Feeling into the whole: Relational Gestalt Practice
As I rise out of dancer pose I feel my breath and the sensations in muscles that have lengthened and supported me. I feel more unified, whole. When I lie down for the last pose, savasana, my muscles relax, my breath moves deeply into my body, my mind is quieter. I feel a sense of calm spaciousness, a meditative stillness that comes from concentrating on movement and breath and being fully aware in the moment.
Other practices compliment and deepen my yoga practice. One of these is Relational Gestalt. This practice helps me feel my emotions and thoughts expressing themselves in the tissues of my body. A main question is: can I experience the whole of who I am at this moment while in relationship with others?
We can all think we are each in our own bubble. However, in Gestalt practice I realize I am part of a greater whole. When I smile at the clerk in the grocery store I impact his day, and his response affects mine.
Before practicing Gestalt, even when I was doing yoga, I often remained in my head, analyzing the practice, creating thought-concepts of myself, the teacher, and others in the room. Gestalt practice has helped me become embodied, more fully awake to what I am experiencing, not what I “think” I “should” be experiencing based on prior knowledge — but what I am really sensing, feeling, in the here-and-now.
There were other times when I was practicing Gestalt awareness and didn’t realize it. As a mother, when I held my six-month-old son in my arms, I could become very present to the warmth of his little body, the smell of him, his expressions and touch. I was also in tune with the sensations inside me — a tenderness tingling around my heart, a tightness in my throat and a warmth in my belly — sensations I call love.
Often though, I get busy in my day and tune out. I don’t pay attention to what my body is telling me through sensations — about my emotions or stress. I am too busy thinking of my next task. And then I become directed by thought — I respond without physical and emotional awareness. I end up feeling disconnected from myself and others.
Meanwhile, my actions impact those around me. When I practice Gestalt in my yoga classes, I am aware of how I am feeling as I direct the class. I try to stay grounded in my body while at the same time watching and listening to my students. Can I remain aware of how my students’ movements, questions, responses to my direction impact me while also moving through the room in a way that influences them with care?
I have gone to Blues Fusion dance. Partners may take turns leading and following, but there is no question that how each person moves influences the other, impacts the flow of their dance together, and even affects all the others on the dance floor. We are part of a greater community.
Neuromovement therapist Kate Flore, who works locally with a variety of individuals, including professional athletes, said her practice of Relational Gestalt helps her put words to what she feels, tune into and communicate her emotions and her experiences.
“To play a song beautifully on the piano you need access to all the keys,” said Flore. “Gestalt has helped me to have access to more keys when I interact with others.”
Body practices like yoga, Pilates and dance help us feel into the sensations that come with movement, they help us tune into when we tense and when we relax. Gestalt helps us discover where emotions and thoughts manifest in the body. All these practices help build awareness of who we are in each moment and how we impact and are impacted by others. Gestalt has become an important part of the ongoing yoga practice that is my life. I believe, because of Gestalt, I live a much richer life now.
If you are interested in learning more about Relational Gestalt, Full Life Yoga Studio will be holding two workshops: Gestalt Play & Movement with Kate Flore and me on March 30 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Relational Gestalt Practice with Dorothy Charles April 26-28.
Tracy Lease, owner & director of Full Life Yoga Studio has a passion for teaching yoga, Pilates and mindfulness. An experienced registered yoga teacher and PMA certified Pilates teacher, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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