Off the Mat: Water as Self-Care

How Things Work

What makes the car stop? How are car brakes different from bicycle brakes? Train brakes? Roller coasters? How do hydraulics work?

These questions pepper my days these days. Raised for sugar, spice, and everything nice, my mechanical engineering knowledge is woefully inadequate. Thankfully, in his updated masterpiece on machines, The Way Things Work Now, author David Macaulay and his illustrated mastodons describe the inner workings of the toilet tank, stapler, and radio, along with Wifi and RAM. And hydraulics.

I’ve been reading about the power of pressure. When a fluid is compressed, it exerts pressure in all directions.  A container not strong enough to withstand the pressure will leak or otherwise be damaged. Properly contained, the fluid will transfer the force of its power into the world around it.

While my boy designs roller coasters in his imagination, mine wanders to pressures that are less entertaining in their ups and downs. When does my stress leak out? Sometimes in tears surely, but more often in short-tempered bursts about dirty socks in the hallway again and you always and don’t interrupt. How does my tension damage my container? The telltale hot zing of pain two inches behind my left ear, the last bastion of life long neck pain that flares when I’m sick, tired, or otherwise not taking preventive measures to care for myself.

Yoga’s physical exercises help me harness my power. When I stiffen my neck to avoid pain, I end up creating more sore spots, not fewer. So I am learning to interpret the signals that pain sends.  I have more energy for what I love when I’m not using my energy to shy away from pain.

Blocking my tears, my anger, my fears, has too often turned pressure inward, blocking my vision, my voice, my power. Anger and fear too often generate anxiety and exhaustion, overwhelming me. I was not taught the alchemy of turning pressure into power. Anger was unladylike. Speaking up or out was a no-no.

In our current, chaotic climate – whether defined by fires and floods or tweets and TV news – I know I’m not alone in feeling the unleashed power of fear and its ugly offspring, hatred. I am only just beginning to learn to view pressure not as threat, but as power source, a dam with energy behind it.

World renowned meditation teacher Pema Chodron shares power of transformative meditation, called Tonglen in her Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I can use my breath to focus on the here and now. Rather than avoiding the parts of life that stress, scare, or startle me, I can accept fear as part of the mix. I harness the power of imagination:

Breathe in the sensations of heavy, hot air. Breathe out light, cool air.

Breathe in the pain and suffering in the world around me. Breathe out blessing, healing, and relief.

Breathe in fear.  Breathe out acceptance.

Energize myself to act from the powerhouse of my heart.

[Photo Credit: Kelley Voegelin Yoga]


Ginny Hamilton

Ginny is a yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, gardener, activist, and middle aged Mama. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. She believes our natural state is to be balanced in body and mind so spirit can flow freely. Because modern life gets in the way, she offers self-healing bodywork to unravel imbalances and restore energy flow. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: