“The Still Point of the Turning World”
The Still Point of the Turning World
by Carrie Parker-Gasteleu
As a yoga teacher, I often make connections back to the human body. I was recently looking through a book that talked about how lines are used in art. I studied the pictures of old churches and noticed the interior vertical lines suggest rising beyond humanity to heaven. Vertical lines communicate a sense of height because they are perpendicular to the earth, extending upwards toward the sky. This is mirrored in the body through the mid-sagittal plane, a vertical line which splits the body into left and right halves.
When practicing yoga poses with an awareness of this midline, yoga students experience a deep sense of equilibrium because the right and left sides of the body are balanced. Yet, there is an underlying perception that one could fall over: Vertical lines are not inherently stable. To maintain stability, the right and left sides of the body come together, and there is a lift from the inner aches of each foot up through the midline that holds us upright.
This reminds me of the T.S. Eliot poem from the Four Quartets:
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
Try this exercise to sense your midline
The modern world disconnects us from our bodies, as our basic anatomical blueprints become distorted. In our head-down iPhone culture, the linear nature of the midline becomes something other than vertical. Sensing the central axis is the first step in re-engaging with the uprightness of being human. Being centered allows force to move freely up the system to experience the still point that T.S. Eliot refers to, “There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”
To increase conscious awareness of your midline, use imagery to tap into the proprioceptive information generated by actively focusing on it. In tadasana (Mountain Pose), imagine a beam of white light, a glowing line originating in the inner arches of each foot, rising up the inner edges of each leg to your perineum. Follow the line as it continues up through the center of your spinal cord to the crown of your head. Arrange the anatomical structures of your body’s midline around the straight line of the median plane, creating a felt sense of stillness.