Flexible Mind, Flexible body
Reciprocal Yoga, a Mind-Body Connection
by Kathi Springman
In ancient times during the mummification process, the heart and the kidneys were left in the body, while the other organs were placed in jars. Two healthy kidneys are approximately the same weight as one healthy heart.
There are many ways in which the kidney and heart partnership appears in everyday yoga practices. An example of this is when a teacher cues the student to be aware of the inside of the body by saying, “In this pose, there is a marriage between the kidney and the heart.” This brings into focus the partnership happening within the body. Using this kind of technique can make the partnership even greater.
According to the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, “The kidneys receive special attention in the Bible as the seat of conscience, emotions, desire and wisdom. They are cited either before or after, but always in conjunction with the heart as mirrors of the psyche of the person.”
Many attributes that people think of in relation to the heart are also attributed to the kidneys. In classical acupuncture texts, the kidneys house the great wisdom given to us at birth, and yet the heart is associated with the core of who we are as individuals. This partnership between the kidneys and the heart marries the ancient wisdom with which we are born to the wisdom we learn through living out our life lessons.
Reciprocal yoga is about partnerships, or reciprocals. These partnerships are either inside the body or outside the body. When our internal partnerships are healthy, then our external partnerships can also be healthy and strong.
The heart acupuncture meridian and its associated pericardium (the membrane enclosing the heart) meridian flow through the shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands. The kidney meridian flows through hips, knees, ankles and feet. One may wonder why feet look like funny hands, why elbows resemble miniature knees, or how shoulders are similar to hips. These partners move and function in nearly identical ways, but the smaller ones are in the arms and the larger ones are in the legs.
Nearly every yoga pose incorporates these partners. A person may find that a pose is difficult to manage because he or she does not have enough flexibility or finds it uncomfortable. People should move at their own pace and within their own limits. If one is limited in movements, he or she can imagine the body at the full pose. At the same time, one should also remember the body and the partnerships between the shoulders and hips, elbows and knees, wrists and ankles, and the more internal partners, like the kidneys and heart. In a reciprocal yoga class, or when practicing at home, when one exits a pose, he or she should gently tap on the head to bring awareness to the brain and tap on the heart to store the new information in the body and mind.
Matthew Cook, M.D., taught the first reciprocal yoga class in 2007 at the International BodyTalk convention. During one session, there was a man that, in the beginning of the class, could not place his hands in prayer position at the heart level. His wrists had almost no flexibility. With each pose, the man focused on the partnerships of the wrists and ankles. In addition, for one hour this man imagined himself in the full position for every pose practiced. He did not push his limits at any time or risk an injury. He merely imagined himself where he wanted to be and accepted where he was in the moment without judgment. Each time he revisited the pose, he focused on the partnerships and was able to reach his goal.
Kathi Springman is an advanced certified BodyTalk and parama practitioner at The BodyTalk Center of Oklahoma, located at 1320 E. 9th St., Ste. 9, Edmond. For more information, call 405-216-3611 or visit OKBodyTalk.com.