Is it weird that embracing the idea that I am not my body would make me actually take better care of my body? 'Cuz that's what's been happening with me.
On my drive back from Utah last month, I downloaded José Luis and Lena Steven's Power Path Training, which is like a weird mix of mindfullness, shamanic, and all around new-agey self-help excercises (because I am fully turning into that person) and one of the things they reiterate is this idea that "You are not your body, you are the rider; as a rider is to the horse." I don't know why this struck me as so powerful — it's certainly not the first time I've come across the idea (it's pretty much core to the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali) but putting it that way really seemed to click for me, and made it feel like something actionable and powerful.
If I had a horse, I would like to think that I'd be a good owner, that I'd exercise it, that I'd feed it well, etc. Since moving to San Francisco I've definitely been eating better, and I've been more active for sure — but none of this has been any sort of deliberate action taken by me, for health.
I've been sorely missing my kalaripayattu practice from Salt Lake, and been trying to find either 1) space to practice on my own, or 2) something similar to invest in. Kalari gave me such a unique perspective on my body, and gave me a much better relationship to it. In Philip Zarrilli's When the Body Becomes All Eyes he notes that shift as something to be anticipated with kalari:
Today's [Kalari] practitioner assumes a body in his practice, but 'the body' he assumes is a palimpsest of traditional assumptions about the body, practice and power...
Zarilli's use of the word palimpsest isn't accidental: the forms and body practices of kalari are so unique and so demanding that it forces you to abandon what you thought about your body and your relationship to it, and it really becomes something wholly new. And I've been looking for that body since moving.
To that end I did a few things. First, I signed up at a dojo here in the city. I've been taking kickboxing classes and interval & kettlebell training — the closest thing to kickboxing I'll probably ever come. The kickboxing really satisfied the group and martial aspect of kalari. I enjoy the physicality of it, and best of all, the dojo is open during the day for anyone to come in and use, and virtually no one does. So I've been heading in there and running through the lohars and the initial salutation forms from kalari on my lunch break at work.
Second, I signed up for a shadow yoga course with Scott Blossom. The practice of that has been very challenging, and pushes me the same way that kalari does. The physicality of the practice is demanding, but not in just the mechanical, brutish way kickboxing and strength training do. It's a disciplined, subtle practice, and the Balakrama prelude is brings the pranic focus that I've been missing.
Finally, I started a training routine with an app after seeing an ad on Facebook. It's very similar to what I'm already getting at the dojo, interval wise, but regimented and tailored to me, and puts me in a place to hold myself accountable where group class settings seldom do.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I'm in the dojo, in the heart of Soma, with its bright red floor, it's testosterone and ceremony; and Tuesdays and Thursdays I'm in the studio, deep in the Mission, with its warm, wooden floors, its shakti energy, and its rigor. These two spaces have become critical to me, and I am grateful for them.
So I'm trying. I've felt especially sluggish after all this summer travel — the combined effects of constant eating on the go (the only fast food I've eaten since May) plus all that sitting (in an airplane, in a car, on a train, in seminars and meetings and services and receptions; it's left me feeling like I'm made of soft, heavy clay. I'm trying to shake that off, to regain a quality more than a specific weight or fitness goal: I want to feel good about my body, I want it to respond to me without distress, I want it to be capable and strong. I want to be a good rider.