there are phrases we exchange in every day life that have very little sense but we agree on what they mean. like when we “call it a day”, when something is “on the ball” or to “wrap your head around” something.

these things are shared through us by language and associated experience, but we also have incantations to describe how we move — and these incantations are special because we experience them first hand.

it takes time to learn these incantations. the first time i showed up to a yoga class and was told to open my heart i just laughed at the ambiguity of the request.

opening your heart is a series of movements that are hard to separate, but you could break it down and describe the opening in the chest, neck tilting back, shoulders down and the arch in your upper back. i know when i’m opening my heart, but if i gave myself those instructions one by one, it would not feel like my heart is open. there’s some magic in the cue that makes it better.

but i think “lengthening your spine” is also an incantation, even though it’s completely physiological whereas “open your heart” is packaged into a metaphor of sorts.

it is still a fucking incantation because it’s not the same as “wiggle your right thumb”. it’s something that you will do incorrectly the first time you try because you have no idea what it means. i googled instructions for a basic spine elongation exercise and it’s one hundred and fifty words, and uses incantations like “contracting your abdominals and then releasing your body”.

so how do you know when you’re successfully executing the incantation? do you feel it? does someone have to tell you? can you see it? i have experienced all these options.

sometimes i just feel it, the movement feels good, different, productive. with my spine lengthening, i actually could see it.

the photo on the right was taken before i took a second to lengthen my spine. a lot of this is in my shoulders, but the differences in the way my back looks is also noticeable. when i invert my abs and shoulders are tensed, my lower abs especially are working to hollow out my back. when i relax into this and let my spine be pulled, i am more symmetrical

oh these incantations

i’ve recently levelled up my incantation interpretation, as a couple weeks ago, when hanging like this, i was told to “pull my head towards the ground”. at this point i have an intuition for interpreting incantations (i am an incantation jit compiler!) and i pull my fucking head towards the ground and i feel my spine lengthen with ease.

why did that work? why does my brain, which i consider very left-brain-y (and knows a bit about spines) work so well with “pull my head towards the ground” when it has already been working on lengthening for so long.

am i just trying harder because someone told me to? (but then why was it easy?) is a new incantation always better than an old one?

certainly not all incantations are made the same. “pull your shoulders towards the ground” would’ve done incorrect things. i’ve also been told to “twist into [my] stomach” which just thoroughly confused me but helped other students.

you can break down what i call incantations to be “the meaning of words” and their “connotations” and just “learning by association”. yet every time someone tells me to open my heart, i feel like there’s some code hidden in there that somehow tells me exactly what to do, without me knowing exactly what i’m doing.