Expression is defined as ‘the process of making one’s thoughts or feelings known’, and in our visual world of language and numbers, it is easy to forget that movement is our primary form of expression. We have been moving since the day we were born, effectively communicating and understanding through the language of our bodies – making known our thoughts and feelings. It is through our bodies that we learnt how to explore, how to understand emotion, how to play, and how to give and receive love. As we have gotten older, these things fall by the wayside, as we start to concern ourselves more with achieving success, money and power.
Throughout my education, the importance of my body was disregarded. The only times we were told about our bodies and their ‘functions’ on a human level – and not as a respiring, excreting, organism – was during sex education. Even this subject was awkwardly approached by a poor middle aged woman, whose efforts were thwarted by boisterous pre-teens. It seemed to me like our entire education system was geared towards cultivating our brains, forgetting that we had bodies at all. Surely they are missing something. Our bodies sole purpose cannot be to house our brains, and only be used for eating, excreting and awkwardly procreating – or avoiding procreation, as they often instructed us to do. As a kinaesthetic learner (someone who learns through movement), I found school difficult and I struggled to properly express myself. I was lost amidst all the left-brain activity and made it my mission to learn more about my body and its capabilities.
I found yoga when I was 17 and have been practicing ever since. For me, yoga provided a channel between my body and my mind. It helped me to rediscover the relationship I had with the world as a child, when I curiously exploring my surroundings through my senses. Yoga is special because it is one of the few physical practices that really put us in touch with the present moment. When I practice, my attention is deeply rooted in the ‘now’; I am free of the past and I release the future. In the ‘now’, I am hyper aware of the state of my body. I can ask where I am holding tension both physically and emotionally. My body answers, not in language, but through profound sensory experience.
In the present moment, we are limitless beings full of possibility. I am not my past stories or my future achievements, I am who I chose to be today; this is our truest expression. On my mat I can challenge by self by choosing to expand when I feel like withdrawing, or being still when my energy is high. Through gaining greater control of my body, I have greater control of my energy, bringing balance to all areas of my life. Each pose I choose is a response to the needs of my body. This way, I am aware of the difference between reactions and purposeful action, and I have the power to decide exactly how to express myself.
When our expression isn’t a conscious choice, we are led by our emotions. We live in fear of our own emotional range, especially in close relationships with partners or family. Yoga helped me to better understand my emotions. It showed me the spaces between feeling, thought and action. Once I could better understand my emotions, I developed a productive relationship with them. I realised the purpose of life is not to be happy all the time; it is to always speak the truth. The truth is, in life we will experience many emotions. There will be ups and downs and even in-betweens. We are not supposed to fight or struggle against the tide of emotion – we should be riding the waves, being completely ruthless in our expression of ourselves.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It is the right which allows us to speak our mind, learn from each other, and grow as individuals. Most importantly, it is used to question societal and cultural norms, crucial to the evolution of our civilisation. One subject given less attention in school is art. Art itself as a form of expression serves to question norms and breakdown restrictions. Carl Jung once said ‘resistance to the organised mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organised in his individuality as the mass itself’. I take this to mean that in order to effectively make a change, we must first innately know ourselves.
We are artistic beings living a rich emotional experience; our lives are our canvases and our bodies are our brushes. We can chose to live a life full of expression, unafraid of our emotions, using them to benefit not only ourselves, but also the world around us. Expressionism in art is a ‘style in which the artist seeks to express emotional experience rather than impressions of the external world’. Like expressionism, our lives shouldn’t act just as a copy of what is portrayed in front of us. They should be a conscious, curious, exploration of our internal and external worlds, focused on making our thoughts and feelings known – our very own work of art.