External and Internal Choice

What does the term and concept – choice – mean to you?

English language definition: an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities

A core guiding principle within trauma-sensitive yoga (TSY) is choice – a concept within the western world and English language that comes with freedom, privilege, access…

The action of choosing asks us to be present in the moment…at least – perhaps more present than if being directed.

In TSY, choice is offered within any form (posture) leaving the student to exercise specific neuropathways necessary for choosing.  Often it involves a process of interoception – looking inwards – in order to decide which adaption to the form is most comfortable for them in that moment.

This got me wondering…

Asana, the physical practice of yoga can be done almost anywhere.  Many people have a home/self practice.  Often this route of practice demands more from the practitioner – such as choosing when to practice, deciding on the postures and sequence, creativity etc.  There is limited room for apathy.  Instead, there the presence of self-direction and discipline.

More frequently, people can be found at yoga and fitness studios.  People choose this in comparison to a home practice for a number of reasons – and I would like to place emphasis on two: a) to immerse themselves in classroom environment where motivation is increased within a collective experience, and b) people have an opportunity to focus on directions provided by a teacher.  After a busy day at work where one may be consistently bombarded with problem solving and decision-making, having a yoga experience that is directed and feels healthy could be refreshing.  This certainly may serve a number of people – and with no intent of diminishing that experience I invite you to consider this…

Many of those work day decisions were most likely externally focused – based upon factors separate and outside a person’s inner environment, decisions grounded in intellectual and logical reasoning.

What would the experience be – a person who has been making externally based decisions all day long, comes to a class that invites them to look inward to make choices based on what their bodily sensations were telling them?

Would this send them running in the other direction – too tired to look inward and ‘think’?

Would it strengthen their ability to make effective externally based decisions?

Could it contribute to expanding a practice of ahimsa (non violence), on and off their mat?

I make this distinction because within a TSY oriented class, choice is based upon looking within.  As options are provided, students are invited to choose an adaption of a form that feels most comfortable for them.  This supports the enhancement of self awareness, making decisions based upon bodily sensations – a foreign experience for a complex trauma survivor who’s power to make choices may have been significantly limited, and in order to survive, they tactfully disconnected and dissociated from any bodily sensations and emotions.

Challenging?

Challenging!

The journey of strengthening one’s capacity for making choices can be a matter of life and death for a trauma survivor – therefore the journey of incorporating yoga into their pathway of recovery is a testament to one’s resilience.

All this being said, going inward and exercising the practice of enhancing self-awareness is challenging, even for a person who does not have a traumatic past –

So consider if your “choosing muscles” could use some exercise, and if so – the internal or external pathways?

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2 thoughts on “External and Internal Choice

  1. A little late to the game here, but I like how you’re examining choice. One of the main take-aways from my training at Kripalu was giving yourself the permission to back off. I had practiced mostly a very vigorous style of Yoga, and I still really enjoy it. But being mindful of choice is huge. I never broke it down quite the way you do here. I work at a resident psychiatric treatment facility for children, where I teach Yoga and mentor youth. I talk about choices all the time. We provide external structure all the time, with the goal for each child to build internal structure. You’ve definitely got my wheels turning on other ways to reframe it for our kids, both in asana, and in mentoring them on building skills in their daily life.

    • Thanks for your reflective thoughts – never to late! I think the first ingredient for choice is to notice – a process of self inquiry of noticing and making choices based on what is noticed…and in order to notice, we need to be present – that’s the crux of choosing, the most challenging part!

      Exciting to hear you are reflective and working with youth in this way!

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