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Wholeness, re-membered

embodiment May 05, 2017
“My life has seemingly walked three parallel paths, each singing me Home; dance and yoga (different, yet the same), science, spirit. Oh, and art,” writes Narelle Carter-Quinlan.

By Narelle Carter-Quinlan



 
I’m cold. And wet. I can’t get the sensation of my body as living kelp, out of my head – or more accurately, out of my legs – as I walk back to the change room from my swimming lesson. I feel like I’m living in a kaleidoscope, between two worlds. All there is, is this body of sensation. All there is, is this burning question, which will remain with me for decades; ‘how does the bit that’s really me, get to be here in a physical body?’ Consciousness. Incarnate. It seems preposterous. Yet it ignites me!

I am five years old.

This connection that runs like a river, right through me. 

 

Salt and sandstone

Living near the beach, in Sydney, the sun and salt and sandstone spun itself into my skin. Layered itself through my bones. Ocean and sea grasses weeded their way through my entire fabric, until I didn’t know how to move, or breathe, in a way that was separate, or individuated, from my environment. We were one and the same.

An embodied ecology.

The other neighbourhood five and six-year-old kids are playing in the street. And my parents are cajoling me to go outside, join in their bike riding and ball games. But I’m searingly involved with something else. I’m on the lounge room floor, my body in a shape I will, much later, learn to call eka pada rajakapotasana, and, as I flex and turn my ankle, my mind is agape at the shift in sensation in my hip. This connection that runs like a river, right through me.

What I did know, was compelling curiosity about why my body, and my awareness of myself, changed as I moved through space, exploring shape and line and relationship, one part to another. Time suspended. 

 

Wholeness – and cutting it up

I didn’t know there was a thing called ‘yoga’. What I did know, was compelling curiosity about why my body, and my awareness of myself, changed as I moved through space, exploring shape and line and relationship, one part to another. Time suspended. What I did know, was the seeming wholeness of this form – my body – no part divisible. What I did know, was wonder, awe, and joy. My body as laboratory of sensation and awareness. A living sacrament. A prayer.

And then I found the jewel that is anatomy. I learned that indeed, it was possible to separate out the ‘pieces’ of the body into discrete entities. ‘Anatomy’, after all, literally means ‘to cut up’. To isolate muscles and joints and organs and fluids. Where form follows function, and each thing has its own place. And a Name. Consciousness in the body? Well, the five-year-old figured, that must live in The Brain.

And my journey into my head began.

 

Three, no, four paths

Yes, I danced, and yes, I ‘stretched’, intensely so. And my goodness me, I studied! Which, by the way, being about the recesses of the body, I loved. But the ‘stretching’ had become an activity of ‘how far’ and the study was driven.

My life has seemingly walked three parallel paths, each singing me Home; dance and yoga (different, yet the same), science, spirit. Oh, and art. Yes, I know, that’s four paths, but, as a child and teen, since I could neither draw nor paint well, I dismissed The Artist. I wrestled fiercely with these apparent divergencies, believing I must choose one over the others. Juggling both the first two, and not quite knowing how to integrate the third, I polarised what had once been a seamless experience of movement and direct embodiment of form, felt and known. I sundered what had once been Whole.

Until one day, I couldn’t.

Until one day, in my fourth decade, I had snuck off too many times to escape to the dance studio, next to the Human Movement Studies’ Biomechanics laboratory with its motion capture and force plate analysis that was my post-graduate research into movement in low back pain. And I quit. Just like that. A Thesis unfinished.

And I unraveled.


For the past 15 years, this has been my practice; this integration of image and word and movement and finely attenuated sensation. This marriage of the precision and penetration into the body that is an Iyengar yoga application, and the poetics of the body-land.

 

The Magical

I’m back on my mat. And the yield-precedes-push-precedes-reach-precedes-pull is medicine. My body in gravity. My fluid form rising and falling and arcing, in respired-time; an irrigation in my desert. Immersing in developmental movement patterns, in embryology, in the drench of breath and the calibration of sensation that, in time, heals my spirit.

And then the Magical happens. I’m given a new camera. And I walk and I walk and I walk. In the bushland, paddling in rockpools, making images of the places where the land echoes our physicality; imaging the metaphors that I have taught in dance and in the anatomy lab for so long. The body as felt, known, poetic place. Of lichen-nerve, and bone-rock and our internal waterways. These places that both mirror, and in-form us all.

Home.

For the past 15 years, this has been my practice; this integration of image and word and movement and finely attenuated sensation. This marriage of the precision and penetration into the body that is an Iyengar yoga application, and the poetics of the body-land.

I live within a significant structural scoliosis. With three disc lesions and several facet impactions. To touch that, on the mat, requires an incisiveness and clarity of action, that is in love with the depths of knowing the body as mutable fluid form.

Wholeness, re-membered.

Narelle Carter-Quinlan

 
 


Narelle Carter-Quinlan is an Australian senior Yoga Teacher who specialises in offering those with spinal asymmetry – scoliosis – a way to practice yoga that is safe and effective, in finding and inhabiting a strong, fluid, functional midline. Her practice and teaching integrate the body with the land. She is a Biomedical scientist and an anatomist by formal academic, cadaveric and embodied training, and has taught Anatomy at University and within Yoga Teacher Trainings, together with presenting her research at peer reviewed international Conferences. Narelle has danced most of her life, and has been a performer, choreographer, and artistic director. She is a Transformer, a Spiritual service. Her work invites the return of the organism to Wholeness. Through her evocative photographic images and poetic language, she offers her students a reminder of Oneness. She teaches her unique body of work globally.

Her Yoga for scoliosis and back care, and her embodied spinal anatomy work can be found at www.embodiedterrain.com

Special offer for readers with back pain/issues
For a limited time (until May the 31st), Narelle is offering her home study (self-paced) online course in yoga for back care and scoliosis, EASS-y, with a 20% discount (from 250 to 200 US$). You can take a closer look at the course here:

http://www.embodiedterrain.com/eass-y-yoga-for-scoliosis-course/

Her photographic and written work, a collaboration with her partner, can be found at www.figandagave.com

 

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