Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spiritual Practice – The 5 Rhythms of the Soul
By Gabrielle Roth
I was attracted to the book, Sweat Your Prayers, because my primary yoga practice for years has been hot yoga. I know intuitively through this practice that there is something healing about sweating.
I first started practicing Bikram yoga in 2004. I was working in San Diego and the only yoga class near me that started after 8pm was at the Bikram Yoga Studio in Old Town. I wasn’t interested in Bikram yoga. I didn’t like the idea of being in a hot room with lots of sweaty people. To me it seemed nasty and foul. But, I felt I needed a yoga class, and I didn’t get off of work until late so I decided to try it.
I remember my first class very well. It was an absolute struggle and grasping for breath. When it was over I could hardly walk or think. On the way home, I pulled over to a convenience store. I had only driven a block or two and there I drank 2 naked juices for energy sitting in the parking lot in my car. But, the next day I felt great, so I decided to do it again. Soon I was hooked. In the beginning, my body didn’t know how to sweat. I never had been a person who sweat very much. But after a few sessions my body released and I was sweating away and I have never stopped, in or out of the hot room.
My interest in sweating brought me to the book, Sweat Your Prayers. The book was fantastic. I found myself in awe of all the great quotes. For this reading assignment, I decided to write down the quotes that touched me and comment on them.
Quotes that spoke to me in Sweat Your Prayers
“I only had a thimbleful of talent for ballet, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming”
In my yoga practice I also have very little talent. I am not flexible. I don’t know why. But I can’t stop thinking about yoga and I have had a serious practice for 10 years now.
“Sometimes two hours of moving were as powerful as two years on the couch. I discovered that the body can’t lie; put it into motion and the truth kicks in.”
Sometimes when I sit on the couch all weekend and think I am resting I feel terrible. Then, I got off my but and do some yoga and I feel rested.
“I was astonished to observe that, for all their Ph.D.’s and cool clothes; none of my students knew how to breathe.”
I also feel like I don’t know how to breathe. I have been doing an Ashtanga practice for the last month in the morning. I have about 15 poses that I have been taught and are part of my practice. I do the series 3 times and it takes me about 45 minutes. It isn’t until the third time through that I find myself breathing easily and deeply. My body has finally relaxed enough to breathe.
“The more I taught, the more I realized that this was not going to be simple. Most of us were deeply afraid of the body; some people controlled every gesture they made, others abandoned themselves to food or drink or just cut themselves off and spaced out.”
I didn’t know anything about my body until I started practicing yoga.
“My knee had healed itself. No big operations, just rest. It must have buckled under from the stress of the heavy expectations I had placed on it.”
I have so many expectations of my body. Sometimes I think the pain in my shoulder and neck is really unresolved issues with my mother. My knees have been a source of pain since my late 20s.
Quotes on the Soul
“Soul retrieval is hard work. Simply signing up for a workshop or following a guru or buying a crystal won’t do it. It doesn’t matter how many Buddha heads you have in your apartment if you can’t find the one within you. Looking for your soul in somebody else’s body or theory or fame is lazy way to seek enlightenment. It takes discipline to be a free spirit. It saddens me that we are so quick to give our power away.
I am always signing up for workshops. I am always searching outside of myself. I would never have though that it takes discipline to be a free spirit. I thought that was just inner nature. But, maybe the world doesn’t want you to be free so you have to stick to your guns and that takes discipline.
“Our Soul is homeless and we can’t just cross to the other side of the street and ignore it. It is the essence of who we are and to be separated from it is our deepest wound. Until we heal this primal wound and reclaim our soul, all our everyday hurts will seem big and our bug hurts will feel insurmountable. The soul is the part of us that can relieve our pain by transforming our suffering into wisdom.”
I don’t understand on the mind level what Gabrielle Roth means by the soul is homeless. On the heart level it rings true.
“Attachment is inertia. As with all inertia, movement of the body is the antidote.”
I too easily attach to everything.
“Your soul is a seeker, lover, and artist, shape shifting through archetypal fields of energy, between your darkness and light, your body and spirit, your heaven and hell, until you land in the sweet moment of surrender when you as dancer, disappear in the dance.”
I have been taking a tantric dance class. Sometimes, I lose myself there dancing.
