I felt I have lost quite a lot of internal strength, control and containment, on the other hand I was able to approach it with a new openness and an ability to let go of control which felt quite crucial and important to me. There did seem to me to be a quite powerful connection between the two practices.
Overall, Sandra brought new and creative thinking and practice to our work, which is just what our Afternoon Sessions are all about! We are very appreciative of her teaching and wish her well as she develops her own practice.
Written by: Lindsey Nicholas, November 2016