Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Soft Is the New Strong

“My words are the garment of what I shall never be. Like the tucked sleeve of a one-armed boy.”
W.S. Merwin

This is the ongoing negotiation of my life. My aim: to try to get it right. To find the “right” words. But I don’t know if I will ever ever feel finished. I may always feel like I am a work in progress.


Sometimes I feel like I am just beginning even when I am so exhausted I don’t know where to begin. 

Today I felt years of trauma rise up while practicing asana. I was carefully attuning to my body and my breath. What I noticed continually was that I found it difficult to relax the back of my neck which is not at all surprising to me since I have a titanium plate inside.

My breathing would get heavier when relaxing was harder for me and I used breathing as my guide to help me.

Something happened later.

We were asked to do Urdhva dhanurasana with our hands on blocks and the instructions were very slow, careful and precise. In my earlier studies of yoga, I learned that the focal point of this particular pose resided in the pelvis. That seemed very intuitive to me.

After pressing onto the top of my head and then pushing up into the pose, I moved my forearms closer to the wall and then carefully came down the same way I came up. 

For my second attempt, I did a supported version with blocks, resting my spine on one block and my head on another and I closed my eyes. Then I repeated the first version for my third backbend.

After the third, I began to weep.

What was held in my pelvis felt like blockage in my neck and subsequently, I began to experience enormous pain.

The tears just began to pour.

Four surgeries. So much trauma held inside my body from three hip surgeries, a cervical spinal fusion, and a shoulder manipulation all under anesthesia, all in the span of three years. 

The lumbar spine and the cervical spine have the same curve.

The second chakra and the fifth were going ballistic. No. They were crying out for compassion love, tenderness and care.

The Second Chakra, located in the pelvis and associated with the color orange, has to do with one’s own place in the world, the architecture of your soul. How you see your karma. Your emotional identity. Pleasure and pain, desire. How you experience boundaries, attachments, bonding patterns, nurturance, shadows, and sexuality.

I am holding a lot of emotion in this Chakra after three surgeries and ongoing pain.

But the place I felt erupting was in my neck, the Fifth Chakra, the Throat Chakra, associated with the color blue, the Chakra of Purification and Sound.

The tears just began to fall and inside I could literally hear myself wailing for the historic trauma that still lay dormant inside my body which is screaming to come out.

Sound purifies. Speaking your truth purifies a situation, it purifies karma. But by not being able to speak or unpack your truth, we lead ourselves to a state of dis-ease.

The function of the Fifth Chakra is to achieve harmony.


So. Maybe the backbend was meant to help me come back to myself. I know during this new stage of re-discovering asana, that I do a lot of sitting out. That my body says “no” to many poses which are on offer because they are just no longer appropriate for this new configuration in my pelvis, in my neck and in my shoulders. And accepting this new configuration is precisely what there is to do. 

Sometimes, our bodies simply open us up to places which have been locked inside because we have been trying to survive them for so long. Sometimes, pain is just pain. But the connection between the Second, emotional identity and the Fifth, giving it voice, is just too great, that I would imagine others have this experience in various forms as well.

Just two days ago, Oprah tweeted, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” I know that to be true. But I have been trying very hard to unlearn this one. To not have this be my only choice or have it continually be my default mode. 

I think when your body signals you in such a way that your emotions cry out, it is a huge moment to take pause to see what is screaming to be heard. 

For me, it was a maelstrom of blockages backing up and saying “Enough strong.”
“It’s okay to grieve what you have lost, but it is time to stop gripping so hard. It is time.” 
“Maybe you need to trust that being strong is not the only choice you have anymore. It’s time to surrender and see what comes.” 

So, this is one of the ways pain is a gift and a teacher. And love… ever-present. Because love is the tender key which helps me find my strength and my softness. 

Love to all.


Jill Bacharach