When you make the two one,
And when you make the inner as the outer
And the outer as the inner,
And the above as the below,
And when you make the male
And the female into a single one.
So that the male will not be male
And the female not female
Then shall you enter the kingdom.
Jesus – The Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel of Thomas is very important to me. The graphic novel I have been working on for years is based on a story from the Gospel of Thomas. It’s feels like Christianity explained by Rumi.
p. 8 - 9
“I want to take you to a place of pure magic, where everything goes and nothing stops, like a twenty-four hour roadside café with the best jukebox you can imagine. Only in this place, you don’t listen to jazz, you become it. All your parts jam. It’s the place athletes call the “zone”, Buddhists call “satori” and ravers call “trance.” I call it The Silver Desert. It’s a place of pure light that holds the dark within it. It’s a place of pure rhythm that holds the still point. It’s a place within you.”
I want to teach a yoga class like this one day. In Dakini Yuan Miao’s workshop and my tantric dance class I have experienced trance for the first time in my life.
Quotes on The Practice
“A spiritual practice requires consciousness, both awareness of the whole and attention to the details. As with everything else, the teaching you receive from it will be the result of the consciousness you bring to it. A spiritual practice requires discipline, the willingness and commitment to show up not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well.
I love the discipline of yoga. I like to be committed.
“An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory, a wise Taoist once said.”
I always find this in my art classes. If I don’t practice the class is not worth the trouble.
“We’re constantly changing and any practice meant to serve our authenticity should reflect our fluid nature.”
In my forties, I really see myself changing.
“We’ve become so destination oriented that we’ve lost our sense of direction, our ability to follow our own instincts, signals, and inner messages. Somehow, it’s become more important to get wherever we’re going than it is to enjoy the scenery along the way.”
This is totally me. I keep thinking about the destination when I should be focusing on the journey.
In the tantric dance of feminine power class, we do this movement exercise where we follow our pleasure, we move in ways that feel good and just follow the pleasure. Nita, the teacher, tells us don’t worry about being symmetrical, just follow the pleasure. I love that exercise. I always feel great afterwards.
“Sometimes in life it’s necessary to move straight ahead; other times it’s better to back off or sidestep or move around in the same circle until you sense a way out.”
“In a tribe of dolphins, whoever is in front leads; when that dolphin is tired, he or she drops behind and whoever happens to be in front next leads. No attachment. No elections. No politics. We aren’t like dolphins but we could be, at least in the context of our own psyches. In this discipline, we practice being leader and follower, letting one part of our body lead while the rest follows. That way we can ‘know the masculine and keep to the feminine’, as the Tao Te Ching advises.”
Dolphins are one of my totem animals. Nya means dolphin in Hawaiian. I love the idea of the way the tribe of dolphins move.
Gabrielle Roth sets up a list of archetypes: the mother, the father, the son, the Madonna, the mistress, the Holy Spirit. She also describes five states: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. We move in and out of this archetypes and states continuously.
“As Einstein queried, ‘Why is it that I get my best ideas in the morning while I’m shaving?’ Shaving is like meditation with a sharp object. When the mind is empty and receptive, big ideas flow through every cell of our body. When we’re thinking too hard, we tense up and nothing can flow through us; our energy gets stuck in our heads. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and trust that if you turn off your head, your feet will take you where you need to go.”
I always find this to be the case. I do my best sets sometimes when I don’t plan and I just go in the prop house, trust my intuition, and make it work.
“We all have the potential to be full-bodied Bordeaux, but sadly most of us are satisfied being Welch’s grape juice.”
I have allowed myself over the last 10 years to be grape juice.
Quotes on the Heart
“Arms are the messengers of the heart. They reach out, they pull back, they embrace. When the heart energy isn’t free to flow in spontaneous gestures, these thwarted impulses build up in our arms and our hands and inhibit our dance.”
In Tantric dance class, Nita said that our arms are connected to our heart. But, she also told some people to not use their arms because when the use them too much. The womb energy is overpowered by the heart energy and she wants us to feel connected to our wombs.
“Sometimes your heart gets broken, other times you’re a heart-breaker. To know the full expanse of the heart, we need to experience both sides. Being hurt is part of being human; there’s no way to avoid it without shutting down completely. Instead, use it as an excuse to dance.”
This is one of the most beautiful quotes I have ever seen about heart break.
