INNER GROWTH through the body

The Foundation considers inner growth as inherent to genuine psychophysical work: it is always an individual process to more balance on the psychological, physical, social and spiritual level, departing from the body.

What makes psychophysical practices so different from ‘normal’ physical activities, is nicely expressed in the book ‘The running Buddha’: your mind is a wild horse, your soul is the rider. And what a lot of people do with sports like running, is making that wild horse tired, thus making it possible for the rider to control the horse. But, for example, in yoga, you try to make  the rider so strong inside, that the wild horse can be controlled without tiring it out. This is the difference between movement purely for movement or as a workout, and other forms of more conscious movement. (teen-yoga teacher)

Here we highlight elements typical of this process of inner growth, such as the triangle body-awareness, self-awareness, emotional awareness.

Inner growth and learning process >

In body-based practices, it is all about the process, and that process takes place mainly from within. Of course, if applicable, in interaction with the group. But in the end, something always happens inside. And that is also what makes it so rich: you’re never finished, it is a process of trial and error, different for everyone, and each to his own rhythm.

We had a boy, an Afghan refugee, 120 kg, who is now already six or seven years at in the boxing club. He was always very gruff, and has now become much more social, he feels good in his skin, often laughs. Last weekend it was an annually recurring demo-event where we always send our young members to give a boxing introduction. We set our ring up, and so this guy was boxing with all his friends around. And the round actually already stopped, and just then his opponent hits him again. And our guy, he just took off his boxing gloves, but inside he was really seething. And his friends took him away, and those other guys also took the other guy, as if nothing had happened. And the situation calmed down. But in retrospect the boy said, “That’s the first time in my life, that I wanted to fight, and have not done so”. If you can come to this, with  guys that grew up in an environment where every 2 minutes they start a fight, if you can come to this point with those guys, that they realize that “I have felt it, I wanted to fight but I didn’t do it”, then we are on the right track. So that’s a guy who felt terrible at the start, was a complete mess, antisocial, aggressive, and who is now slimmer, feels good, searches for contact with others, laughs with others, takes responsibility in the club, who teaches, and who eventually is able to control his aggression. This is an example, but it is a rather normal development for the young people who train with us for longer periods. (boxing trainer)

What I find great about this work is that you see that young people grow tremendously. You see that they really ‘get bigger’. Their self-worth and self-esteem increases tremendously, also because this is priority for us trainers. We don’t really look at what these guys can’t. We look at what they can, and pay extra attention to it.  And if you first emphasize a lot of things they can, then you can start to look at the things they can less well and how they can work on these things. (Rock and Water trainer)

What I also observe, is that they leave the class completely different than when they came in. But that’s maybe also just because they have created some space in their body and mind. This in itself already creates a feeling of rest; you relax your body, stretches it a little, combined with the concentration and the breathing. (teen yoga teacher)

We once had an obese boy, who was bullied all the time. And now he’s a psychologist, trainer in our club,  and he is in politics, and it’s really a though one. He transformed really, but it has been a whole evolution. He very secretly, without me knowing, also went running to train his stamina and body, and gradually he became bigger, but also slimmer and stronger. He now trains with us for about 16, 17 years. Later, he even went to college, and did competition. I have a lot of this kind of examples, of young people whose life I see changing drastically for the good. That is so very nice to see, that evolution. (boxing trainer)

Resilience >

By increased self, body and social awareness, and increased understanding of one’s limitations, also resilience increases. The insight into the dynamics of action-reaction, and for example in the own share in conflicts, and on the other hand, the awareness that you cannot change or ‘control’ everything, increases mental power.

The experience is really different for everyone, very personal. We had a boy who thought he came to make his body stronger. And then suddenly, during some playful exercise about emotions, something woke up in him, he gained an insight. He really thought that yoga was something for strong muscles. Another girl, who is very sensitive, came here for relaxation. She comes in completely full of emotions, and at the end of the session she looks completely different. And then she says literally “Woow!  And now I’m ready to make my homework. ” Yet another teenager, a girl who had a  hard time to let go of the children’s yoga wanted to continue playing games. She learnt here that it can also be fun to learn something, and not just to play. And she is doing better in school now. (teen yoga teacher)

These  youth have made a connection with their bodies, and that alone is pretty spectacular. They are just much more aware of how and where they stand in life, what causes them to explode sometimes, or be bullied all the time, or how they can react in an appropriate way in difficult situations. They just start to really feel, to feel in their bellies, rather than stay fixed in their heads. And I am convinced, that it is that that they are learning, that connection with their belly. Really going to feel, now I stand as a rock, or as water when I choose to do so. They become more their own boss. If anyone does something against you, that doesn’t give you the right to do something annoying back. It is all about starting to feel “What do I need?”, “What do I want?”, and “How do I respond in this or that situation to attain this?”. (Rock and Water trainer)

Some exercises focus on mental strength. Those are physical exercises in which by adjusting their mindset they perform better or longer in the exercise. For the youth, these are real Aha-experiences. If you can achieve such an experience after a number of exercises, then it’s going to linger much longer, I think. (Rock and Water trainer)

Self-confidence >

One of the pillars of body-based work, is increasing self-confidence. Understanding the personal physical and mental limitations, the own body language, and also the own strengths (through ‘standing strong’, experiencing breath power, focus, and a group feeling …) and abilities, coupled with the positive experience in a safe environment, endows young people with more confidence.

So what you do is scanning your body, but above all, learning to feel  boundaries in your body, and feel what your body, your constitution, which are very personal, can handle. And that may be something completely different than the guy next door of the same age and size. So not like “Who can do it better than me while I have a lot more practice” or “What can I do ?”, but rather of “How do I do it best?”. Everyone has a different physical and personal constitution, so comparing with others has no use in circus. Once they have learned and even more experienced this, they take this insight with them outside the circus. And consequently their confidence grows as well. (trainer circus techniques)

I’m sure that there are many who come into contact with their own strengths, weaknesses, and character traits, and who in their own way deal with these insights. Sometimes I can observe it, and with others I talk about it. Some also say it literally, for example, “I want to be stronger (inside).” They tell me that, and so in a way they really ask my help because they do not know how they should become stronger. And that starts with more confidence. (boxing trainer)

From this self-confidence, young people learn to treat themselves, but also others, with more mildness. They react less from a feeling of pressure, or feeling attacked, angry, uncertain, wronged …

Thanks, I learned so much, and you’re right, I’m OK, I’m just the best version of myself, and OK I have my lesser edges, and I can work at this, but I do not have to judge myself for it. (From an email from a 15-year-old girl to her yoga teacher)