Interview with Torrey Baldwin, Wildbridge Institute
By Emily Rolando, Life Alive Collaborative, May 2015
Q: Tell me a bit more about Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy - what have you learned about yourself and others from increasing your level of yoga teacher training in this way?
A: I was fortunate to start my yoga training at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts - I think I had only taken maybe a few yoga classes over the years before moving to Kripalu for 16 months - I tend to go big when I do things. What I took away most from that time was this newfound experience of not just doing what i was “supposed to” but listening to what my body - my deeper self - wanted - movement, stillness, expansion, contraction. This was a really newfound concept for me given my upbringing. Training and working with Phoenix Rising took that experience and expanded it. It involves learning to listen really deeply to the experiences of the body and noticing how that experience relates to all the other aspects of what might be going on in our life. How we do one thing is how we doing anything - and it’s amazing to discover how a catch in breath, resistance in a muscle, relaxation or tension - is a manifestation of a pattern that we might not have realized was there. And at the same time, there’s incredibly deep inner wisdom within us we can access in the same way to resolve these patterns. A Phoenix Rising session uses the body to access both these patterns and forms of resolution, through assisted postures and dialogue. For me - someone who grew up operating from a very heady place, to be able to bypass my head, which could just talk itself in circles, and bring other aspects of myself into the conversation, has felt revolutionary and healing. And working with other, I’ve been amazed by the deep wisdom that people can access effortlessly, when just “thinking” has left them paralyzed or stuck.
Q: What are a few concrete ways you recommend people to tap into their own body wisdom?
A: That’s a great question. Personally, I like to start small. Even though I’ve been profoundly affected by this way of connecting, it’s difficult to make happen at times, and I get swept away by life and the dominance of my head. This year, one of the things I’ve committed to is starting every day by listening to one full breath, and hearing what it has to tell me. Sometimes it just tells me that I’m alive, other times I notice a catch or shallowness and it informs me of some anxiety or blockage, which I can be curious about. But one breath is something that I can commit to - it might stop there, but often it opens me up into curiosity about other aspects of myself, and I find myself moving onto my mat, listening to my muscles and how they want to move or be still. The trick is just to start listening - and I often find that there’s often a lot that wants to be heard. There’s also a deep place within us that often has profound wisdom, if we take a moment to ask and listen. When there’s some conflict or situation that has come up that feels insurmountable or confusing, try taking a quiet moment to seek out a deep place of wisdom, underneath rational thought. If that’s hard to do, just imagine that that place did exist - that’s just as good! And listen for a message - if it doesn’t come, imagine what the message would be, if there was one. Again, that’s just as good! I’m often blown away by how such a place within me, or within others, can just cut through the convolutions that our minds take.
Q: Are there different recommendations you would have for someone who wants to become more in tune with what their heart and the wisdom it may have?
A: One can cut through and just ask and listen to inner wisdom, but the body is a really amazing entryway in. I think it may have been really difficult for me to do the type of meditation I just described at the time that I started yoga - I didn’t have access to that part of myself. And there’s a reason that meditation takes place at the end of a Phoenix Rising session, after an hour and a half of movement. Our bodies our huge in our existence - we are lucky enough live our lives in this concrete bag of feeling!! And so starting just with “how does my body want to move right now? does it want to sit? lay down? stretch open? contract? flow or be jerky?” is an amazing point of entry. Start there and see where it goes. And seek out a community of others who you can explore this with!
Q: Working with so many different types of people, what are some ways you have seen people really come into their own or connect with their true self?
A: I’ll stay with the yoga therapy work, because that’s what we’ve been talking about. I think I’m always amazed when I witness the light go on - a client may have an entire session where they’re noticing what’s happening in their body, but it ends there. And then in the final moments they might see how that bodily sensation represents this huge life theme! For instance, a client might focus on how productive each stretch is - how much they’re getting out of each pose. If I ask them about a place in themselves that feels "other than" - not productive - they draw a blank, or start speaking about how flexible their wrists feel. When I ask how these things are different, the light comes on - suddenly he or she sees their focus on productivity in their life - how much they are at the mercy of this unending drive to succeed, to produce, and how this might take them away from their true gifts or path. These aha moments are amazing to see and experience.
Q: The biggest theme of Life Alive Collaborative is living your best life, I know this is something you intentionally incorporate into your life. What are some personal practices you have that help you do this?
A: I have a hard time with regular practices, honestly - I have an allergy to self-imposed routine! Which is probably why I spent a year and a half at a yoga center. And yet I know how important it is to my sanity - or general well-being. Making commitments with someone else to keep me accountable is helpful - I do this with my husband. I find that in this age I need to stay away from the suck of technology, or I can get lost in it. I have a practice right now of not accessing any of it after 6pm - my life is better lived - feels more real and tangible - away from my computer, honestly. There’s plenty I can do away from e-mail. Earlier I spoke to listening to my breath in the morning - starting small to something that even I can commit to, and going from there. And I find the need to be part of a community - to connect with others’ inspiration. I do this in some way every Sunday, whether it’s a Quaker meeting, a yoga class, a group meditation, etc.
Q: A final wisdom nugget for the ladies?
A: I have 2 favorite quotes: The first is tattooed on the leg of a friend of mine from when I lived at Kripalu. It reads in this beautiful script, “you are exactly where you need to be.” This is probably the bit of advice I have come back to the most. Exactly where I am right now is perfect - there’s nothing to regret, as hard as those things may have been or be, because it’s all leading to exactly the right place for me and my soul. And second, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience,” written by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in 1955. When I remember to remember this, I’m always blown away by gratitude, that I get to be on this earth, experiencing life, experiencing this amazing body, right now, with all of its ups and downs. I’m so lucky! And isn’t gratitude a wonderful thing to remember...