“To be truly wild and free you have to follow your heart, not your head. There’s no image of freedom out there. You have to dig deep down inside of yourself to find what hearts for you.”
Quotes on Flirting
“Flirting is the key that will unlock the mistress space in our hearts.”
“I finally realize that flirting is not telling somebody something about yourself, but reflecting something about them.”
I always and told I am a big flirt. I never think I am really flirting, I always thinking I am having fun talking.
Quotes on Staccato
“Staccato is dancing with your bones, creating all kinds of angles and edges like geometry in motion. Lines erupt out of curves articulating our separateness, creating walls or breaking them down. ..”
In Ashtanga, Surya Namaskar A and B feel extremely staccato to me.
“While flowing is about taking in, staccato is about letting go of all kinds of things, from fatigue to fury, misery to memories, hatreds to heartbreaks. . . Staccato is about doing, not just being; taking action, not just thinking about it.”
“It’s not the same to talk of bulls as to be in the bullring” – Spanish proverb
I believe to we have to experience things in like we can’t just read or talk about them.
Quotes on Father
“Father is the masculine consciousness of your body and soul, the active, practical, protective part; the part of you that sets goals, plans for the future, pays bills and remembers phone numbers; the part of you that functions on the material plane of reality, in the real world as we know it.”
I have a strong father archetype in me, especially in my career as a Set Decorator. I am constantly planning and doing the right thing.
Quotes on the Son
“This wild, masculine, prince-of-tides part of us seeks ecstasy. It desires nothing less than complete possession by a surreal self that can’t be boxed or packaged or sold. Son is the part of us that goes on a hero’s journey to grab a grail or slay a dragon; it is the man in the mirror committed to shattering all fixed images.”
My wild son has been released this last year or son. Although he is fun he is also inconsiderate and reckless.
Quotes on the Holy Spirit
“The Holy Spirit sees through everything; it is the witness part of us that has no investment in outcome, even our own.”
“In each of us there is a holy spirit, the part of us that actively seeks an answer, a meaning, a purpose to life. It’s a part of us that would trek in the Himalayas, become a Buddhist take a philosophy or religion course, or study tai chi.”
I have a strong Holy Spirit. I am searching for my path.
Quotes on Chaos
“Intuition is chaotic. If you’re afraid of chaos, it’s hard to access your intuition.”
When I get in a truly creative state, especially with my art, I get chaotic. Everything ends up everywhere.
“It began to bother me that so many people I knew were embarking on these intense spiritual quests, taking off for India, or regressing into past lives. It’s crystal clear to me that everything that they’re looking die and wishing for is taking place right now, right where we’re standing.”
This is me, looking for it in exotic places.
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the masters. Seek what they sought.” – Matsuo Basko
Quotes on Lyrical
“Two or three things I know for sure, and one is that I would rather go naked than wear the coat the world has made for me.” – Dorothy Allison
I love this quote. I want to be this.
“In lyrical, we realize that we have the freedom to keep shifting energies so as never to get stuck in any one possibility and to know that all possibilities are available to us all the times.”
Quotes on Trance
“Trance is a tricky place, a place not many understand. It’s a mindful state that only happens when you get out of your way and fall into your true self so deeply that something inside you clicks and you are simultaneously being and witnessing yourself. It’s a myth that trance is a spell that somebody puts you under. Trance is hypnotic but not hypnosis.”
I have gone into three trances in the last two months. I have never been in trance before in my life. I am shifting into unknown territory.
Quotes on Spirit Animal
“Knowing you spirit animals is very important to our self-discovery. They link us to the animal kingdom and allow us to receive its wisdom.”
My spirit animals are the camel, the butterfly, and the dolphin. They speak to my constantly.
Quotes on Ego
“Ego is all the voices in our heads chattering like a bunch of soap opera characters; all those divas, demons, and doyennes dripping with diamonds telling you that you aren’t rich enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, talented enough, sexy enough-or that you’re more of the above the anyone else, only the world hasn’t discovered it yet. These voices drown out the song of the soul, the part of us that has no identity to protect or viewpoint to project.”
I can’t stop these chatty Kathy’s in my head.
“If it’s the last dance – dance backwards.” – Bo
This means to me: change the rules, break the rules, and enjoy the dance.