I have had eczema on my skin for most of my life. Louise Hay is a motivational author and works a lot with affirmations. Growing up, my mom had her book You Can Heal Your Life, in which she links physical symptoms with emotions, thoughts, and mental patterns and then provides an affirmation for each symptom. As a kid, I would always flip to the page for eczema. One of the mental patterns listed for eczema was “breathtaking antagonism”. For years this utterly confused me. I really had no idea what this phrase meant.
And then a couple of years ago it finally dawned on me! When my boundaries are crossed and I am angry, yet I don’t get to express it or change my situation, I feel like my breath has been taken away. On a chronic level, this repressed anger and feeling of dis-empowerment has shaped my physiology and mental outlook on life. Breathtaking antagonism. This literal, in my body, in my flesh, in my muscles, breathlessness causes tension and lack of movement. In my low back, in my hips, in my chest, in my jaw, in my psoas, in my feet. I can only imagine the stress and undernourishment that comes from decreased levels of oxygen to the organs, cells, and tissues in these areas where memories, hurt, fear, and repressed anger are causing me to “lock up,” stiffen, and loose feeling.
These days in my yoga practice, I am very curious about watching what happens when bringing the breath back to those places where it has left the body. After warming up by spending a lot of time finding my breath in less challenging, less effortful postures, I move through some more challenging postures. As my body starts to heat up and my blood starts moving, sensation becomes more and more intense. This is where I utilize gentleness and choice to navigate when to move in, when to pull back, when to adjust, when to push, and when to rest. The sensation that arises in those challenging poses or moments feels complex. Many times I am flooded with an overwhelming bundle of sensation and emotion that I don’t have names for. Thoughts will swarm and sting me like wasps, telling me many negative things about myself.
The more I am gentle with myself and give myself choice and agency in the challenge, the more safety I feel to be patient with these feelings. To witness them and allow them to begin to become more clear and identifiable. My breath is always the guiding factor. When I am attempting something challenging and I am using effort to the point that my body is so tense I forget to breathe, I know that it is time to pull back or shift and relocate my breathing; to find more balance, where tension is supporting breath, not restricting it; where my alignment is allowing for relaxation.
And each day is different. Sometimes that adjustment to find the breath again means laying down in Corpse Posture, sometimes it means simply lessening the bend in my knees. Each day, different postures are challenging in different ways. Louise Hay’s affirmation for eczema is: Love and peace, harmony and joy surround and indwell me. I am safe. The more I track that balance and integrity of tension and relaxation, the more I find the states of love, peace, harmony and joy expanding with the freedom of my breath. These states are like a container that can hold the wilderness of feeling that is ever emerging in intensity and complexity.
I invite you to respond to the story I shared in this post using an empathic response practice called Resonance.
Through the Embodied Leadership Project, I use storytelling to share information about emotions, feeling, embodiment, relationship and leadership. Resonance is an empathic response practice that I learned from Relational Uprising. (http://relationaluprising.org/)
Use the comment section to share the places in my post that you felt moved. This could mean that you had the same experience as me, but it doesn’t have to. Resonance is sharing where you felt right there with me. It isn’t sharing your own story or giving advice. You can say something like “I felt right there with you when you wrote…” or “I was moved when you mentioned…” or “I really resonated with your experience of…” or use language that works for you! In person when doing storytelling we usually leave it at that. However, if you do have questions, comments or additional things to share, I invite you to add those things after your resonant response! Thank you for reading and lots of love,